Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/169

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THE EVOLUTION OF NATIONS

in it may be established and maintained on a permanent basis, with the returns from human efforts exceeding the demands of immediate needs. Under favorable conditions the cultivation of the soil offers such a chance for permanent establishment. Hence agriculture becomes the broad basis on which the development of important nationality may be said to depend, and an environment which permits agriculture is to be considered as a fundamental requirement for a budding nation.

Each nation, in every stage of its development, finds itself confronted by needs which must be satisfied, and it is forced to seek ways of gratifying those needs in order to preserve the national existence. Each nation, occupying its political unit, has in that unit certain natural opportunities which are the result of physical conditions, and which represent the sum total of means available to meet national needs, either directly or indirectly. Hence, each nation in its different stages of past development, in its present organization, and in its future importance, must be considered largely as the product of the physical or geographical conditions by which it has been surrounded.

It does not appear, however, that the operation of these geographic factors is accorded the proper recognition in the study of nations, whatever the guise under which that study is made. Thus, in one of the latest texts at hand, a book designed to complete the course in geography in the schools, a book well thought of generally, widely used, and a fair sample, a half a dozen pages are devoted to the United Kingdom, and less to Germany, A marvelous example, it is, of concentration of facts, but it gives no reasons; no indication of inter-relationship between the nation and its surroundings; no idea or appreciation of the factors which have so closely shaped the whole course of British development; no hint of a real understanding of the nation; it gives simply a collection of statements concerning places and things.

A nation is more than a disorganized array of cities, products and industries. A nation is a living entity: a unit produced by the action of uncompromising physical forces, and its cities, products and industries, at any given time, are but the temporary manifestation of those forces.

The Modifying Factors.—No two nations have been identical in all aspects of their evolution, for no two nations have had identical geographical surroundings. In numerous cases, nations, unlike in important respects, have been composed of people of common origin, as in the case of England and Australia. On the other hand, similarities in physical surroundings have, in every case, produced similarities in development in nations composed of people of different origin, as indicated by Argentine and Australia, or by England and modern Japan. National evolution, therefore, is not a simple question of race, but a more complex question of surroundings and opportunities.