Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/177

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THE EVOLUTION OF NATIONS

quickly welding diverse racial elements, especially in England, into a strong national unit. Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, in fact all the earlier nations of the world benefited in varying degree from the same important asset of compactness in a restricted area. Russia, on the other hand, is a conspicuous example of the weakness resulting from an absence of that quality, since one of the great problems confronting Russian advance, as a nation, is the unification of her diverse human elements into a national whole. The perpetuation of the present lack of unity is directly traceable to the vastness of area and the consequent lack of common contact. Great size may also include, at the outset, such strongly opposed interests as to binder or seriously endanger temporarily the permanency of national unity. Thus in both the United States and in Australia the question of differences of climate between the warmer and the colder parts of the national territory introduced issues which threatened to split each nation.

The restriction of area which promotes an early development of national unity and strength is likely, however, to become no less a source of weakness in later stages of evolution. The question of making important, or of perpetuating, a nation hinges on the opportunities available for supplying its population with the primary needs of food, clothing and shelter, and whatever may be required in the shape of utensils and mechanical power. Of these, food, clothing, shelter and utensils depend on the soil and materials to be secured from the earth's crust. Mechanical power alone may be derived elsewhere than from the soil or earth's crust, and power plus human direction may to a certain extent be used to purchase the materials of food, clothing and shelter. But since the greater the area the greater are likely to be the opportunities for supplying all these needs directly, size itself, other things being equal, is always a significant measure of relative strength and permanency of national importance. The relative decline of Holland since 1650, from a position near world leadership to a rank far down in the scale of nations, must be attributed largely to the handicap of small size. Though Holland, as a nation, is now probably more prosperous than ever before in its history, its own physical limitations are too great for it to occupy a leading position among nations.

Here again, Britain serves as an instructive example of the variable effect of size at different times in its national life. Profiting materially in its early days from the fact that it was a "tight little island," that very restriction of area and natural opportunity is now forecasting the relative decline of Britain, no less than the same factor did for Holland two centuries ago. Britain contains at present a population of forty millions in an area less than, and not so richly endowed as, that of the three states of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa; a population living in large part through a process of exchange, which now depends on the