Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/179

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175
THE EVOLUTION OF NATIONS

cussion, since it has more or less of a modifying effect on all the preceding factors. It influences climate, favors or hinders the securing of necessities from the soil and the earth's crust, and has much to do with the important question of accessibility, especially by sea. Yet the direct influence of surface configuration by itself on national evolution is, on the whole, less readily traced than in the case of the factors already discussed, for the reason that surfaces practically identical in all important respects may show radically different conditions of development as the result of difference in position, climatic relations and area.

The extremes of configuration, like the extremes of climatic position, are unfavorable to the best national development. Either great diversity, or great monotony of surface are undesirable, but of the two the latter is preferable. Great diversity of surface features, in any except very large areas, may be regarded as the equivalent of prevailing ruggedness, and as a practical barrier to national development on any important scale. The Balkans district of Europe affords the best case in point; a region of decidely irregular contour, it is so completely broken up by more or less effective mountain barriers that ready communication and intimate contact between the people of one part and those of another are not possible. Under such conditions, local interests are greatly magnified, become dominant and the general growth of strong national attributes is unlikely. Great diversity of surface, then, may be said to favor a permanent establishment of the clannish or tribal organization, rather than to promote evolution toward the national state. The effect of surface configuration is shown also in the case of Britain, where the prevailing ruggedness of Scotland and Wales, served, it is true, as a stronghold of defence for refugee natives, but it did not afford the material strength to cope successfully with the more favored and less rugged England. It might even be said that surface features alone made inevitable the domination of all Britain by the people inhabiting the lowlands of England. The combined significance of area and configuration is shown in a contrast of England and Norway, the one, small, moderately diversified, and long important; the other, over twice as large, prevailingly rugged, and never important.

Too great uniformity of surface, amounting to monotony, means little variety of initiative, hence a tendency toward one-sided development. Where variety of surface is lacking, variety of initiative usually depends on one of two factors, first, on the chance location of useful materials in the earth's crust, and second, on sufficient size to produce critical differences in climatic features. In the case of the first factor, however, the discovery and exploitation of the useful materials is, in most cases, distinctly not favored by a uniform surface; and too great contrasts of climate may prove hostile to national solidarity.

When considered from the standpoint of mature nations, however.