In his movie Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that geography gives certain cultures advantages or disadvantages, which determine whether or not that culture will be a dominant one.

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In his movie Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that geography gives certain cultures advantages or disadvantages, which determine whether or not that culture will be a dominant one. This is a very convincing position because nearly every pre-modern culture has the assistance of some convenience, the advent of which can be attributed to at least one geographical feature. Although there are certain cultural anomalies that can change a civilization’s destiny, such as religion, a great mind, or what can be called luck, when an individual discovers something that greatly influences society (namely inventions, such as a horse-drawn plow or the printing press), the more common case is that the disparity between races can be credited to geography. For instance, the most obvious factor is the fertility of the land. If a civilization occupies an area that has the capacity to grow a surplus of food, the people of this region have the luxury of specializing jobs, and broadening their sphere of influence. Another important factor is climate. The environment of a region dictates not only what type of food can be grown (sustaining crops like wheat or rice, as opposed to spices and such), but also how much a race can produce. If a nation has to stop everything to wait out a harsh winter, it is not going to be as productive as a civilization that has mild weather all year. One last major influence is the presence of domesticated livestock. Plow animals can greatly increase the efficiency and productivity of farming communities. Also, living in close contact with domesticated animals leads to immunity from diseases that might affect another culture that didn’t have the good fortune of having livestock. All of these factors lead to a culture that has the time and resources to expand and perhaps dominate other peoples. Thus, the success of a nation is almost invariably linked to its geographic boons.

Geography can also act as a shield for a society. Mountains can protect a city from attacks; however they also make it more difficult to interact with other surrounding cities. Similarly, a river can make it easy to import or export goods, yet it can also pose health threats or flood. In short, there are innumerable ways geography can affect a culture, and they can be traced as root causes of many other irregularities between cultures.  

The large continent of Asia contained many diverse areas, each with their own set of circumstances, many of which depended on geography.  These circumstances held great influence in the development of those areas, leading to variations across the continent regarding the agricultural, industrial, and political situation.  These situations, in turn, greatly affected the outcome of interactions between the parts of Asia and other Western powers, specifically the European powers.  One place where certain circumstances caused by geography affected development and foreign interaction was the Asian subcontinent of India.  Here, the guns and steel of European powers, especially of the British, made the difference in the subjugation of the British powers.  The advanced British technology included superior firepower, a knowledge of successful colonization techniques, and, most importantly, advanced military techniques which allowed the British to easily overcome a severe disadvantage in troop numbers against the Indians.  The root of these inequalities, which favored the British, stems from Indian and European geography.  While both India and Europe had developed civilizations, Europe had gained a “lead” in technology for a variety of reasons.  One lead was the advanced firepower and military techniques, which stemmed from the fact that the closeness of European countries had led to greater interactions, which spread and developed new technologies more quickly and led to increased military “practice,” which led to a better understanding of military techniques.  Another geographical reason for the European subjugation of India lay in the crops that could grow there, such as cotton, tea, and spices.  These crops gave Europeans an incentive to conquer this area because it offered financial rewards.  The reason that India was able to grow these cash crops lay in their geographical position, again showing how geography led to inequalities and domination of India by Europeans.

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        Another region where geography greatly affected the history of that area was the Dutch East Indies, mostly comprised of modern day Indonesia and the Philippines.  Here, longstanding historical inequities pushed the people of these areas to be conquered by European powers.  Across these islands, just as on the island of Papua New Guinea in Diamond’s film, the inability to grow food easily and communicate with others led to a slower development of technology, resulting from the fact that most of the time people were occupied with feeding themselves and not with developing new technologies and advanced societies, which may have ...

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