GERMANY There remains yet the north central area of penin sular Europe, which is roughly Germany. Here the geo graphical conditions are most complex, And naturally the historical conditions are not less so.
(i) The most obvious geographical fact is that the area is central, and not central merely in the sense that the great plain is central. That has, indeed, land on all sides except the north, but it has been so cut off by great highland areas from all the lands that mattered on east and west that, though from time to time the tribes from the plain penetrated to these margin lands, there has been practically no reverse action till Russia emerged from the western forest. Even Russia during the greater part of her history has been influenced by only three external stimuli : the Norsemen from the north-west, the Byzantine civilization and Church from the south-west, and the tribes from the south-east. The central heart land of Northern Europe has been influenced by many stimuli from different directions. (a) It has been influenced by all the varied stimuli which originated in the civilized lands to south and west, from the time of the Roman Empire onwards. (b) It has been in fluenced, not once but many times and in many ways, by the stimuli proceeding from the sea to the north and the ocean beyond the sea. (c) It has been influenced by stimuli from the east, not by the tribes from the plain alone, but by the barbarians from Asia Minor. The stimuli have not acted once or twice merely, as in the case of Russia, but almost continually from the time of Rome, and have been continually changing their forms.
(ii) The relief is very complicated. The western end of the plain just comes to the open sea. South of this tongue of plain the land rises, but there are considerable areas sunk below the general level, some comparatively narrow valleys, others that may be called plains, like that which stretches from Bale to north of Frankfort, and through the greater part of the length of which flows the Rhine. In contrast, there are highlands of greater or less extent and elevation, like the Black Forest or those which surround Bohemia. These relief
units vary greatly in size. They are not all small like those of Greece, but. large and small they result in a diversity of modes of life which does not make for unity.
(iii) This diversity of life is not all; there is a diversity in Italy, but heights and lowlands in peninsular Italy are so arranged that Rome forms a natural centre. In the heart land of Northern Europe there is no one centre comparable to Rome in the definitely marked peninsula of Italy, much less comparable to Paris or London. Rome may not be an ideal centre for modern Italy, but there is no other that can be compared with it. In Germany there are many centres, but no one which under all circumstances is more important than the rest. Under varying conditions, and when the area has been subjected to varying stimuli, sometimes one, sometimes another has been of most account, but has never be come so pre-eminent as to acquire so much historic momentum as under new conditions would still ensure that it would remain the centre. Frankfort in the north-west, Munich in the south-west, Vienna in the south-east, Berlin in the north-east, have each in turn been found satisfactory centres for a time.
(iv) In early times the forest, within which Russia began, also spread over the northern plain and a considerable part of the highland to the south. While it remained, it helped to keep communities apart, and, like all the other geographical conditions already mentioned, it fostered the tendency to disruption. This forest was left almost in its natural state for a longer period in the east than in the west, with the result that the west became organized some considerable time before the east.
(v) On the whole, this is a much colder land in winter than any except the plain of which we have spoken. All the other lands know of cold, but continuous cold is exceptional. In Germany, and especially in East Germany, the land remains frozen for considerable periods.