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The Desert the Beginnings of History Egypt

temperate, regions, equatorial, conditions, europe, latitudes and geographical

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THE DESERT : THE BEGINNINGS OF HISTORY : EGYPT we have seen that history has been controlled by geographical factors in the sense that, owing to dis tributions of heat and moisture, life is possible in some places on the earth's surface rather than in others. We have now to consider the effect which other geographical conditions have had in controlling the lines along which advance has been made.

(I.) We must notice that geographical conditions supplied the stimulus under which the advance was begun as well as continued.

It is true that in equatorial regions, with their abun dance of heat and moisture, we have conditions in which an animal existence may be most easily sustained, but as a matter of fact, it is not in equatorial but in temperate regions that man has advanced farthest in his ability to control energy. It is not in Equatorial Africa but in Temperate Europe that we have a history worth the name. This is owing to two geographical conditions, both of which owe their importance to the effect they have on the nind as well as the body of man.

(i) In the first place, just because existence—animal existence—is easy in equatorial latitudes, there is no inducement to greater effort than is required to take and eat the food necessary to keep the body alive. In temperate latitudes, the farther we go from the equator, the more difficult life becomes, but because of this, if life is to continue at all, greater activity must be shown. Savages in Equatorial Africa need not wear clothes. Even savages in Northern Europe must wear some kind of covering, if it be only a covering of skins. Nor is food so easily obtained in Europe. It takes toil to get it. Thus, even when all races were savage we might expect to find a higher type of savage in Europe than in Africa, just because more mental activities are called into play by the very lack of solar energy.

(ii) Secondly, in equatorial regions one day is very much like another day, while farther north one day is not like another day. Owing to the swing of the seasons in temperate latitudes there are summer days and winter days. These differ either because the amount of energy —of heat—varies, or because the amount of moisture varied. In either case there is certain to be lack of food at one time and comparative plenty at another. Thus in

Equatorial Africa, for example, the cycle being the day, the tendency is for races as for individuals not to look too far ahead, but to live in the present and make no provision for the future, whereas in Temperate Europe, the cycle being the year, the tendency is to take thought for the days to come.

Here are two sets of geographical conditions, typical of many, if not most, geographical conditions, perfectly obvious—so obvious that there is a danger of their being overlooked or thought to have little to do with the history of the world; but just because they are acting, if not insistently, yet continually and effectively in the long run on every man, woman and child of these two regions, they go far of themselves, and they are not alone, to explain the difference in the histories of the two regions, the advance of Europe and the darkness of the Dark Continent.

The importance of both these conditions lies in the mental stimulus given towards saving energy in the so-called temperate regions—if life is to be continued at all. By wearing clothes radiation of heat-energy is prevented, and the energy is saved for some other pur pose. Latitudes under the influence of seasonal change must have definite times of sowing and harvest, definite times for blossom and fruit, so that food-energy has to be saved from times of plenty till times of scarcity. In the temperate regions, as in equatorial regions, the line of least resistance is followed, but in the one case there is the stimulus almost amounting to the necessity which is the mother of invention, while in the other it is absent. Hence, owing to this absence of stimulus to thinking how to save energy, we should expect to find in equatorial latitudes lower types of race than elsewhere, at any rate for long ages after races elsewhere have begun to rise above the level of mere animal living ; we should thus expect to find no advance, and consequently no history : while in temperate regions, owing to the continual pre sence of stimulus, we should expect to find that races continued to advance from strength to strength. This gives us the reason for the fact that the history of the world is mainly the history of temperate regions lying roughly between latitudes 30° and 60°.

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