A Geographical Introduction to History

By Lionel Bataillon; Lucien Febvre et al. | Go to book overview

PART II
NATURAL LIMITS AND HUMAN SOCIETY

CHAPTER I
THE PROBLEM OF BOUNDARIES CLIMATE AND LIFE

AS followers of a well-qualified master, we have frequently repeated that there is no problem in Geography more important than that of boundaries or dividing limits. In this, as in other matters, the manner in which the problem is set allows us largely to forecast the answer, and nothing is simpler than the traditional position of the question.

We make our start with a first abstraction: MAN, a malleable being, submissive to the action of his natural environment. And it is supposed that this environment (let us say, the EARTH) acts on him and transforms him by means of two powers, two sovereign forces: SOIL and CLIMATE. It is granted, certainly that, heredity forms one of the factors in human evolution, but all the others are derived from habitat. These exercise their power at the same time on individuals and communities, and are not only efficacious agents in somatic transformation, but are equally the determinants of political and moral ideas and realizations--the very basis of history.


I
The Traditional Idea of Climate: The Pioneers

Thus the problem still appeared a simple one to Montesquieu when he composed L'Esprit des Lois, as simple as it appeared long before to his predecessor, Jean Bodin, whose influence over him, however, we must not exaggerate.1

____________________
1
For different theses on this point, cf. Flint (R.), La Philosophie de l'histoire en France et en Allemagne, p. 15 ff.; Errera, "Un précurseur de Montesquieu, Jean Bodin" ( Ann. Arch. Belgique, 1896); Fournol, Bodin, prédécesseur de Montesquieu, Paris, 1896, thèse de droit; Dedieu, XLI, Chap. VII; Chauviré, XXXVII, p. 348 ff. and p. 512 n.

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