A Geographical Introduction to History

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

CHAPTER II
THE DETERMINATION OF NATURAL AREAS AND THEIR BOUNDARIES

I
Complexity of the Idea of Climate

IN the last chapter we used the term "climatico-botanical frames", not climatic simply, or botanical; and this advisedly. Anyone who compares three maps of India-- showing the rainfall, vegetation, and density of population-- sees at once well-marked and striking relations between these three documents. In some parts there are regions of abundant rainfall, and therefore of rich cultivation and overflowing population; in others, regions of slight rainfall, poorer cultivation, and scanty population. The one thing depends upon the other.

These three maps, neither too schematic nor too simplified, but constructed from numerous well-chosen and safe data, explain each other even in detail; but they cannot possibly do so in all details or to the last detail. If, for example, the botanical map enables us to see why, since it shows in the Regur district, instead of rice, both cotton and dhurra (or Cholum), its especial plant, these regions of India, though equally well watered, are less populous than the region of the Ganges, it does not, on the other hand, explain why the Burmese coast, with its 118 inches of rain, has fewer inhabitants than Sind, which receives only 11 inches, or why the mountainous western part of Mysore supports fewer inhabitants than the Maidan1 on the East. It is none the less true that this map--difficult to construct, and, when made, equally difficult to interpret--is essential to an understanding of the way in which climate affects man.

Why insist on this? Because when anyone studies the two simple, rough maps showing rainfall and d nsity of population, the impression is generally so strong, the similarities so

____________________
1
For all this, cf. Vidal de la Blache, CXCVII, p. 360 ff.

-122-

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