A Geographical Introduction to History

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

PART III
POSSIBILITIES AND DIFFERENT WAYS OF LIFE

CHAPTER I
ITS BASES--MOUNTAINS, PLAINS, AND PLATEAUX

LET us briefly review our argument from its commencement in Chapter II of Part II.

We have analysed the two complexes "the earth" and "man" about which there is so much vague talk.

We have replaced the indistinct and confused notion of "the Earth" by that of a cosmos, a great harmonized whole made up of climatico-botanical zones, each one forming an organic unity and all of them placed symmetrically on either side of the Equator.

Then for the notion of "Man" we have by an analogous process substituted that of human society and endeavoured to explain the true nature of the action of such a society in its relations with the animal and plant communities which occupy the various regions of the earth. The main problem, of the value which the natural regions of the cosmos have for man, remains. We have already confronted it--or rather it has confronted us--without any effort. We must now consider it again.

Let us make clear the terms and the data. Some speak of natural regions--climatico-botanical regions--as reservoirs of forces which act directly on man with a sovereign and decisive power, and leave their mark on every manifestation of their activity, from the smallest to the most important and complicated, and in a great measure are at the same time the cause and the subject of these manifestations. This is the determinist theory. We have already pointed out its difficulties, and have urged that natural regions are simply collections of possibilities for society which makes use of them but is not determined by them. But we had not then

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