A Geographical Introduction to History

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

CHAPTER II
COMMUNICATIONS: THE ROUTES

STATES are usually formed by methods which imply the existence of routes and of various means of communication. For, without routes and communications, how could men succeed in reconstructing, out of the débris of the natural units they have broken in pieces, homogeneous ensembles to suit their convenience?

But, at first sight, it would seem that the existence of a network of routes necessarily implies the active and earnest co-operation of nature and man; that the very structure of the country must determine the tracks in advance, and make them into regular channels; in other words, that the problem of routes must be a geographical one. After all, it does not appear that those geographers whose ideas we are discussing and criticizing have really thrown much light on this subject. The Ratzelians especially have given little attention to such questions. They have devoted themselves to studying the movements of peoples; and whilst doing so they have had occasion, no doubt, to point out that some valley, some depression, or some pass was a route, or that some mountain, some arm of the sea, or some desert, on the other hand, was an obstacle to the movements of peoples; but it is evident that what interests them is not so much the ways by which a single traveller or a few small caravans or at most an old time army could pass, but the great natural openings capable of allowing an entire population to emigrate en masse. The simple communications probably only interest them in exceptional cases, those which are strictly dependent on natural conditions; the reason being that they are before all anxious to prove, or, more precisely, to justify a theory already elaborated and expounded. However, the method they have followed has attained very poor results, and the conclusions arrived at are generally somewhat puerile.

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