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Gke1- Geography and the Development and Diffusion of Human Society

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Geography and the Development and Diffusion of Human Societies
Western Governors University

Geography and the Development and Diffusion of Human Societies
Evaluating and researching how environmental and geographical factors, such as the availability of resources and location of land have affected and continue to affect the human race through development, distribution, and diffusion is not only intriguing but complex as well.
The ancient site of Mesopotamia, appears to have been the first look at the world’s civilization. Mesopotamia; is Greek for between two rivers. This actually created a significant physical geographical factor that contributed to the Mesopotamian people, the land being fertile, and the beginning of civilization and urbanization. Mesopotamia was flat land that was situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. The land was rich in nutrients and clay that allowed for the Mesopotamian people to plant crops, build shelters to live in and store their harvested crops, also allowed for the benefits of domestication of animals. Even through all of the development of their lands it was not without transgression, they did have to overcome many environmental issues: floods, droughts, storms, dust, heat, disease and even death. The Mesopotamian people held strong and allowed them to overcome and prosper (Mark, 2009) (Guisepi, 1998) (Historical TV, 2013).
With the ability to grow crops and raise animals the Mesopotamian people slowly transformed from hunter- gathers to agriculturally sound civilization. Creating a life for themselves through the process of trade. The Mesopotamian people are also credited with the first wheel, writing utensils, trade implementation, and much more. Through all of this the Mesopotamian cultural developed a city through urbanization (Guisepi, 1998) (Mark, 2009) (Historical TV, 2013).

The process of diffusion between early human societies and food is an expansive and somewhat confusing area. Take the potato, where did it come from and how has it evolved to benefit the human body. Historically the potato has become the fourth most important food crop in the world (Kiple & Ornelas, 2013) (Mann, 2011).
The potato is a diverse and adaptable crop, the origin of the potato appears to have originated in South America, and spread to all other continents of the world. The potato is adaptable enough to grow in moist environment, dry environments, on flat land or even mountain ranges. Through the adaptability and the areas of growth the potato has many varieties (Mann, 2011).
The potato has been utilized in many areas. Marie Antoinette used the flower of the potato plant as hair accessories, as well as her husband’s usage in a button hole to create an appealing sense of style. The potato was used in the Industrial Revolution for fuel, as well as has been blamed for the Irish famine (Kiple & Ornelas, 2013).
The Spaniards observed the Indians in South America eating the potato and took the potato back to their region in the 1500, where the new food spread rapidly through the exportation to France, the Netherlands, and other Europeans countries. Many thought of this food as “tasteless and Starchy. It cannot be regarded as an enjoyable food, but it provides abundant, reasonably healthy food for men who want nothing but substance (Kiple & Ornelas, 2013, ¶ 6).” Many in the eighteenth century believed the potato was rejected as “Devils apples” or Forbidden fruit of Eden”, until the 1840’s when the European government ordered peasants to grow the crop on common land, which ended in riots and famine (Mann, 2011)(Kiple & Ornelas).
Potatoes are consumed boiled, peeled, chopped, dried, fried, baked, or fermented. They are made into breads, soups, stews, gnocchi and many other dishes. Thus creating a meal with substance creating a terrific anti famine food staple that has been uses during times of famine as well as in the United States Great Depression, when food and money were scarce (Kiple & Ornelas, 2013)(Mann, 2011).

The development and/or expansion of the United States had many factors involved; two of the most significant factors were the Mississippi River and the Gold Rush. These two factors expanded the vision, resources and development of the United States in many qualitative and diverse means.
First let’s look at the Mississippi River. This vast river that separated not only the east from the west but the north and the south. The Mississippi river was and still is used for transportation, trade and fishing. The Mississippi River connected the North to the South and allowed for navigation from the ocean to Missouri; which increased the trade activity. With the Ohio and Missouri Rivers flowing into the Mississippi allowing for more cargo to be sent down stream, connecting the north to the South. Later when steamboats were invented and challenged the upstream transportation river travel became accessible to people as well as cargo connecting the Ocean of the South to St. Louis and to the Northeast through to Pennsylvania (American History, n.d.) (Weider History, n.d.).
It is without question that the Mississippi River is the main stem of the nation through a network of inland navigation waterways. This giant waterway is quite expansive at approximately 12,350 miles, which includes the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee Rivers. It extends the industrial east to the agricultural Midwest to the broad expansion of the Atlantic oceans, allowing for a plethora of ways to move cargo for trade, along with people for travel. Still being used in modern day U.S. to move cargo from the Ocean through to the north by barges. This factor of expansion truly assisted the United Sates to become more resourceful and independent allowing for continual development (Weider History, n.d.)(American History, n.d.).
The second and I believe the most significant factor of expansion to the United States was the Gold Rush. As people began to travel from the east to the west expanding and migrating to warmer land they realized crops grew well and the land was abundant. On “January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall discovered gold (Weider History, n.d., ¶ 3).” This discovery of gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Range of California in the American River at Sutter’s Mill. This discovery was attempted to be held a secret but word leaked out and once word got out of this huge discovery, many flocked to California with the hopes of finding their fortune. Gold was also discovered in the Feather and Trinity Rivers giving more room for the panning for gold. People who were already living in California flocked to the area, however soon followed those from Oregon, Mexico, Peru, Pacific Islands, along with Australia, New Zealand, China, Asia, and Europe. With the increased population to the gold field this increased not only the population in the United Stated but in California as well. The port of San Francisco alone increased from 1000 people in 1848 to 300,000 in 1890. Making San Francisco the 8th largest city in the United States of the time (Weider History).

American History (n.d.). The Mississippi River and Expansion of America. Retrieved June 9, 2013, from www.legendsof
Guisepi, R. (1998). The Rise of Civilization in the Middle East and Africa. Manuscript submitted for publication. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from
Historical TV (No Producer). (2013, July 25, 2013). Mesopotamian Civilization/Ancient History/. Podcast retrieved from
Kiple, K. F., & Ornelas, K. C. (2013). II.B.3- Potatoes (White). Retrieved from Cambridge University:
Mann, C. C. (2011). How the Potato Changed the World. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from
Mark, J. J. (2009). Mesopotamia. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from
Weider History (n.d.). Westward Expansion. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from

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