American Political Culture
The Importance of Geography
The United States covers a large chunk of the North American continent, incorporating a variety of climates and bound on two sides by ocean. The country’s unique geography has given it a number of benefits:
- Isolation from conflict: For much of its early history, the United States was able to keep out of political and military entanglements with the rest of the world. Separated from Europe by one ocean and from Asia by another, America avoided the conflicts and wars among states in those regions. Peace provided a rich environment for the development and growth of the new nation.
- Vibrant trade: Although vast oceans separate the United States from much of the world, access to these oceans allowed for the development of lively trade routes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The United States traded regularly with Europe and increasingly with Asia as the nineteenth century wore on. America also possesses a number of long navigable rivers (including the Mississippi River) that allowed for extensive trade within the country.
- Rich farmland: Large parts of the United States contain excellent farmland. By producing more food than necessary, the United States could trade excess food to support a growing manufacturing economy.
- A vast frontier: Early white settlers were able to expand across the continent. Access to a vast frontier encouraged development as thousands of people pushed westward. The frontier also played a role in shaping the American character.
- Natural resources: The size and vastly different ecologies of the terrain have also provided Americans with an abundance of natural resources, such as timber, metal ores, coal, oil, and natural gas. Unlimited access to these resources allowed the United States to develop politically and militarily because it did not have to worry about acquiring the natural resources needed to sustain its citizens.