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AP Human Geography Test Review. Political Geography. States. State – any area with a defined territory that exercises its sovereign control over areas both inside and outside its borders Earth is divided into about 200 countries (states)

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  • State – any area with a defined territory that exercises its sovereign control over areas both inside and outside its borders
    • Earth is divided into about 200 countries (states)
      • In past 100 years, number of states has increased by over 100
  • Territorial Organization – states organized into a geographically based hierarchy of local government agencies
    • Serve the functions of (1) efficiently delegating administrative function in what may otherwise be large and unwieldy area, (2) can allocate resources through local agencies that may be more in touch with the needs of the people in their jurisdiction, and (3) usually give their local territory some degree of autonomy (ability to enact laws, police their lands, and tax local citizens)
  • Commonwealth – territory that has established a mutual agreement with another state for the benefit of both parties
  • Colony – territory that is legally tied to a sovereign state rather than being completely independent
    • Control of the colony varies
  • Colonialism – effort by one country to establish settlements and to impose its political, economic, and cultural principles on a territory

States - Colonies

  • European states established colonies for 3 reasons
    • European missionaries established colonies to promote Christianity
    • Colonies provided resources that helped the economy of European states
    • European states considered the number of colonies to be an indicator of relative power
  • Summarized as “God, gold, and glory”
  • Imperialism – control of territory already occupied and organized by an indigenous society
  • United Kingdom had largest empire
    • “Sun never set” on the British Empire
  • Colonial practices of European states varied
  • France attempted to assimilate colonies into French culture – not so successful
  • Britain created different government structures and policies depending on the territory
    • Decentralized approach helped to protect diverse cultures, local customs, and educational systems
    • Most colonies made peaceful transition to independence
  • Nearly all in Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea
    • Puerto Rico is most populous remaining colony
      • Commonwealth of the United States
      • 4 million residents
    • France’s French Polynesia, Mayotte, and New Caledonia; the Netherlands’ Netherlands Antilles; and the United States’ Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands are colonies with population between 100,000 and 300,000
    • Least populated colony – Pitcairn Island (United Kingdom) – 47 people

States - Colonies

  • Colonialism – practice of establishing political dominance over a people for economic, political, and territorial gain
  • Organic Theory – created by political geographer Friedrich Ratzel
    • State was like a living entity that constantly needed to grow to thrive – states constantly need new territory to meet the demands of their ever-growing population
  • Religious Colonialism – conducted by numerous religions
    • Christianity and Islam
  • Economic Colonialism- quest for wealth
    • European colonists sought wealth (gold, furs, etc.)
    • Colonies expected to provide resources for the home country needed to sustain itself
  • Self-Determinism – power of a people to establish their own government the way that they see it
    • Former colonies would rather see chaotic conditions ruled by member so their own country than peaceful conditions ruled by colonial power

Types of Empires

  • The Land Empire – involves conquest by force
    • Armies attack, pillage, and plunder their way through another land, taking resources by force
      • Ex. Spanish employed empire tactics in Mexico
  • The Sea Empire – used sea power to control area
    • Settlements established along coast, and excursions into the interior brought loot back to these settlement, where ship would be waiting to take resources back to home country
  • The Settlement Empire – intended to stay long time
    • Once settlement established, colonists sent resources back to home country
    • Colony expected to become independent and eventually pay back home country
      • Primarily used by the British and French

States - Government

Types of Government

  • Unitary State – places most power in the hands of central government officials
    • Unitary government systems works best (in theory) in nation-states with few internal cultural differences
    • In reality, multinational states use unitary systems so the values of on nationality can be imposed on others
      • Some African countries (Rwanda, Ghana, and Kenya) have done so on ethnic group could dominate another
      • Eastern European countries used unitary systems go promote the diffusion of Communist values
  • Federal State – allocates strong power to units of local government within the country
  • Governments bestow autonomous powers upon their local territories
  • Local governments posses more authority to adopt their own laws
  • Ability to empower different nationalities – especially if they live in different regions
    • Boundaries can be drawn by regional ethnicities
  • More suitable for larger states – national capital may too remote to effectively govern
  • Size of federal states varies
    • Larger states include Russia, Canada, India, and U.S.
    • Belgium is federal state = two cultural groups
  • How to delegate authority in a federalist country has crucial implications for everything from tax collection , to the use of natural resources

Electoral Geography

  • Reapportionment (redistricting) – Boundaries separating legislative districts redrawn periodically to ensure each district has approximately same population
    • Boundaries of U.S. House of Representatives redrawn every 10 years – following the census
  • Most European countries use independent commissions to redraw district boundaries
  • Most U.S. states use the state legislature – giving the political party in power to redraw districts
  • Gerrymandering – process of redrawing legislative boundaries for the purpose of benefiting the party in power
    • Three types of gerrymandering
      • “Wasted Vote” – spreads opposition supporters across many districts, but in the minority
      • “Excess Vote” – concentrates opposition supporters into a few districts
      • “Stacked Vote” – links distant areas of like-minded voters through oddly shaped boundaries

GerrymanderingFlorida & Georgia

Fig. 8-11: State legislature boundaries were drawn to maximize the number of legislators for Republicans in Florida and Democrats in Georgia.

Gerrymandering – drawing voting districts to benefit one group over another.

Majority-Minority districts drawn so that the majority of the population in the district is from the minority.


Nation and Nation-State

  • Nation – Term encompassing all the citizens of a state – refer to tightly knit group of people possessing bonds of language, ethnicity, religion, and other shared cultural attributes/identity
    • Many people becoming more loyal to their nation, rather than their state
      • Ex. Al-Qaeda – left behind loyalty to the states in which they are citizens, pledging their allegiance to Al-Qaeda – forming a nation
    • Usually nations are located within the borders of a state
      • Examples – Koreans, Hmong, Kurds, Basques, Flemish, Walloons, and Zulus
      • Many want their own state, but conflict can arise with two nations competing a geographic area
  • Nation-State – recognized political unit wherein territorial state coincides with the area settled by a certain group of people – corresponds with particular ethnicity that has been transformed into a nationality
    • Examples = Japan and Denmark


  • Sovereignty – ability of a state to regulate their own internal and external affairs
  • Some continue to struggle with sovereignty
    • Kurds – one of largest nationalities in the world without a state
      • Located in Turkey, northern Iran, and northern Iraq with some in Armenia and Azerbaijan
      • Most Kurds have own language and practice Islam
    • Basques – independent group in Pyrenees Mountains
      • Majority live in Spain with some in Andorra and southwestern France
      • Basques have their own language (Euskara) and desire to have their own nation-state called Euskal Herria
    • Flemish – live in the north of Belgium
      • Official language is Flemish (Common Dutch) and religion (Roman Catholic)
      • Distinct from Walloons in language (French) and religion (Protestant)
      • Desire own nation-state called Flanders
    • Zulu – live in eastern South Africa
      • Apartheid – white minority ruled South Africa, Zulus forced to occupy low status – suffering discrimination in all aspects of life
      • Zulus have their own language (isiZulu) desire to have own homeland (KwaNdeebele)
    • Palestinians – live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights of Israel
      • Palestinians fled to other countries after Israel created in 1948
      • Most practice Islam, speak Arabic – desire to create state called Palestine

Antarctica National Claims

Fig. 8-2: Antarctica is the only large land mass that is not part of a state, but several countries claim portions of it.


Political Organization of Space

  • Governments usually create organizations to assist with their interactions with other countries
    • Embassies – offices represent U.S. interests to the leadership of other countries
    • Ambassadors – lead officials representing the U.S. in other countries
    • Consulates – secondary offices that usually deal with economic issues as well as the granting of visas to enter their home countries
  • Other political geography terms
    • Satellite states – under the control of the Soviet Union – created a cultural wall (Iron Curtain)
    • Iron Curtain – divided democratic, capitalist Western Europe from totalitarian, communist Eastern Europe
    • Shatterbelt regions – regions caught up in the conflict between two superpowers
      • Boundaries often changed – Vietnam and Korea
    • Buffer state – country that lies between two other states, but remains neutral in the conflict between them
      • Mongolia between China and Soviet Union
    • Supranational Organization – separate entity composed of three or more states that forge an association and form an administrative structure for mutual benefit in pursuit of shared goals

Geopolitical Theories

  • Heartland Theory – HalfordMacKinder wrote “The Geographical Pivot of History”
    • Suggests that whoever owns Eastern Europe and Western Asia has the political power and capital to rule the world
      • Eastern Europe contained one of the richest agricultural regions in the world – sustain a large population
      • Also contained abundant raw materials (coal) needed to develop strong military and industrial base
      • Adolph Hitler believed in this theory – which is why he attempted to invade/conquer Eastern Europe
  • Rimland Theory – Nicholas Spykman wrote in “The Geography of Peace” – was known as the “godfather of containment”
    • Believed in forming alliances is necessary to keep Heartland in check (no individual country could contain by itself
    • Rimland theory would control the sea
  • Domino Theory – adopted by U.S. in 1960s – 1970s
    • When one country experiences rebellion or political disunity, other countries around it will also experience turmoil as a result, leading to a domino effect of political instability
      • Established in response to the communist incursions that had been occurring around the world
  • Irredentism – the attempt by one country to provoke coups or separatist movements in another country

Rimland Theory

Heartland Theory

- Heartland is also known as the pivot area


Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces

  • Centripetal Forces – forces that tend to unite a state
    • Includes strong national institutions, sense of common history, and a reliance on strong central government
      • Examples include flags, anthem, other acts of patriotism
    • Centripetal forces can be positive and negative
      • Positive when supporting or pulling a nation together
      • Negative when nationalistic ideas place individual nations above all others (usually with militaristic regimes, power hungry leaders, and racist ideologies)
  • Centrifugal Forces – forces that pull a state apart
    • Include ideas of regionalism, ethnic strife, and territorial disputes
    • Include language, religion, ethnicity, and ideology

Political forces and Ideologies

  • Balkanization – political process by which a state may break up into smaller countries
    • Occurs when enclaves develop with their own ethnic identities, or when central governments increasingly devolve administrative authority to their constituent territories
      • Former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia
  • Devolution – Giving up of power by the central or federal government to the different regions of the country
    • The process whereby regions within a state demand and gain political strength and growing autonomy at the expense of the central government
    • Devolutionary pressures result in increased autonomy for a region. If strong enough, these devolutionary pressures may result in complete balkanization
  • Supranationalism – method of extending state borders through the assistance and/or establishment of other organizations to further economic and/or political cooperation
    • Ex. European Union (EU)
      • United into one organized unit for the purpose of increasing individual strength through collective efforts
  • Democratization – transition to a more democratic political government
    • Existence of competitive election that are free, regular, and fair
    • Three waves of democratization
ethnocultural devolutionary movements
Ethnocultural Devolutionary Movements

Eastern Europe -

Devolutionary forces since the fall of communism

immanuel wallerstein s world systems theory
Immanuel Wallerstein’s World-Systems Theory:
  • The world economy has one market and a global division of labor.
  • Although the world has multiple states, almost everything takes place within the context of the world economy.
  • The world economy has a three-tier structure.

Construction of the World Economy

  • Capitalism – people, corporations, and states produce goods and services and exchange them in the world market, with the goal of achieving profit.
  • Commodification – the process of placing a price on a good and then buying, selling, and trading the good.
  • Colonialism – brought the world into the world economy, setting up an interdependent global economy.
three tier structure
Three Tier Structure


Processes that incorporate higher levels of education, higher salaries, and more technology

* Generate more wealth in the world economy


Processes that incorporate lower levels of education, lower salaries, and less technology

* Generate less wealth in the world economy


Places where core and periphery processes are both occurring. Places that are exploited by the core but then exploit the periphery.

* Serves as a buffer between core and periphery