Accidents of Geography

· October 22, 2018

In The Lessons of History, the Durants offer various takeaways from their extensive history of civilization. One comment that I found particularly interesting was on the importance of trade, and of the wealth and change in locations where trade is most effective. 

Cities and people flourished along rivers, then in counties with easy access to the sea, then the ocean. The Durants expected the development of air travel and air power to reshape this relationship - but perhaps underestimated the incredible trading power of sea routes, as reinforced in recent years in Crimea and the Spratly islands.

Even the internet doesn’t seem to nullify the old advantages. The routes of cabling often follows the old trade routes, data centers located close to (or colocated with) financial exchanges were the geographic advantage for high frequency traders, and there have been digital empires built up on either side of the Great Firewall of the PRC. The underlying geography continues to define the space of advantage.