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The Influence of Geography on Colonial Development

A nations’ success is based upon a variety of factors including geography. The Atlantic Ocean, Rocky Mountains, Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and diverse climates have influenced Colonial Development. They have helped colonies thrive by providing natural resources, extensive waterways for trade and exploration, and fertile land for prosperous agriculture.
The Atlantic Ocean had encouraged the successful development of colonies on the Eastern Coast of the United States. A region that was affected by the Atlantic Ocean was the Mid-Atlantic, referring to the land between New England and parts of Virginia. In the Mid-Atlantic, rivers flowed into the Atlantic Ocean creating routes for trade and colonization.

Large cities formed where bodies of water connected with the Atlantic Ocean because ports could be formed and there was a food supply, fish. Baltimore is located on the Chesapeake Bay and served as a commercial port and grew exponentially during the 18th and 19th centuries. Sugar was imported from colonies in the Caribbean to Baltimore to be redistributed to other colonies. The shelf life of sugar, flour, and other goods being imported increased because Baltimore was closer to the Caribbean in relation to where New York was. Because of the prolonged self-life, profits on sugar increased. Baltimore soon became a major industrial city, bringing in large amounts of money and goods for the growing United States.

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Colonization of the American West was motivated by economics and the belief that America had the right to expand its’ borders. From British Columbia to New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains were a primary location for Americans to expand into because of its’ vast economic opportunities. Fur was the primary attraction of the Rocky Mountains and many companies took advantage of the opportunity to set establish trading posts. The Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company had trading posts in the Rockies and these became some of the first white settlements in the region. In 1859, with the discovery of gold, the mining industry increased. Not only were there significant deposits of gold, but there was copper, lead, silver, and zinc which were also being mined.

The Mississippi River and its’ many tributaries form an extensive internal waterway that flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River acts as a border for several states, including Arkansas, Iowa, and Illinois. Before the Louisiana Purchase, French explorers established several successful fur trading posts and ports along the river, notably New Orleans, Biloxi, Baton Rouge, and Mobile. These locations were selected because they are located near a source of freshwater, fertile farmland, and provided a food source of fishing. The Mississippi River is also a good form of transportation of goods and people. For states along the Mississippi, fishing is an important industry, although shipping is the main economic use. Other than coal, waste and debris are shipped down the Mississippi to other areas.

During settlement, the Great Lakes and its’ rivers were the only methods of transporting people and goods. Other than transportation, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior form a border between the United States and Canada. The fifth and only lake that is not a border between the United States and Canada is Lake Michigan. Major products that were shipped through the Great lakes include iron ore, coal, stone, grain, and salt. The Great Lakes are used heavily for economic reasons; however, they are a good source of freshwater for cultivating crops and an excellent site for fishing. Because of the benefits of the Great Lakes, many colonies thrived through trading fur and other goods and exporting them to other locations.

The United States experiences a wide variety of climates due to its’ large size and location. The United States covers almost all climatic regions from harsh arctic conditions in Northern Alaska, to warm tropical climates in Hawaii and Southern Florida. This array allows the United States to produce a large number of different products. The East Coast is humid and has bountiful moisture making it a very important agricultural area. The Eastern Woodlands give way to the arid Mid-Western steppes where corn and wheat flourish.

Moving westward, the United States has deserts and dense coniferous forests along the Rockies. These trees are used in paper production, lumber, and other wood processing. In Hawaii and Southern Florida, there are tropical zones where exotic fruit and sugar cane is able to grow. Due to the diversity in climates, a variety of goods and services could be produced and sold, boosting the economy and success of the colony.

Geography determines the success or failure of a nation. The United States is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources, plenty of river systems, diverse climates, and people who used them for their advantage.

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The Influence of Geography on Colonial Development. (2021, Feb 14). Retrieved July 15, 2021, from