⏱️ 8 min read
November 7, 2020
In AP® Human Geography, unit 4 covers political geography. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for this unit, focus on the key concepts!
The following summary is from AMSCO AP Human Geography:
Today’s political map consists mostly of independent states in which all territory is connected, and most people share a language and other cultural traits. This was not true of the past. Many states were sprawling, diverse empires, such as the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East or the British Empire that included people of many cultures. At the same time, many cultural groups were divided into several political groups, such as the hundreds of small German states in central Europe or the various groups of nomads in central Asia.
A government demonstrates its power over a geographic area by enforcing laws that govern individual behavior and affect how resources are used. Boundaries separate territories at various scales, from those that divide the world into countries to those that determine where students attend school.
Political power can be divided in several ways. In a country, it can be centralized in one national government or divided between the national government and several local governments. In the United States, local power can be centralized under regional or county governments, or it can be divided into a patchwork of cities, school districts, and other types of districts.
Independent states face challenges from globalization. Transnational corporations, international organizations, and global environmental problems all make the boundaries around a state less important than they once were. Another challenge to independent states comes from within. Regions with distinctive cultural groups, such as Catalonia in Spain and Quebec in Canada, have successfully argued for more autonomy.
STUDY TIP: The models will appear all over the exam, in both multiple choice and FRQs. You should be able to identify each one from a description or image, apply them to examples, and use them in your writing. All of the AP Human Geography models are explained here.
Mackinder's Heartland Theory
Spykman's Rimland Theory
STUDY TIP: Content from the this unit has appeared on the FRQs nine times since 2001. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. The, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!
*The following outline was adapted from the AP® Human Geography Course Description as published by College Board in 2019 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.
The terms state, country, and nation are often used interchangeably, but they have some differences.
The US recognizes 195 sovereign states in the world.
Sovereign states have power over their own affairs
Types of states. Hang tight, this can get confusing.
Nation-States = Country made up of one nationality (examples: Iceland, Japan)
Forces that unify or break-up countries
nationalism = nation's desire to create its own state
Imperialism & Colonialism
The political map was vastly altered because of imperialism
What's the difference between imperialism and colonialism?
Imperialism is a more broad term that includes any time a country is exerting influence over another country
A brief history
Spain & Portugal kicked things off in the 1500s by establishing empires in Central and South America for "God, Glory, and Gold"
Geopolitics in the 20th & 21st Centuries
Many colonized countries rebelled and secured independence in the 20th century, thus adding several new countries (Angola, Vietnam, India, etc)
Concepts of Political Power & Territoriality
Why do some states grow while other stay weak?
Organic Theory = states need living space to survive, or lebensraum, by annexing lands from weaker states (example: Nazi Germany)
Types of Boundaries
Defined = established by a legal document
Definitional = disagreement on how to define legal docs (ex: Chile & Argentina at the Andes Mountains)
Locational = differences on where a boundary should be (ex. Poland / Germany after WWII)
Irredentism = type of expansionism when one country annexes another because it has cultural ties to the population (Germany annexing Austria in WWII)
Operational = how the boundary functions (ex: disputes around Syria based on who should care for refugees)
Allocational = natural resources in dispute (ex: Iraq / Kuwait dispute)
The Law of the Sea
Territorial Sea = 12 miles of sovereignty away from coast
Voting Boundaries in the US
Districts set up based on population data from the census
But lots has been done to mess with these boundaries in order to benefit different political parties
gerrymandering = changing voting boundaries based on race, voting patterns, class, etc
For example, if there is a huge population of liberal black voters in a district, they would win seats as they outvote conservative white voters
But if you split the district through the black population, now you could have two districts with a majority of white conservative voters and minority black liberal voters
By doing this, there would now be two conservative congress-people representing an area that is actually a majority liberal
Effects of Boundaries
Any boundary has consequences, whether positive or negative
For example, people who speak the same language or practice the same religion are split
Different Forms of Governance
Federal = power is shared between central gov't and state or local gov't (ex: US)
Unitary = power held primarily by central gov't without much power given to local gov't (ex: France)
Shapes of States
The world has become WAY more connected in the last century because of technology, global markets, and political influence.
Challenges to State Sovereignty
Ideas spread fast, which leads to more independence movements (ex: Arab Spring
When multiple countries form an organization (NATO, UN, EU, NAFTA)
Some examples = WTO, ASEAN, OPEC
Transnational companies span across countries like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple
Military & Strategic Supranationalism
Cross-country pacts: NATO, Warsaw Pact
Supranationalism & the Environment
Climate change will need a solution that includes every country
It's the transfer of power from one central gov't to many local/regional gov'ts (Ex: Fall of Soviet Union)
Forces leading to devolution
Physical = isolation because of mountains (India)
Ethnic = minority groups fighting for independence (Spain - Basques & Catalans)
Terrorism = organized violence (ETA in Northern Ireland)
Economic = control of natural resources (Brazil)
Social Issues = different languages (Quebec, Belgium)
Irredentism = annexed because of similar culture or language, but then pulled back (Armenia, Azerbaijan)
Autonomous regions = relative to stateless nations, groups that have independence to manage daily governance, but not their own state (Navajo)
STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from unit 4 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!
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