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Unit 4

4.0 Unit 4 Overview: Political Patterns and Processes

3 min readmay 4, 2020


Amanda DoAmaral

AP Human Geography 🚜

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Overview of Political Patterns & Processes

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.

Unit 4 Essential Questions

  • What social, historical, and economic factors have influenced modern political maps at various scales?
  • How do boundaries reflect ideas of territoriality and political power on various scales?
  • How has globalization changed the way people live?

Models to Know from Unit 4

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.
  1. Organic Theory
  2. Mackinder’s Heartland Theory
  3. Domino Theory
  4. Spykman’s Rimland Theory
  5. Core-Periphery Model

Past FRQs from Unit 4

STUDY TIP: Content from 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. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!

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🗺Unit 1: Thinking Geographically
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🗳Unit 4: Political Patterns & Processes
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