Welcome to Your Historical Compass

"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Ever wonder why they say history repeats itself? One of the reasons they say this is geopolitics. But what is geopolitics? In short, geopolitics is how geography affects the way nations, armies, and people groups interact. For example, England has avoided many of the conflicts that plague the continent of Europe. Why? The English Channel. This narrow piece of water separates England from the rest of Europe and has served as its greatest defence against invaders. Most recently, it featured as the largest anit-tank ditch of World War II that ever stopped the Nazi Blitzkrieg. The point is that the English Channel isn't going away. It is constant and dependable. The English Channel, then, is a geopolitical phenomenon.

If we look on the other side of the continent, we'll see Russia. Russia has several geopolitical features, but one that has greatly influenced its history is the fact that almost all of Russia's seaports freeze over in winter. This leads the Russians to seek out and conquer warm water seaports like the ones on the Black Sea. However, there is one problem for the Russians with their Black Sea ports. In order to get to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea, every ship must pass the Dardanelles Straits through the old city of Constantinople, or Istanbul,since its fall to the Turks in 1453. The Turks often block the Mediterranean off from the Russians when they disagree, which is often. This leads the Russians to seek the conquest of Istanbul as a matter of national interest. In this case, the Dardanelles and Istanbul are the geopolitical feature. Not much is going to change the fact that the Russians want control of those straits in order to secure their trade routes.

It is important to understand geopolitics in order to understand the world and its history. The more you understand how the earth itself guides the course of history, the less you'll have to ask yourself why this, or why that. If you can get the constants down, then you can pick up on the consistencies and repetitions. So the next time someone says history repeats itself, you can tell them one of the reasons why.


  1. Great post. Could one thus argue that our foreign policy should follow after our geopolitical position. I think the United States could improve a thing or two by using some of the separation we've been blessed with.

  2. Excellent point Patrick. The USA has several goepolitical features, but one of the most important is its position to dominated two vast oceans. The mere size of these oceans is enought to make a drawn out invasion virtually impossible.