Geography is such an important part of knowing history. You really can’t separate the two. Most people know very little geography outside of the place they actually live. This is unfortunate. Knowledge of geography does not mean EXPERTISE in geography. That is for cartographers (map makers), intelligence agencies, and geography teachers. Having a good grasp of geography is what I am talking about here.
What does having a good grasp of geography mean? It means you can hear of something on the world news and be able to know where in the world this event is happening. You should be able to find (without using Google or Siri) places like Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and the Horn of Africa, on a map for instance. You should know where the general area of the Roman Empire was located. You should be able to connect countries and cities with famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Machu Picchu, The Golden Gate Bridge, and the Kremlin. Finally you should understand you local geography and the geography of your own country. As an American I am proud to know my 50 state capitals, landmarks from all over the country, and the different histories of many people of this great country.
If you are more advanced you should be able to understand that place names really don’t accurately portray the full history of the place. In a later blog post I will cover anachronisms in history. Look up that word now and think how today’s geopolitical maps can make history confusing. (Think “Turkey” and who was in “Turkey” way before the Turks.)
HOW TO EASILY LEARN GEOGRAPHY
There are many fun ways to learn geography. When you simply do activities you will learn. There is no need to get a list of countries and memorize their capitals. That is boring. This blog is about making history fun.
If you are into major league sports like MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS then you have learned U.S. and Canadian geography without even trying. Where do the Mariners play? In Seattle, of course. What about the Cubs? Chicago! My home team, the Jazz? Here in Salt Lake City.
Chicago is home of the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, and the Fire. If you look up “Wrigley Field, Chicago” on Google maps you will see that it is a very large city located near the southern tip of Lake Michigan. You will see how close Chicago is to some other major cities. (It is a close flight, but a bit of a drive if you are in a car.) You will also see that Chicago is not the capital of Illinois even though it is, by far, the largest city in the state.
Maybe you can look up some international futbol teams. (I am trying to sound cool, but I really call it soccer, like most Americans.) Real Madrid and Manchester United come to my mind immediately. Look these places up on Google Maps and you will learn a bit about the geography of Spain and the United Kingdom. It really is that easy.
Documentaries and TV Shows –
There are many documentaries that focus on certain places. You may learn about Vietnam or Japan, or even North Korea simply by watching a documentary. You get to see the sights and the people, and maybe even learn about a certain political or cultural subject through a documentary.
Some TV shows even have a good bit of geography. I used to watch “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” It was a popular kids gameshow in the early 1990’s. I found an episode on YouTube. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DRXGyZro3Qw I must say, it was a lot cooler back then than it is when I see it now.
One show I really liked a lot was “How the States Got Their Shapes” on the History Channel. The book by the same name authored by Mark Stein is incredibly precise and detailed on all parts of all borders in every U.S. state. It is really cool and if you are a nerd like me I suggest you get it. The show, hosted by Brian Unger is very entertaining.
This is a simple Google search away. You can find dozens of sites with good geography games you can play on your computer or your phone when you are not studying History Made Simple.
Books and Magazines –
It is obvious that I love books. Be on the lookout for book recommendations from this blog. My favorite book to learn geography AND history with is Atlas of World History by Patrick O’Brien (ISBN – 13 : 9780199746538)
It is cool to knock out two birds with one stone and I can do that with this book. Nearly every single subject you can think of, from movements of early people to the Vietnam War to the Protestant Reformation is covered with really good maps.
There are many different Atlas books you can buy or borrow from the library that will cover certain subjects. I would suggest owning the Atlas mentioned above. It is worth it.
You can also read ANY National Graphic magazine article and learn some random information from some crazy part of the world. This is a GREAT magazine.