Human/environment interaction focuses on four major areas:
- Demography and disease
- Patterns of settlement
How do populations change? What makes them change? Where do people migrate, and why? What factors either pushed people out of their former homes, or pulled them toward their new ones? Why are certain areas far more settled than others? For example, examine this map created by the US Census bureau. You’ll notice that the highest concentration of people is along the coasts, particularly the east coast. The lowest population density is out west, particularly in places such as Montana and Wyoming. Historians are interested in how and why that is. Finally, historians are interested in the development of technology in order to help us adapt to the environment. Note that with this theme we are interested in both how humans adapt their environment to their needs (farming, building roads, creating dams) and how humans adapt in order to function better in their environment. This can be long term genetic adaptation, such as less body hair on people who live in warmer climates, to shorter-term acclimatization, such as changes in breathing and heart rate when going from lower to higher altitudes.
Consider the earliest of humans. These hunter-gatherers were nomadic, usually collected into small groups. In order to ensure survival, groups had to remain small because the hunting-gathering lifestyle would not support larger groups of people. You would not want to have a group so large as to exhaust the available food supply. Humans also had very little in the way of personal belongings, since they were on the move so much and carried everything they did own. What they decided to carry had to have enough value to take up space, so for the most part personal belongings were unheard of in early hunter-gatherer societies. Your “stuff” would basically be those tools that you needed for hunting, and as tools developed and became more sophisticated, your hunting would be more profitable. But remember, if you were a hunter-gatherer, your diet would vary greatly by season, as would your location.
So, how might this theme show up in APWH class? Questions to think about:
- How and why did the Neolithic Revolution occur? (hunting-gathering à farming)
- What are the social and economic effects of the development of settled agriculture?
- What technological developments are necessary to make settled agriculture possible?
- What impact did the migrations of Vikings, Mongols, Arabs and Aztecs have?
- What impact does the newly expanded global trade of the early modern era (1450 – 1750) have?
- How does the development of new medical technologies impact exploration and imperialism in the 19th century?
- What is the impact of declining birth rates in countries like Japan, Norway and Spain in the 20th and 21st century?
* College Board. (2010) World History Course Description. Retrieved from http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap-world-history-course-description.pdf