Physical Geography gives descriptions of the earth's surface, and Political Geography tells of the countries of the earth and of the people inhabiting them.
History relates of the doings of the peoples of the earth, their forms of government, manners, customs, etc. History and Geography are so closely united, and the lives of nations are so connected with the natural features of the part of the earth they inhabit, that the two subjects should be studied together. The following brief treatise is accordingly arranged :
The earth is divided by geographers into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The eastern half is the home of civilization and history. No spot on the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of parts of Greenland, has an unbroken record of over four hundred years ; and nine-tenths of the Western Hemisphere's vast area was wholly unknown to civilization even two hundred years ago. The greater portion of it has been explored since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Archaeologists, who dig in mounds and read the signs on ruined temples and on the relics secured from prehistoric graves, tell us there was a high order of civilization in the temperate portions of our hemisphere in ancient times ; but of the history of those people and of their governments we have no positive knowledge. They and their civilization had passed away from the Atlantic seaboard when Columbus came and found a savage wilderness. The last vestiges of it were perhaps later found and destroyed by Pizarro.
To-day the Western Hemisphere is more civilized as a whole than the eastern half of the earth. One who would find the lowest order of mankind and the densest ignorance must seek it in Africa, Asia and Oceanica, all of which, with the exception of the extreme northwestern point of Siberia, lie wholly within the Eastern Hemisphere. But the East has also the other extreme. The most learned and advanced state of civilization on earth has its home in Europe. Here we may, therefore, begin this outline of history; a bird's-eye view of all the continents of the earth and its races of people is obtained from the important statistics furnished by the Royal Geographical Society.