What Are Environmental Factors in World History?

Environmental factors have played a significant role in shaping the course of world history. These factors have affected everything from the rise and fall of civilizations to the development of technology and trade. In this article, we will explore what environmental factors are and how they have impacted human history.

What are Environmental Factors?

Environmental factors are any physical or biological aspect of the natural environment that can influence human activity. These can include things like climate, geography, natural resources, and even plant and animal life. These factors can have both positive and negative impacts on human societies, shaping their development over time.

The Impact of Climate

One of the most significant environmental factors in world history is climate. The climate has influenced everything from agricultural practices to the spread of disease.

For example, the Little Ice Age that occurred in Europe from the 16th to 19th centuries had a profound impact on European society. Crops failed, famine was widespread, and social unrest was rampant.

On the other hand, a favorable climate can be a boon for societies. The ancient civilization of Egypt was able to thrive thanks to the fertile land provided by the Nile River. The warm and humid climate of Southeast Asia allowed for a rich biodiversity that supported a variety of cultures and economies.

The Role of Geography

Another critical environmental factor is geography. Mountains, rivers, and oceans have all played a role in shaping human history. For example, mountain ranges can act as barriers between different regions or provide natural defenses against invaders.

Rivers have been crucial for transportation and agriculture throughout history. The ancient city of Babylon was located in Mesopotamia between two rivers – the Tigris and Euphrates – which provided fertile soil for agriculture as well as water for irrigation.

Oceans have also been instrumental in shaping human history through trade routes and exploration. The Age of Exploration in Europe was driven by a desire to find new trade routes to Asia and the Americas.

Natural Resources

Natural resources have played a significant role in the development of human societies. The discovery of coal during the Industrial Revolution allowed for the widespread use of steam power and the growth of factories. The discovery of oil in the 20th century transformed global politics and economics.

However, overreliance on natural resources can also lead to environmental degradation and conflict. The exploitation of natural resources in Africa has led to social unrest and environmental destruction.


Environmental factors have played a crucial role in shaping human history. Climate, geography, natural resources, and other aspects of the natural environment have all influenced human societies throughout time. Understanding these factors can help us better understand how societies develop and evolve over time.