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        Topography and History

        Topography is the name geographers and cartographers give to the natural and artificial physical features of an area. These features can be landforms such as mountains, plains, or canyons. They can also be bodies of water like lakes or rivers.

        This set of images explores the role topography has played in history. Review each image and description. Be sure to pay close attention to the way the different topography either aided or encumbered communication, settlement, or trade.

         

        US Westward Expansion

        After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, settlers looking for land in the eastern US began moving westward into the prairies and beyond. The flat plains in the center of the continent proved excellent land for grazing and farming. Over time, the image of mid-western topography became associated with pioneering spirit and the American desire for expansion. Even now, when Americans think of westward expansion, they picture the great plains.

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        Sahara Desert Caravan

        The difficult topography of the Sahara desert functioned much like an ocean. The desert caravans that brought gold form the powerful West African empires to the rest of world were like great ocean-going ships that crossed the great ocean of sand.

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        The Siberian Railway

        The great expanse of Siberian land to the east of Russia had been difficult to settle and expand into even for the powerful Russian Tsars. The land is largely flat and covered with grasslands. In the winter it is blisteringly cold; in the summer, the land is swampy and hot.

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