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Wikipedia puts the boundary as:
The modern definition of Europe delimits it from Asia at the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles-Sea of Marmora-Bosporus, the Black Sea, along the watershed of the Greater Caucasus, the northwestern portion of the Caspian Sea and along the Ural River and Ural Mountains, as both mapped and listed in many atlases including that of the National Geographic Society and as described in the World Factbook.
However, there is no cite for this and I can't seem to find definitive information. What group, or individual, put forward this as the boundary between Europe and Asia? I know that this boundary has changed a lot historically so I'm curious as to the most current boundary, assuming Wikipedia is correct.
Your question assumes that some kind of a formal decision was made and that most countries explicitly agree that there is an official demarcation. As this boundary is mostly cartographical, no country has ever, to the best of my knowledge, made an issue out of this location. It's been the practice to just use whatever demarcation that other cartographers use by map makers since the 6th century BC when Greeks began writing about the continents. As the wiki points out, the reason the line they are using is 'official' is simply that most authoritative map makers place it there. If a great many map makers placed the line somewhere else, that would then be conventionally considered the line of demarcation.
I said mostly cartographical because some countries have used this boundary as an impetus for political decisions and for propaganda. Despite this, it has never been a point of contention in what would be the ultimate decision: A contest of arms between nations.
"Europe" can mean different things depending on context. To geologists, there is no such thing as a distinct European land-mass since it is inseparable from Asia (hence Eurasia). Politically, Europe might mean the member states of the EU or the EEC. In sporting terms, Israel and Kazakhstan are in Europe. According to Turkey, country is entirely in Europe, but at the same time Istanbul is split into Asian and European halves. The countries in the Caucasus, Christian Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are usually considered to be in Europe, separated from Iran only by political, not geographic, borders.
There is no Central American continent, but few people speak of Panama as being in North America, even though geographically is it. The Papua half of New Guinea plays football in Oceania, while the Indonesian half plays as an Asian team. Likewise, Australia recently switched continents and is now in Asia.
The point is that continents have no formal definition or that continents have multiple definitions depending on who is defining them and why. Politics, geography, culture, language, religion are all used to lay down the continental lines, and there is no single authority on what they are.
According to Wikipedia, this division was first put forward in the 18th century by Philip Johan von Strahlenberg. It's best if I just quote the passage in full:
In ancient times, the Greeks classified Europe (derived from the mythological Phoenician princess Europa) and Asia (derived from Asia, a woman in Greek mythology) as separate "lands". Where to draw the dividing line between the two regions is still a matter of discussion. Especially whether the Kuma-Manych Depression or the Caucasus Mountains form the southeast boundary is disputed, since Mount Elbrus would be part of Europe in the latter case, making it (and not Mont Blanc) Europe's highest mountain. Most accepted is probably the boundary as defined by Philip Johan von Strahlenberg in the 18th century. He defined the dividing line along the Aegean Sea, Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, Black Sea, Kuma-Manych Depression, Caspian Sea, Ural River, and Ural Mountains.
Politically, the most important consequence from this definition is found in the context of the enlargement of the European Union. Many countries to the East and South of this bloc aim to join, as they see it as providing prosperity, jobs, migration opportunities and political freedoms. The Treaty on European Union states that "Any European State which respects the principles set out in Article 6(1) may apply to become a member of the Union".
The term "European state" was used to reject the application of Morocco as only "European" countries can theoretically join the EU. Interestingly Cyprus, by most definitions, is technically in Asia yet was allowed to join, and Greenland, technically in North America, was for a long time a member as part of Denmark. Turkey was accepted as an applicant as a corner of the country - Eastern Thrace - is technically part of Europe.
The Council of Europe has a similar definition in its constitution and currently includes nearly all "European" (or partly European) countries.
By contrast, Eurovision song contest eligibility is more liberally defined to include the area of the European Broadcast Area including many countries that are not considered part of Europe including Israel, Morocco and Tunisia.
Well, the geographic boundary between Europe and Asia was not entirely a modern construct. The geographic boundary between Europe and Asia dates back to Antiquity. One could go back to the Greeks and their name, Anatolia-(or "The East" in Greek), which referred to present-day Turkey. However, it was the Romans who actually assigned the name, "Asia Minor"-(or "Little Asia" when correctly translated), which again, refers to the present-day country of Turkey.
During Roman times, if one was traveling from the Aegean island of Kos, to the nearby city of Halicanarssus-(present-day Bodrum), then one was traveling from Europe to "Asia Minor". If one was traveling across the Bosporus straits, then one was still traveling from Europe to "Asia Minor" throughout the Roman colonial period.
The Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles/(Ancient Hellespont), the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus, have served as the natural border between Europe and Asia, well before Modern times.
During the fall of European colonialism in the 20th century, new boundaries were established for states in Africa and Asia. A. Define cultural and physical boundaries. Provide at least two examples of each.
B. Give at least four examples of ways cultural or physical boundaries have caused conflict in the postcolonial era. Use at least one example each from Southwest Asia (the Middle East), Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
How the north ended up on top of the map
Why do maps always show the north as up? For those who don’t just take it for granted, the common answer is that Europeans made the maps and they wanted to be on top. But there’s really no good reason for the north to claim top-notch cartographic real estate over any other bearing, as an examination of old maps from different places and periods can confirm.
The profound arbitrariness of our current cartographic conventions was made evident by McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World, an iconic “upside down” view of the world that recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Launched by Australian Stuart McArthur on Jan. 26, 1979 (Australia Day, naturally), this map is supposed to challenge our casual acceptance of European perspectives as global norms. But seen today with the title “Australia: No Longer Down Under,” it’s hard not to wonder why the upside-down map, for all its subversiveness, wasn’t called “Botswana: Back Where It Belongs” or perhaps “Paraguay Paramount!”
The McArthur map also makes us wonder why we are so quick to assume that Northern Europeans were the ones who invented the modern map — and decided which way to hold it — in the first place. As is so often the case, our eagerness to invoke Eurocentrism displays a certain bias of its own, since in fact, the north’s elite cartographic status owes more to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews than it does to any Englishman.
There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they illuminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.
Things changed with the age of exploration. Like the Renaissance, this era didn’t start in Northern Europe. It began in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Europe and the Arab world. In the 14th and 15th centuries, increasingly precise navigational maps of the Mediterranean Sea and its many ports called Portolan charts appeared. They were designed for use by mariners navigating the sea’s trade routes with the help of a recently adopted technology, the compass. These maps had no real up or down — pictures and words faced in all sorts of directions, generally pointing inward from the edge of the map — but they all included a compass rose with north clearly distinguished from the other directions.
Members of the Italian Cartographic School preferred to mark north with a hat or embellished arrow, while their equally influential colleagues from the Spanish-ruled island of Majorca used an elaborate rendering of Polaris, the North Star. These men, who formed the Majorcan Cartographic School, also established a number of other crucial mapping conventions of the era, including coloring in the Red Sea bright red and drawing the Alps as a giant chicken foot. Among other hints of the school’s predominantly Jewish membership was the nickname of one of its more prominent members: “el jueu de les bruixoles,” or “the Compass Jew.”
But this is only part of the explanation. The arrow of the compass can just as easily point south, since the magnetized metal needle simply aligns with the earth’s magnetic field, with a pole at each end. Indeed, the Chinese supposedly referred to their first compass magnets as south-pointing stones. Crucially, the Chinese developed this convention before they began to use compasses for navigation at sea. By the time Europeans adopted the compass, though, they were already experienced in navigating with reference to the North Star, the one point in the heavens that remains fixed anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Many mariners saw the compass as an artificial replacement for the star on cloudy nights and even assumed it was the pull of the star itself that drew the needle north.
Yet even as this north-pointing compass became essential to navigation and navigational charts in the 15th century, less precise land maps showing the entire known Old World continued to offer a disorienting array of perspectives. Some had the east on top, in keeping with European tradition, while others preferred the south, in keeping with Arab tradition, and others went with the north, in keeping with the point on the compass rose. Among other things that stand out in these maps is that, given the extent of the known world, the location of the Mediterranean and a bit of uncertainly about the equator, Italy was more or less centered between the north and the south — meaning that whichever way you turned the map, Italy remained more or less halfway between the top and bottom. Conveniently, Italy was at roughly the same latitude as Jerusalem, which through most of the century map makers assumed was at the center of the known world. In fact, the first blow to this pious assumption came with the discovery of just how much of the Old World lies to the east of Jerusalem. Only later did it become apparent just how far north of the equator Jerusalem — and by extension, Italy — really was.
The north’s position was ultimately secured by the beginning of the 16th century, thanks to Ptolemy, with another European discovery that, like the New World, others had known about for quite some time. Ptolemy was a Hellenic cartographer from Egypt whose work in the second century A.D. laid out a systematic approach to mapping the world, complete with intersecting lines of longitude and latitude on a half-eaten-doughnut-shaped projection that reflected the curvature of the earth. The cartographers who made the first big, beautiful maps of the entire world, Old and New — men like Gerardus Mercator, Henricus Martellus Germanus and Martin Waldseemuller — were obsessed with Ptolemy. They turned out copies of Ptolemy’s Geography on the newly invented printing press, put his portrait in the corners of their maps and used his writings to fill in places they had never been, even as their own discoveries were revealing the limitations of his work.
For reasons that have been lost to history, Ptolemy put the north up. Or at least that’s the way it appears from the only remaining copies of his work, made by 13th century Byzantine monks. On the one hand, Ptolemy realized that, sitting in Alexandria, he was in the northern half of a very large globe, whose size had been fairly accurately calculated by the ancient Greeks. On the other hand, it put Alexandria at the very bottom of the inhabited world as known to Ptolemy and all the main civilizational centers in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.
Even if compasses and Ptolemy had both pointed to the south, northerners could still have come along and flipped things around. In fact, with north seemingly settled at the top of the page in the 16th century, there were still some squabbles over who in the Northern Hemisphere would end up left, right or center. The politics of reorientation are anything but simple. For Americans, it’s easy to think that our position, at the top-left of most maps, is the intrinsically preferable one it certainly seems that way if you happen to be from a culture that reads from left to right. But it’s unclear why Arabs or Israelis, who read from right to left, would necessarily think so. And while map makers usually like to design maps with the edges running through one of the world’s major oceans, it is certainly possible to put North America in the very center by splitting the world in half through Asia.
As the United States was just beginning to emerge on the world stage in the 19th century, American cartographers made some earnest efforts to give the U.S. pride of place. While there is something endearing about the idea of an Indiana map maker in 1871 preparing an atlas with Indiana squarely in the center of the world, the unfortunate side effect was that most of the Midwest disappeared into the gaping crease between atlas pages. Nepal, of course, gets a bit cut off on the sides, but that is nothing compared with what happens to Nebraska. And ironically, accepting the United States’ position in the top left leaves Africa at the very center of the map, which is hardly in line with the politics of the time. Though this puts Africa in what was once considered the map’s prime real estate, it also reduces the continent’s relative size on the standard Mercator projection — another source of complaint for carto-critics.
The orientation of our maps, like so many other features of the modern world, arose from the interplay of chance, technology and politics in a way that defies our desire to impose easy or satisfying narratives. But at a time when the global south continues to suffer more than its share of violence and poverty, let’s not dismiss McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World too quickly. It continues to symbolize a noble wish: that we could overturn the unjust political and economic relationships in our world as easily as we can flip the maps on our walls.
Where Does the Name Europe Come From?
Europe existed as a conceptual construct long before geographers began arguing whether there are seven continents or six (the latter model considers Europe and Asia to be a single continent). The ancient Greeks divided the world into three major units: Europe, Asia, and Libya, the last of which referred to the known northern portion of Africa. Those were the divisions that Ptolemy used when he laid out his map of the world in the Guide to Geography (Geōgraphikē hyphēgēsis) in the 2nd century CE. So the notion of Europe is very old, but where does the name come from?
There are a number of theories. Taking a linguistic approach, some scholars believe Europe’s name is descriptive in origin. Those who look to the ancient Greek language to parse it roots combine eurys, meaning “wide,” and ops, meaning “face” or “eye,” to arrive at “wide-gazing” as an appropriate description of Europe’s broad shoreline as seen from the shipboard perspective of the maritime Greeks. By extension, they believe this phrase connotes “mainland.” Adventurous travelers who got closer to the northern lands reported the existence of mountain systems and river basins that were much larger than those of the Mediterranean region, along with climates that were very different from those the Greeks experienced, not to mention expansive primeval forests and sweeping steppes.
Other scholars have argued that the origin for the name Europe is to be found in the Semitic Akkadian language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. They point to the Akkadian word erebu, meaning “sunset,” and reason that, from the Mesopotamian perspective, the western-setting sun descended on Europe. As a corollary, they cite the Akkadian word for sunrise, asu, from which they believe the name Asia is derived. From a Mesopotamian ground zero, the eastern-rising sun would have ascended from Asia.
A competing theory locates the eponym for Europe in mythology, specifically in the many versions of stories about the goddess Europa, some of which date back millennia. One of the oldest versions identifies Europa as one of the Oceanides, the 3,000 sea nymphs who occupied a lower tier in the hierarchy of Greek mythology. Europa was one of only 41 of these minor deities who were thought worthy of naming. Other versions link Europa with Demeter, the goddess of earth and agriculture. Although it is not certain which name came first, it has been presumed that Europa was a local pre-Greek name for an earth goddess, whereas Demeter is a Greek or Greekified name for a more regional deity. In the best-known version of the Europa myth, Europa—the daughter either of Phoenix or of Agenor, king of Phoenicia—was abducted by Zeus, who had disguised himself as a white bull. Zeus spirited her away from Phoenicia to Crete, where she bore him three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon.
No one knows for sure the origin of Europe’s name, but it certainly stuck.
Politics Versus Geography
The precise definition of where Europe and Asia were located was debated well into the 19th century, as the Russian and Iranian empires battled repeatedly for political supremacy of the southern Caucasus Mountains where Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia lie. But by the time of the Russian Revolution, when the U.S.S.R. consolidated its borders, the issue had become moot. The Urals lay well within the Soviet Union's borders, as did territories on its periphery, such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
With the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, these and other former Soviet republics achieved independence, if not political stability. Geographically speaking, their re-emergence on the international stage renewed debate over whether Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia lie within Europe or Asia.
If you use the invisible line of the Ural Mountains and continue it south into the Caspian Sea, then the nations of the southern Caucasus lie within Europe. It might be better to argue that Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia are instead the gateway to southwestern Asia. Over the centuries, this region has been ruled by the Russians, the Iranians, Ottoman, and Mongol powers.
How was the modern geographic boundary between Europe and Asia decided? - History
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Asia, the world’s largest and most diverse continent. It occupies the eastern four-fifths of the giant Eurasian landmass. Asia is more a geographic term than a homogeneous continent, and the use of the term to describe such a vast area always carries the potential of obscuring the enormous diversity among the regions it encompasses. Asia has both the highest and the lowest points on the surface of Earth, has the longest coastline of any continent, is subject overall to the world’s widest climatic extremes, and, consequently, produces the most varied forms of vegetation and animal life on Earth. In addition, the peoples of Asia have established the broadest variety of human adaptation found on any of the continents.
The name Asia is ancient, and its origin has been variously explained. The Greeks used it to designate the lands situated to the east of their homeland. It is believed that the name may be derived from the Assyrian word asu, meaning “east.” Another possible explanation is that it was originally a local name given to the plains of Ephesus, which ancient Greeks and Romans extended to refer first to Anatolia (contemporary Asia Minor, which is the western extreme of mainland Asia), and then to the known world east of the Mediterranean Sea. When Western explorers reached South and East Asia in early modern times, they extended that label to the whole of the immense landmass.
Asia is bounded by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Indian Ocean to the south, the Red Sea (as well as the inland seas of the Atlantic Ocean—the Mediterranean and the Black) to the southwest, and Europe to the west. Asia is separated from North America to the northeast by the Bering Strait and from Australia to the southeast by the seas and straits connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans. The Isthmus of Suez unites Asia with Africa, and it is generally agreed that the Suez Canal forms the border between them. Two narrow straits, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, separate Anatolia from the Balkan Peninsula.
The land boundary between Asia and Europe is a historical and cultural construct that has been defined variously only as a matter of agreement is it tied to a specific borderline. The most convenient geographic boundary—one that has been adopted by most geographers—is a line that runs south from the Arctic Ocean along the Ural Mountains and then turns southwest along the Emba River to the northern shore of the Caspian Sea west of the Caspian, the boundary follows the Kuma-Manych Depression to the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea. Thus, the isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas, which culminates in the Caucasus mountain range to the south, is part of Asia.
The total area of Asia, including Asian Russia (with the Caucasian isthmus) but excluding the island of New Guinea, amounts to some 17,226,200 square miles (44,614,000 square km), roughly one-third of the land surface of Earth. The islands—including Taiwan, those of Japan and Indonesia, Sakhalin and other islands of Asian Russia, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, and numerous smaller islands—together constitute 1,240,000 square miles (3,210,000 square km), about 7 percent of the total. (Although New Guinea is mentioned occasionally in this article, it generally is not considered a part of Asia.) The farthest terminal points of the Asian mainland are Cape Chelyuskin in north-central Siberia, Russia (77°43′ N), to the north the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Cape Piai, or Bulus (1°16′ N), to the south Cape Baba in Turkey (26°4′ E) to the west and Cape Dezhnev (Dezhnyov), or East Cape (169°40′ W), in northeastern Siberia, overlooking the Bering Strait, to the east.
Asia has the highest average elevation of the continents and contains the greatest relative relief. The tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest, which reaches an elevation of 29,035 feet (8,850 metres see Researcher’s Note: Height of Mount Everest) the lowest place on Earth’s land surface, the Dead Sea, measured in the mid-2010s at about 1,410 feet (430 metres) below sea level and the world’s deepest continental trough, occupied by Lake Baikal, which is 5,315 feet (1,620 metres) deep and whose bottom lies 3,822 feet (1,165 metres) below sea level, are all located in Asia. Those physiographic extremes and the overall predominance of mountain belts and plateaus are the result of the collision of tectonic plates. In geologic terms, Asia comprises several very ancient continental platforms and other blocks of land that merged over the eons. Most of those units had coalesced as a continental landmass by about 160 million years ago, when the core of the Indian subcontinent broke off from Africa and began drifting northeastward to collide with the southern flank of Asia about 50 million to 40 million years ago. The northeastward movement of the subcontinent continues at about 2.4 inches (6 cm) per year. The impact and pressure continue to raise the Plateau of Tibet and the Himalayas.
Asia’s coastline—some 39,000 miles (62,800 km) in length—is, variously, high and mountainous, low and alluvial, terraced as a result of the land’s having been uplifted, or “drowned” where the land has subsided. The specific features of the coastline in some areas—especially in the east and southeast—are the result of active volcanism thermal abrasion of permafrost (caused by a combination of the action of breaking waves and thawing), as in northeastern Siberia and coral growth, as in the areas to the south and southeast. Accreting sandy beaches also occur in many areas, such as along the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Thailand.
The mountain systems of Central Asia not only have provided the continent’s great rivers with water from their melting snows but also have formed a forbidding natural barrier that has influenced the movement of peoples in the area. Migration across those barriers has been possible only through mountain passes. A historical movement of population from the arid zones of Central Asia has followed the mountain passes into the Indian subcontinent. More recent migrations have originated in China, with destinations throughout Southeast Asia. The Korean and Japanese peoples and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese have remained ethnically more homogeneous than the populations of other Asian countries.
Asia’s population is unevenly distributed, mainly because of climatic factors. There is a concentration of population in western Asia as well as great concentrations in the Indian subcontinent and the eastern half of China. There are also appreciable concentrations in the Pacific borderlands and on the islands, but vast areas of Central and North Asia—whose forbidding climates limit agricultural productivity—have remained sparsely populated. Nonetheless, Asia, the most populous of the continents, contains some three-fifths of the world’s people.
Asia is the birthplace of all the world’s major religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism—and of many minor ones. Of those, only Christianity developed primarily outside of Asia it exerts little influence on the continent, though many Asian countries have Christian minorities. Buddhism has had a greater impact outside its birthplace in India and is prevalent in various forms in China, South Korea, Japan, the Southeast Asian countries, and Sri Lanka. Islam has spread out of Arabia eastward to South and Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been mostly confined to the Indian subcontinent.
The new generation
That state structure was poised for explosion, and the changing demographics proved to be the trigger. Over the past four decades, the Arab world has doubled its population, to over 330 million people, two-thirds of them are under 35 years old.
This is a generation that has inherited acute socio-economic and political problems that it did not contribute to, and yet has been living its consequences - from education quality, job availability, economic prospects, to the perception of the future.
At core, the wave of Arab uprisings that commenced in 2011 is this generation's attempt at changing the consequences of the state order that began in the aftermath of World War One.
This currently unfolding transformation entails the promise of a new generation searching for a better future, and the peril of a wave of chaos that could engulf the region for several years.
The Making of the Arab World, presented by Tarek Osman, can be found on the BBC Radio 4 website
During the late 10th and early 11th centuries, under the rule of the Macedonian dynasty founded by Michael III’s successor, Basil, the Byzantine Empire enjoyed a golden age.
Though it stretched over less territory, Byzantium had more control over trade, more wealth and more international prestige than under Justinian. The strong imperial government patronized Byzantine art, including now-cherished Byzantine mosaics.
Rulers also began restoring churches, palaces and other cultural institutions and promoting the study of ancient Greek history and literature.
Greek became the official language of the state, and a flourishing culture of monasticism was centered on Mount Athos in northeastern Greece. Monks administered many institutions (orphanages, schools, hospitals) in everyday life, and Byzantine missionaries won many converts to Christianity among the Slavic peoples of the central and eastern Balkans (including Bulgaria and Serbia) and Russia.
This Map Of Westeros Shows The European Equivalents Of The Seven Kingdoms
Still reeling from Sunday's season 5 finale of "Game Of Thrones"? Understandable. It was brutal!
One mental exercise useful during every traumatic episode of the show or moment in George R.R. Martin's book series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," is to remind yourself that Westeros, and the people living there, are not real. It's all fiction! Nothing happening on the screen or page actually happened to a living human.
This is easy, of course, when there are dragons or White Walkers on screen. Yet Martin has made it clear that he did use historical events, people and places as the inspiration for some of his world.
With that in mind, we at The Huffington Post decided to play a fun little game: If Westeros did exist, what real world countries would correspond to each of the Seven Kingdoms?
This was not a completely straightforward exercise. One obvious question: Does Westeros represent Great Britain or Europe? It's shaped like Great Britain. (Or, more accurately, like a conglomeration of Great Britain and Ireland.) And it's right across a narrow straight of ocean from a much larger, more diverse continent, just like Great Britain.
Yet Martin has said that "Westeros is much much MUCH bigger than Britain. More the size (though not the shape, obviously) of South America, I'd say." And though all Seven Kingdoms share a language, the so-called Common Tongue, they're extremely diverse in terms of ancestry, history, culture and religion -- almost as diverse as Europe. So we decided to assume that Westeros is Europe, and go from there.
Another tricky issue has to do with history. Martin drew from the Middle Ages, broadly speaking, in limning out his fantastical world, but the Middle Ages lasted a long time. Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the discovery of the Americas, the various countries of Europe changed a great deal. And many of them didn't exist in anything like their modern form for much, or even any, of that period. So for simplicity's sake, we decided to refer to countries in terms that reflect modern-day boundaries, but also to pull from many different points in history when deciding what country to assign.
With no further ado, here's a map illustrating our findings scroll down to find out the reasoning behind individual picks, arranged from south to north. But hey! This whole thing is totally subjective. So if you disagree with the countries we picked, say so in the comments!
*NOTE: HuffPost divided the map by houses, but technically the Seven Kingdoms are: The North, The Mountain and Vale, The Isles and Rivers, The Rock, The Reach, The Stormlands and Dorne.
This one is pretty obvious: Martin has all but said that Dorne is Spain. The country's landscape is much drier and rockier than most of the rest of the continent. And the Dornish, like the Spanish, are descendants of people from multiple continents, who are noted, like Moorish Spaniards, for their liberality and tolerance. And their food is spicier and more exotic than most of the food in Westeros.
The home of House Tyrell is, like France, a vast and fertile land, with a more pleasant climate than much of the rest of the country. It's home to an island called The Arbor that, like the French regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, makes what is widely considered the best wine in the world. The city of Oldtown is the biggest and most sophisticated in Westeros, much as Paris was for some time the biggest and most sophisticated city in Europe. And the inhabitants of The Reach are invested in chivalry, art and culture to a significantly greater extent than those in the rest of Westeros. You could also argue that Margaery Tyrell is the closest thing Westeros has to its own Anne Boleyn -- who, though English by blood, was mostly raised in France.
We actually don't know all that much about The Stormlands. Even though several scenes are set in or near Storm's End, the ancestral home of House Baratheon, we haven't gotten a glimpse of the rest of the kingdom. But we know that it's small, that the terrain is rough and green and that that weather tends toward the rainy. Much like Wales! There's also a royal connection: House Baratheon is (nominally) the ruling family of Westeros, and the heir to the throne of Great Britain and Northern Ireland goes by the title "The Prince of Wales."
I mean, duh, right? What else could it be?
The most important fact about the geography of The Westerlands is that the land is very rich in gold. Its abundance is what made the Lannisters the wealthiest of the Great Houses. England doesn't exactly have that same reputation, though Ancient Romans did mine a significant amount of gold there. That said, the English, like the Lannisters, rose to power largely on the strength of their economy that's what allowed them to become, for several hundred years, the most powerful country in the world. The Westerlands is also home to one of the great ports of Westeros, Lannisport, which makes the region more focused on maritime trade than some others. Further evidence can be found in the Lannisters' rivalry with the Tyrells and the Starks, which echoes England's historical rivalry with its southern neighbors in France and its northern neighbors in Scotland.
Some have argued that the real-world analogue closest to the Riverlands is the Low Countries, on the basis of geography -- both are wet and lie between several more powerful lands. But the history doesn't match up at all. The people of the Riverlands are nothing like the trade-focused Dutch. And the equivalents of financial centers of Amsterdam and Antwerp are to be found in Essos, not Westeros.
What really marks the Riverlands is its lack of self-rule and the bloody battles that have been fought on its terrain. These are traits the region shares with the war-torn Germany of Medieval Europe. Germany was ravaged by the brutal Thirty Years War in much the same way that the Riverlands is ravaged by the War of the Five Kings. And just as Germany didn't really develop a real cohesive national identity until its unification by Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck in the 19th century, The Riverlands wasn't actually one of the Seven Kingdoms before Aegon's conquest of Westeros, it was ruled by House Hoare of the Iron Islands.
The best evidence here is inherent in the geography: The Vale is home to the craggy Mountains of the Moon, which are the closest thing Westeros has to the Alps. In addition, the Knights of the Vale have, at least through the end of "A Dance with Dragons," taken no part in the wars that tore Westeros asunder after the death of King Robert -- it's been sort of a neutral territory. The Switzerland of the Middle Ages was, it must be said, hardly pacifistic, but the country is so well known for its neutrality today that it's hardly a stretch to suspect that Martin thought of it when he was developing the Vale.
We're not talking about the Norway of today, here -- the Iron Islands isn't a rich, peaceful country obsessed with Karl Ove Knausgaard. But Martin has said many times that the Ironborn, with their penchant for longships and raids, were inspired by the Vikings, who were based in Scandinavia. The rocky terrain of the Iron Islands is far closer to that of Norway, with its fjords and archipelagos, than to fertile Sweden or Denmark.
This one is implied by the position and shape of the North, which is oh-so-close to Scotland. The Northerners, like the Scottish, share many traits with their southern neighbors, but also have some crucial differences in terms of religion, culture and genetics. Just as Scottish culture is vivified by the region's ancient Celtic history, Northern culture is vivified by the region's descent from the First Men. The North also shares Scotland's independent streak, its historical disdain for outsiders and its cold weather.
The best evidence against the identification of The North and Scotland is the location of The Wall, which is clearly inspired by Hadrian's Wall between England and Scotland. That implies that Scotland is actually the part of Westeros beyond the wall. But Hadrian's Wall was built long before the Middle Ages, when Scotland was dominated by the relatively savage Picts. After the Norman Invasion, Scotland was quite closely tied with England though it wasn't always ruled from London, neither is The North always ruled from King's Landing.
North Of The Wall = Greenland
The case for this one rests largely on geography Greenland is as cold and vast as the lands North of the Wall, and just as mysterious to the people who live further south. Culturally, the people living beyond the Wall are so distant and backwards that they had little connection to the rest of Westeros. Just as Greenlanders had little connection to Europe in the Middle Ages. The analogy isn't perfect, of course: Greenland was settled by Vikings, and, as far as we know, the Wildlings are not descendants of the Ironborn. It also raises the question of the real-world equivalent of the White Walkers. Maybe polar bears?
A Question of Boundaries
French and American representatives faced a vexing issue when they met in Paris in April 1803 to negotiate a treaty by which the United States would purchase the province of Louisiana from France. Since most of the territory to be exchanged had never been explored, surveyed, or mapped by any European nation or the United States, the negotiators were unable to include within the treaty any accurate delimitation or precise definition of the boundaries of Louisiana.
Previous treaties transferring ownership of Louisiana between France and Spain never included any boundary delineation. For those reasons, no one knew what the Purchase meant in size, nor did anyone have a realistic conception of how its overall terrain should appear on a map.
All that the representatives knew was that the territory historically had been bordered on the south by the Gulf of Mexico and on the east by the Mississippi River between its mouth and its uncertain headwaters. Undeterred by the prospects of such a limitation, or perhaps inspired by the possibilities it offered, the American representatives agreed, according to the ambiguous language of the treaty of cession, to receive on behalf of the United States "the Colony or Province of Louisiana with the same extent it now has in the hands of Spain and that it had when France possessed it."
The negotiators presumably would have requested the most accurate and comprehensive map of the continent likely to be available in Paris at the time. One such candidate would have been Aaron Arrowsmith's 1802 Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America, which embodied the most modern geographic knowledge of North America prior to Lewis and Clark's expedition. By today's standards, this map leaves much to the imagination, particularly with regard to the vast region known as the Far West. Louisiana is no more than a nebulous entity, its only conspicuous boundary an unspecified segment of the Mississippi River.
At the time of the Purchase, both the United States and France presumed that the territory was made up of the Mississippi River, including the various French settlements along the full-length of its western bank the Red River Valley as far as the frontier of the Spanish province of Texas the Missouri River to undetermined limits the town of New Orleans and the Isle of Orleans that piece of land bounded on the west by the Mississippi River, on the east by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the north, going from west to east, by Bayou Manchac, Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne, and the Mississippi Sound. More complicated was the small region known as Spanish West Florida, which was claimed by the United States as part of the treaty, a claim later challenged by France and Spain.
Even before Louisiana was acquired by the United States, President Thomas Jefferson began to press American claims farther afield. He asserted that Louisiana embraced all of the lands drained by the western tributaries of the Mississippi, including the far-flung and uncharted headwaters of the Missouri and the area drained by its northernmost tributaries, in addition to the West Florida. Jefferson also planned the first transcontinental expedition prior to the negotiations for Louisiana. Once the new territory became part of the nation, federally sponsored expeditions, guided largely by Jefferson's counsel, set about exploring and surveying it to define and describe Louisiana geographically to expand the bounds of the territory as far to the Southwest, the West, and the North as far as possible and to make the region's lands and peoples subject to the authority of the United States. Those efforts produced the first reasonably accurate delineations of the American West and began to give formal shape to the boundaries of the new territory.
The first printed map depicting the topography of the Louisiana Purchase was published in 1804 in an atlas by Aaron Arrowsmith. All of the American maps within the atlas, including the one identified simply as Louisiana, were drawn by the American cartographer and draftsman, Samuel Lewis. Arrowsmith and Lewis based their product upon the best information at hand. Their representation of the upper Mississippi and Missouri basins, for example, was borrowed from a groundbreaking map of the American West drawn in St. Louis in 1795 by French engineer Pierre Antoine Soulard. Louisiana, however, included several readily evident errors and blank spaces, among them being a South Fork of the Platte River which extends far south into present-day New Mexico the omission of the great Colorado River of the West, still awaiting discovery by the United States an uncertain source of the Mississippi the Rocky Mountains portrayed too far to the west and in a single broken chain and a minimized Columbia River system.
Once federal explorations of the West were underway, it was only a matter of time before their newly uncovered wealth of information found cartographic expression. One of the earliest commercially issued maps to incorporate data from the famed 1804 transcontinental expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark appeared in an atlas issued by Philadelphia publisher Matthew Carey in 1814. The map, also drawn by Samuel Lewis, depicts the Missouri Territory Formerly Louisiana, which was organized in 1812, the year that the first state Louisiana was created out of the Louisiana Purchase area (the Missouri Territory comprised the remaining lands). The "probable north boundary of the Missouri Territory," is at odds with British claims to the Pacific Northwest in fact, the "probable" northern and southern boundaries appearing on Missouri Territory Formerly Louisiana correctly intimate that the United States had assumed years of border disputes with Spain and Great Britain.
Within two decades of the Purchase, official boundaries had been realized either through treaty or annexation. The first major adjustment occurred in 1810, when a revolt in that part of Louisiana known as Spanish West Florida today the Louisiana parishes east of the Mississippi River and of Lake Pontchartrain, led the United States to annex the territory from the Mississippi to the Pearl River.
After 1815 the United States concluded treaties with both Great Britain and Spain. As a result of the treaty with Britain, the 49th parallel from the Lake of the Woods (along the present border of Minnesota and Canada) to the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains was established as the northern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase, and the United States gained territorial rights to the Pacific Coast. Under the terms of the 1821 Adams-Onis Treaty, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, Spain ceded East Florida an area of Florida extending east of the Appalachicola River to the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. The treaty set the western boundary of Louisiana along the Sabine and Red rivers which separate Texas and Louisiana, then north along the 100th meridian to the Arkansas River which it followed westward to its source in the Rockies, then north to the 42nd north latitude, and on a line then west to the Pacific Ocean. An undated subsequent edition of Missouri Territory Formerly Louisiana by Carey and Lewis, probably published after 1818, has been amended by hand in watercolor to record some of the treaty adjustments.
By 1823, when the last bonds issued in Great Britain and the Netherlands for financing the purchase were paid off with interest by the United States Treasury, the total spent for Louisiana amounted to $23,313,567.73. As if sympathetic to President Jefferson's assertions, the boundaries of Louisiana expanded and adjusted over time until they eventually stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to British America (present-day Canada) and from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Today the lands constituting the Louisiana Purchase are estimated to cover between 850,000 to 885,000 square miles. Areas once part of Louisiana form six states in their entirety: Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma most of the states of Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado and sections of New Mexico and Texas. At the time of the Purchase, small segments of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan also were presumed part of the transaction.