How Geography Gave the US Power

  • Published: 15 August 2017
  • Build your web presence for 10% off with Squarespace:

    Check out my podcast with Brian from Real Engineering: (iTunes link) (YouTube link)

    Support Wendover Productions on Patreon:

    Get a Wendover Productions t-shirt for $20:

    Email: [email protected]

    Music: My Luck by Broke For Free & Sunday by Otis McDonald

    Animation by Josh Sherrington (
    Sound by Graham Haerther (
    Fact-checking by William Mayne
    Thumbnail by Joe Cieplinski (

    Full script with references available here:

    Big thanks to Patreon supporters: Kevin Song,
    Kevin Song, David Cichowski, Andy Tran, Victor Zimmer, Paul Jihoon Choi, Dylan Benson, M van Kasbergen, Etienne Dechamps, Adil Abdulla, Arunabh Chattopadhyay, Ieng Chi Hin, Ken Rutabana, John Johnston, Connor J Smith, Rob Harvey, Arkadiy Kulev, Hagai Bloch Gadot, Aitan Magence, Eyal Matsliah, Sihien Goh, Joseph Bull, Marcelo Alves Vieira, Hank Green, Plinio Correa, Brady Bellini

Comments • 4 340

  • iceturtle 1025
    iceturtle 1025  4 hours back

    They never went west of the Appalachian mountains during the colonial era because it was illegal

      NIKKI RAEL  4 days back

      How bout how it became a world power BECAUSE OF all of the Free labor....

      • Fun Time Kids Songs
        Fun Time Kids Songs  5 days back

        Race-Based Slavery made America "Work"

        • Pokémon catcher Ash
          Pokémon catcher Ash  6 days back

          Also because of mostly European intellience and European science

          • mecq5978
            mecq5978  1 weeks back

            Another hit piece on America. Slavery. Rich.

            • DamnJungleFunction
              DamnJungleFunction  1 weeks back

              This is something of an illusion. The USA's real strength is its political unity over a large and productive region. In an alternate world where the Europeans hadn't colonized North America, the middle latitude region of this continent which now comprises the U.S.A. would likely have remained a politically, culturally, and linguistically divided region of competing tribes. Over time the population would likely have become denser and regional kingdoms, even empires might have developed, but deep seated language and cultural groupings would have persisted on the continent, so that even the most powerful kingdom of this fantasy N.A. would have been surrounded on many sides by potential political rivals. When the English arrived in N.A., their superior immunity to Old World diseases, higher level of military technology and social organization allowed them to subjugate the entire continent. The United States, once independent of the U.K. and after completing it's genocidal campaign to colonize all the way to the west coast, was left in the favorable position of being protected by the oceans from its most powerful rivals. But its a matter of historical happenstance that those powerful rivals were in Europe, and not right here in the U.S. of A. For one, Mexico wasn't necessarily doomed to be the inferior partner in the New World. Around 1600, anyone would have thought quite the opposite-- the realms of New Spain were much richer, densely populated, and more urbanized than vast and frightening wilderness that was the USA at the time. Mexico had internal problems with governance-- first, overthrowing the feudalistic and deeply corrupt Spanish crown took longer, leaving the fledging Mexican republic in a vulnerable position at a time when America was beginning to expand outwards, and left with deep inequality and social divisions that hampered growth. Had Mexico reached independence sooner, perhaps they may have been able to more effectively exert power over it's large northern territories, resist the decapitation they suffered in 1848, and remain a powerful adversary to the U.S.A. in the present day. My point is that the U.S.A. has benefited not so much from geography but from the whims of history. If humans had evolved in Panama, instead of Africa, and later a powerful Aztec empire colonized Europe (which had been settled much later over the Bering land bridge), wipe out the native people there with a combination of warfare and disease, and unify the continent into a single nation with 1 language and a remarkably stable democratic government, this nation would also be "protected on all sides by water" and "blessed with navigable rivers."

              So my point-- to circle back-- is that the real power of the U.S.A. is that this large, fertile, protected, and mineral rich region is politically unified. Conversely, the biggest geopolitical threat to the USA is its own dissolution. This is what A. Lincoln was getting at in his Lyceum Address. To quote:
              "At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

              • あああ
                あああ  1 weeks back

                that constant beeping noise in the music is driving me insane

                • J0HN_R1
                  J0HN_R1  1 weeks back

                  While it's true that Canada has only 1 major "2-lane" HWY (2 on each side) linking both coasts, there are scores of secondary HWY's linking each province...
                  You make it sound like that bridge collapse shut down our entire economy, LMAO...! Don't be so naive, it caused problems but wasn't the catastrophe you described.

                  • DreadDrakeIII
                    DreadDrakeIII  2 weeks back

                    Mexico: I’m the friendly country not the militarily weak on right?

                    • Suburban Kid
                      Suburban Kid  2 weeks back

                      How geography ruined the USA:

                      *To r n a d o e s*

                      • Bas Reiziger
                        Bas Reiziger  2 weeks back

                        If geography is the key, how can Australia and Japan be so succesful?

                        • kenlau135
                          kenlau135  2 weeks back

                          they are both islandic

                      • Paul Dehlinger
                        Paul Dehlinger  2 weeks back

                        The reason that slavery survived so long in the U.S. has more to do with the South's over-representation in the Senate and not really anything to do with the supreme court. Also, justices are appointed by the President so their political leaning doesn't really have anything to do with what area they oversaw.

                        • Tommy Wilson
                          Tommy Wilson  2 weeks back

                          The people that settled America believed something that other people didn't believe, that's why America became the super power it is today; although today the people of this country have turned their back on what they believed in colonial times and therefore America is dying; Oh and if your wondering what they believed in colonial times, well the people of this country don't care to know so it's doubtful they will find out, and sad to say this once great country will go the way of all the other nations and wind up too on the ash heap of history; but thing I know for sure this nation didn't become great by chance because some people just happened to land in the right place on the continent. Your so blind to think it did!!!!

                          • Comrade Tovarish
                            Comrade Tovarish  2 weeks back

                            ya it's all about geography, except when it's not

                            • ben tertainment
                              ben tertainment  2 weeks back

                              Haha last time the USA tried to invade Canada they got jerseyed

                              • DIVINES LEGACY
                                DIVINES LEGACY  2 weeks back

                                ben tertainment Jerseyed? Without the British military being there, it would of been an easy steal of land lol, and that was a long time ago when both countries were weak

                            • Jared Wat
                              Jared Wat  2 weeks back

                              Well there was this one time we got our capital burned down by the British

                              • Matthew McGrath
                                Matthew McGrath  2 weeks back

                                I wouldn't say that Canada and Mexico is weak. They have their own strengths by their own rights.

                                • Brayan Espinoza
                                  Brayan Espinoza  2 weeks back

                                  So the colonies with the lowest population controlled more of the government. Does this sound familiar?

                                  • Hasnain Mohiuddin
                                    Hasnain Mohiuddin  2 weeks back

                                    Spain must be feeling bad today for selling that land.... Why woukd they sell that land that is bigger than their present day country's size.

                                    • Dharsh Srinath
                                      Dharsh Srinath  3 weeks back

                                      Vermont wasn’t part of the US.

                                    • Joel 14
                                      Joel 14  3 weeks back

                                      The real threat is their growing debts, well just 24 trillion dollars

                                      • Joel 14
                                        Joel 14  6 days back

                                        @Wox Actually USA has to pay its debts to itself.It has 1.4 trillion dollars to china only. So soon I think US will become communist.

                                      • Wox
                                        Wox  6 days back

                                        Are debt is actually at a healthy area at 1:1 ratio

                                    • Terry Moose
                                      Terry Moose  3 weeks back

                                      USA: "Canada it's free real estate."

                                      • Magnus Enevoldsen
                                        Magnus Enevoldsen  3 weeks back

                                        Theres also the almost 23 trillion debt but thats for a another day

                                        • juscurious
                                          juscurious  3 weeks back

                                          We inherited a democratic system from Britain. This is the major difference between the United States and Canada and the nations to the south of the Rio Grande. Those nations were settled by the Spanish and Portuguese. They inherited a very different culture and a different legal system.

                                          • Jonathan Mello
                                            Jonathan Mello  3 weeks back

                                            Wait, what about Alaska and Russia? The Russians could easily have invaded the USA by crossing the bering strait at any given time, specially during the Cold War

                                            I'd say that the USA's most vulnerable region lies at the shores of Siberia

                                            • Mwalimu
                                              Mwalimu  3 weeks back

                                              Its disappointing and strange how you spent so much of the China video bashing China’s political infrastructure, calling it authoritarian, and treating them as though they are the most repressive government in the world when you skimmed over the entirety of slavery, didn’t mention native genocide at all, and don’t take any time to critique the American political system of racism, overthrow of the US’s political rivals in South America, bombing nearly all countries at some point, Jim Crow, segregation, police brutality, mass incarceration, etc.

                                              • Benjamin Meade
                                                Benjamin Meade  3 weeks back

                                                Ignorant and inaccurate.

                                                • Creepy Closet
                                                  Creepy Closet  3 weeks back

                                                  While it is unfortunate that many millions of people died on the continent for the US to get so big, I do like that the country is so big. I think it's neat how many Americans dont have passports because the US is big enough to travel through and experience new locations.

                                                  • Rob Trew
                                                    Rob Trew  3 weeks back

                                                    I beg to differ .
                                                    From 1630 to 1870 there was a lot of war here, and it was ugly.

                                                    • Rob Trew
                                                      Rob Trew  3 weeks back

                                                      We attacked Canada a couple of times , did not go well,
                                                      Mexican-American war - we're done with that.

                                                  • Robert Harris
                                                    Robert Harris  3 weeks back

                                                    8:30 its almost like our highway system was designed to allow easy movement of soldiers and equipment...

                                                    • Flawed73
                                                      Flawed73  3 weeks back

                                                      Not sure about this one. Lots of holes.

                                                      • MechanoidWarhead
                                                        MechanoidWarhead  3 weeks back

                                                        WARNING: Whatever music is in this video has a few really high-pitched notes that are absolutely ear-splitting at anything but very low volume.

                                                        • hari m hari
                                                          hari m hari  3 weeks back

                                                          But India become superpower in 2050 and usa your time over

                                                          • lzy4202 J
                                                            lzy4202 J  3 weeks back

                                                            But lucky won’t keep forever.

                                                            • kokofan50
                                                              kokofan50  3 weeks back

                                                              It’s kept up for hundreds of years so far.

                                                          • Plubus Domis
                                                            Plubus Domis  3 weeks back

                                                            We had "time to develop" because WE were the invaders. Not because we weren't worried about other invaders. The whole world basically invaded America, and we act like we just "owned it since the beginning of time."
                                                            No brother, our ancestors pillaged and forced America into being. The land didn't magically hand itslef over to us

                                                            • zondaintheair
                                                              zondaintheair  3 weeks back

                                                              The greatest thing about American history is the BBC has Lucy Worsley telling lies about your history.

                                                              • JMH
                                                                JMH  3 weeks back

                                                                "When you don't have to worry about protecting against potential invasion, you can devote more time to education, development, science and politics..."

                                                                2019 'Merica: Well, we spend our time on at least ONE of those things! (*Hint: It ISN'T "education", "development" or "science")

                                                                • Tom Sawyer
                                                                  Tom Sawyer  3 weeks back

                                                                  Aye yo wendover, you ever did anything on Israel?

                                                                  • krieg9
                                                                    krieg9  3 weeks back

                                                                    Secession my ass. That land was stolen.

                                                                    • Anarchist Zero
                                                                      Anarchist Zero  3 weeks back

                                                                      Why?ts exploited other Why?ts long before they took their evil SShow on the Proverbial Road . . . .---

                                                                      • Anarchist Zero
                                                                        Anarchist Zero  3 weeks back

                                                                        Slavery, including Sweatshops, is a major source of USA power. #Imperialism.

                                                                        • JOE SMITH
                                                                          JOE SMITH  3 weeks back

                                                                          It's called manifest destiny. It was a plan and it worked.

                                                                          • Dharsh Srinath
                                                                            Dharsh Srinath  3 weeks back

                                                                            Canada and Mexico: We’re not weak!

                                                                            • Daniel E
                                                                              Daniel E  3 weeks back

                                                                              You seeeeeeeeee

                                                                              • Igol Christopher
                                                                                Igol Christopher  3 weeks back

                                                                                America would be nothing without black people.

                                                                                • Professor Coldheart
                                                                                  Professor Coldheart  4 weeks back

                                                                                  What do you mean few people realize there one road in Canada? Didn't you watch South Park?

                                                                                  • Gerald O'Hare
                                                                                    Gerald O'Hare  4 weeks back

                                                                                    When we Americans accomplish something we are called, “lucky”.

                                                                                    • Rash B blin
                                                                                      Rash B blin  4 weeks back

                                                                                      Canada "friendly and militarily weak"
                                                                                      Also Canada: Burned down the white house in a war once.

                                                                                      • Rash B blin
                                                                                        Rash B blin  3 weeks back

                                                                                        @JOE SMITH It was still known as canada bevore that even if it was just a province. For example the "canada act" in 1791. Even if they were "lower canada" and " upper canada" as provinces and not yet a soverign, indipendent nation like the US. It was canada, even if not modern day canada.

                                                                                      • JOE SMITH
                                                                                        JOE SMITH  3 weeks back

                                                                                        Google "When was Canada founded"

                                                                                      • Rash B blin
                                                                                        Rash B blin  3 weeks back

                                                                                        @JOE SMITH google "when was the usa founded"

                                                                                      • JOE SMITH
                                                                                        JOE SMITH  3 weeks back

                                                                                        Wow!! How impressive! A country that wasn't founded till 1867 fought in the war of 1812. Almost unbelievable.

                                                                                      • Asscrackistan-Mapping
                                                                                        Asscrackistan-Mapping  4 weeks back

                                                                                        Wrong, it was the British troops from the Isles that did that. Canada was getting it's ass handed to it until the Brits showed up with an army experienced from battling Napoleon.