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Pte 70 Score Essay on “What Factors Determine the Location of a Country’s Capital? Illustrate with Examples”.

What Factors Determine the Location of a Country’s Capital? Illustrate with Examples.

Many capital cities were founded centuries, if not millennia ago, so it is often not possible to do more than deduce the reasons for the choice of their locations. Most, though not all of these, reasons are geographical. Before the arrival of modern communications and transport, any large settlement required a location which satisfied certain requirements.

Firstly, an area of fertile land capable of supporting a growing population. The growth of Cairo at the base of the Nile delta provides an example.

Secondly the area must lend itself to the spread of housing, and the erection of public buildings. Thirdly it must be near a good water supply such as a large river, though built above flood level. Fourthly it must be well away from the earthquake belts and volcanoes. Fifthly it must be defensible against enemies. Most large cities and capitals were originally walled, though possible attack from long range artillery, from the air, and nowadays perhaps from nuclear weapons, has rendered all capitals equally vulnerable.

Capitals must have been located with these basic requirements in mind, though the origins of older ones are lost in tradition and folklore. London consisted of British settlements in pre-Roman times in a very defensible position which is now the city, the inner square mile. The Thames, England’s largest river, not only communicates with the centre of the country but also provides deep water moorings for seagoing vessels.

More often than not, capital city locations were chosen at or near river-mouths for these reasons, with facilities for trade, both inland and overseas, very much in mind. South Ainerica contains a host of examples; Caracus, Venezuela, George Town, Guyana, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Santiago, Chile _ which is inland but has easy access to Valparaiso, which is on the coast; Lima near the Peruvian coast;

Bogota, Colombia. To these could be added Johore Bahru, whence inland products were exported; rubber, tin, copra and pineapples. In a country covered by impenetrable rain forests and mountain ranges, rivers provide the only means of communication, both for trade and for political purposes.

Another factor rendering the seaboard popular was that of convenience to those countries which sought to colonize overseas. Conversely, some capitals became established because of foreign colonization. The U.S.A. is a case in point. Washington, the federal capital since 1800 was laid out by Pierre L’Enfant, a French engineer officer, who designed the city specifically as the center of government in 1790. He located it on the Potomac River, inland from Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, as might be expected. There are at least three examples of changes of capital city, made for political reasons. Peking was the capital of China from the 10th Century, the time of the Liao Dynasty. Later the seat of government moved to Nanking, but from 1421 it again became Peking. From 1928 to 1949 the capital was again Nanking and again reverted. Both Peking and Nanking which lies south of it, have easy access to the Eastern seaboard.

The same thing happened in Soviet Russia. From the 14th century to the present day Moscow was the centre, excluding the period 1709 to 1918, when St. Petersburg, later Leningrad, then Stalingrad held that destination. The reason for the original choice of Moscow was that it was the gateway to the West;

it was sheltered by a range of hills; it was built defensively; it satisfied all geographical conditions; it was the center of intersecting trade routes.

The choice of St Petersburg was more political because although it is strategic for the Gulf of Finland and for Lake Ladoga, it nevertheless has a terrible climate and is icebound for much of the year. The fact however was that St Petersburg was the center for all revolutionary activity between 1815 and 1914. Also it is very defensible. The Germans never succeeded in entering it in the Second World War during four years of siege. In 1960, Brazil dropped Rio de Janiero as its capital and moved inland to the newly-planned city of Brasilia, because it was felt that this would bring life to the interior. One hears that Nigeria is even now considering dropping Lagos as the capital in favor of a new town inland, though the reasons for this change are unclear.

Apart from geographical considerations, trade certainly affected the growth of Cairo from its early beginnings in 641 A.D. as the capital, not only of Egypt, but today of the Arab world. It has become the trading and distributive center for North Africa and the Near East.

Many of the foregoing factors also apply to the building up of Bombay. Originally an island off the mid-west coast of India it is now joined to the mainland by means of reclaimed land. Its great harbor and westward facing position made it the obvious choice by the Moguls in the 13th century, who were followed by the Portuguese and in 1662 by the British.


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