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Geography - The Earth As A Whole Its Axis

( Originally Published 1915 )

THE earth is continuously turning around. Illustrate this by means of an apple or an orange, and a hat-pin or a knitting-needle. When the orange turns on the needle, the latter may be called its axis. Why is it so called? Similarly the turning earth may be said to have an axis. Of course there is no large needle or anything of the kind on which the earth turns. We imagine, however, that there is a line on which it turns, and this imaginary line is called the axis of the earth.


The ends of this imaginary line are called poles. The earth, therefore, is said to have two poles—one at the north, called the North Pole, and the other at the south, called the South Pole. Are these poles real or imaginary? If we were to go to the places where these poles are, what do you think we would see? There would be no mark or anything of that kind to indicate the spot that is called the pole. We would not be able to recognize it, but if we had a skilled navigator or astronomer with us with the proper instruments, he would be able to show us just where it is. The discoverer of the South Pole (Amundsen) made a heap of stones to mark its location.

Show, by means of the globe, that the North Pole is straight north, and that the South Pole is straight south, of every place on the earth.


Draw a line around the globe half-way between the poles in such a position that every point on it is equidistant from the two poles. This line is a circle. If we imagine such a circle drawn around the earth, what name shall we give to it? How much of the earth is north of the equator? How much is south of the equator? If the whole earth is a sphere, what shall we call each of these halves? The half north of the equator is known as the Northern Hemisphere. What shall we call the half south of the equator? (See diagram, page 12, Text-book.) Examine the globe closely and tell which of these hemispheres contains the greater area of land surface. Which has the more water surface?


Did you ever sit at the window of a rapidly moving railway car and see the telegraph poles, fences, etc., apparently moving in an opposite direction to that in which you were travelling? It seemed as though you were not moving at all.

When you see the sun moving across the sky, is it really moving? Is the sun moving while the earth is stationary, or is the sun stationary while the earth is moving? The truth is that the earth is rapidly rotating, that is, it is turning on its axis and carrying us around with it. It is turning so smoothly and silently that we do not feel the motion at all. Just as the fences, trees, etc., seemed to be moving backward when we were on the swiftly moving train, so the sun seems to be moving backward when we are being carried around on the swiftly rotating earth. Illustrate this by rotating an orange on a hat-pin before a lighted candle. Let the candle represent the sun and show how the sun appears to rise and set. For a long time people believed that it was the sun that moved and not the earth. In what direction does the sun appear to move across the sky? In what direction, then, does the earth actually rotate? Illustrate this again by means of the orange and candle.

How long does it take the earth to make one rotation? What name is given to this period of time? In what other sense is the term " day" sometimes used? If the earth is 25,000 miles in circumference, how many miles will a person at the equator travel every hour owing to the rotation of the earth?

By rotating a globe or an orange before a lighted candle, show how day and night are caused. What conditions of day and night would prevail if the earth did not rotate? What would probably be the effect upon plant and animal life if the same side of the earth were always turned toward the sun? What is the " circle of illumination "? On which side of this line is it always twilight?


The sun's rays fall either vertically or slantingly upon the earth. What kind of rays, the vertical or slanting, gives the greater heat? Why? The more vertical the rays are, the greater the number of them that will fall upon a given area, and consequently the greater amount of heat will such an area receive. Explain this by means of a diagram on the black-board. What part of the earth receives the vertical rays of the sun during the year. That part in the neighbourhood of the equator. The hottest part of the earth is a great belt extending around the earth for about 1500 miles on each side of the equator. Locate this region definitely on the map. What countries and groups of islands are in this hot region? What food products are imported from these places?

What kind of rays shines upon the region around the North Pole? As a result of this, what kind of climate has this region? How far south from the North Pole does this extremely cold climate extend? About 1,500 miles. Locate this cold region on the globe and show that a portion of Northern Canada extends into it. What race of people live there? Deal similarly with the south polar region.

Between the cold polar region in the north and the hot region to the south, there lies a broad belt about 3,000 miles wide extending around the earth. What kind of climate is this region likely to have? It is neither extremely hot nor extremely cold. Why? Canada and the United States and nearly the whole of Europe are in this temperate region. In a similar way locate the great temperate belt in the southern hemisphere.


An examination of the Course of Study will show that the geography of North America is definitely prescribed for three Grades, namely, the Junior Grade of Form III and the Junior and Senior Grades of Form IV. In addition to this prescription, the individual countries of North America are prescribed for study, in more or less detail, in both Grades of Forms III and IV.

This, therefore, should suggest to the teacher that the geography of North America for the Junior Grade of Form III should be of an introductory character. General notions only of location, size, political divisions, surface, drainage, coast features, climate, natural resources, industries, commerce, and people, should be taught at this stage. In Section XXIV of the Ontario School Geography, the teacher will find subject-matter quite suitable for the work of this Grade.

The old method of teaching the physical geography of a continent required the pupils, after stating what its boundaries are, to name and tabulate its mountains, capes, rivers, bays, islands, peninsulas, etc. The usual procedure was for the pupils to point out their location on the wall map—at least the names were pointed out, and then a list of each was written on the black-board for memorization. So well was the memory drill done that, even after the lapse of thirty or forty years, many people are still able to recite the complete list. For instance, the capes on the east coast of North America are Farewell, Chidley, Charles, Race, Breton, Sable, Cod, May, Henry, Hatteras, Sable, Catoche, Gracias-a-Dios.

Such methods are not of much value in developing the mental powers ; they overload the memory with matter that has little relation to the other faculties of the mind and is of little practical use in after life. This method fails to make intelligent learners and often develops a distaste for the subject.


What oceans wash the shores of North America? What two continents are east of North America? What continent is west? What strait separates North America from Asia? How wide is Bering Strait? Thirty-six miles. What three continents inclose the Arctic Ocean?

How near does North America approach the equator? Where does the Tropic of Cancer cross the continent? The Arctic Circle?


What two continents are larger than North America? How many times larger is Asia? What three continents are smaller? How many Europes would make one North America? What continent is almost as large as North America? How long is North America from north to south? About 4300 miles. How wide is it from east to west? About 3000 miles. If you were to travel twenty-five miles an hour, how many days would it take you to cross Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific?


The countries of North America may be taught at this stage, as it will be necessary to refer to them frequently as the lesson proceeds. On an outline map of the continent, carefully drawn on the black-board by the teacher, locate Alaska, Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America, by marking the boundaries which separate them. Tint the countries lightly with crayons of different colours. Drill thoroughly. Then hang the wall map of North America beside it, and continue the drill on it until the positions of these countries are thoroughly learned.

It may prove helpful, at this point, to refer in greater detail to the use of maps. The method of gradually building up the black-board map as the lesson is being taught, followed by a review drill on it and on the wall map, should be generally followed in elementary geography lessons such as this. In the development of the lesson, the conversational method interspersed with questions to draw out the pupils' ideas will prove effective.

At this stage, the teacher is strongly cautioned to be constantly upon the alert to assure himself that his pupils are forming mental images of the country itself. Their thoughts must not stop short at the map, but should penetrate the map, as it were, to the country lying beyond, and for the understanding of which the map may be regarded as a window through which they are looking out upon the country. (See Chap. III, page 12.) The extent of their ability to do this will largely determine the measure of their success or failure in this subject.

The black-board map should not be overloaded with names. One way of overcoming this difficulty is to write the names of the features being taught, at the margin, number them, and then write the corresponding numbers on the map being developed. In review drills these names should be blotted out or covered up. Teachers are advised to make a new black-board map for each new topic taught. For example, one map may be used for developing the physical features; another, for natural productions (see Text-book, pages 81 and 82) ; etc.

Good seat work exercises in elementary map work may be provided by placing in the hands of the pupils outline maps made by means of a copying pad; or by taking a map outline made of cardboard, laying it upon the blank page of an exercise book, and making a pencil line round its margin. Later, of course, pupils should outline their own maps by freehand. After the physical features have been thoroughly taught, not before, the pupils should give expression to what they have learned by modelling in sand or clay. (See Chap. III, page 22.)

There are three great highland regions in North America. What are they? The teacher shows their location on the map. What is the general shape of the continent? Show that the three great masses of highlands were factors in determining its outline. Which of the three highlands best deserves the name "continental axis"? Why?


Between what two points does this extend? Near what ocean is it? In what place is it narrowest? Where widest? In southern British Columbia it has a width of about 400 miles. What is the principal range of mountains forming this Highland? Locate it definitely on the map. Note that, where the Highland is widest, there are several parallel ranges between the main Rocky Mountain Range and the Pacific Coast. Note, too, that the chain of islands from Vancouver Island north to the end of the Aleutian Islands (see wall map) really forms the tops of a submerged range.

What is the highest mountain in North America? In what country is it? Look for it in Alaska. (See Reference Tables on page 273 of the Text-book.) How high is Mount McKinley? Calculate its height in miles. Find Mount St. Elias. Describe its location. What is the highest mountain in Canada? Locate it. What is the highest peak in the United States? In Mexico?

Which is the longer slope of the Rocky Mountain Highland? Which is the shorter? How can you tell? Why does this Highland form such a barrier to trade and travel? In what country is the Rocky Mountain barrier likely to be most felt? Why?


This Highland should be dealt with in a manner similar to that employed in the study of the Rocky Mountain Highland.


This Highland comprises more ,than half of the Dominion of Canada. Locate it on the map. The teacher will find its location in the Text-book on pages 77 and 78. Note that it surrounds Hudson and James Bays in the form of a horse-shoe open to the north. (See diagram on page 74 of the Text-book.) Its most characteristic feature is the innumerable lakes, large and small, with which it is covered. Its streams are very irregular and tortuous, flowing from lake to lake in almost every direction.

Pictures of mountains and mountain scenery will prove very helpful in aiding the pupils to get intelligent notions of these wonders of nature. A number of such pictures will be found in the Text-book and in The Story of the Earth and Its Peoples.


The crests of these great Highlands, together with a low-lying Drainage Divide extending from the Appalachian Highland round the head of the Great Lakes to the Laurentian Height of Land (see map on page 72 of Text-book), are the natural boundaries that divide the surface of North America into its continental slopes and plains.

What are the two great slopes of the Rocky Mountain Highland? A short westerly slope toward the Pacific Ocean and a longer easterly one toward the interior of the continent. What are the Appalachian slopes? One east-ward toward the. Atlantic Ocean, and the other westward toward the interior. What are the Laurentian slopes? Since the Laurentian Highland has the general shape of a horse-shoe open to the north, it has an inner-curving slope toward Hudson and James Bays, and an outer-curving slope chiefly to the south and west.

The union of the great easterly slope of the Rocky Mountain Highland with the westerly slopes of the Appalachian and Laurentian Highlands and the Drainage Divide to the west of the Great Lakes, forms the Great Central Plain. The union of the slopes of the Appalachian and Laurentian Highlands to the east of the Great Lakes Drainage Divide, forms the great St. Lawrence Basin.


What are the physical divisions of the continent as out-lined above? They are (a) the Pacific Slope, (b) the Atlantic Slope, (c) the Great Central Plain, (d) the Basin of the St. Lawrence, and (e) the Hudson Bay Basin. Locate these definitely on the map, and tell what their boundaries are. These natural divisions determine the character of the drainage systems of North America.


Why are most of the rivers of the Pacific Slope comparatively short? Why are they swiftly flowing rivers? Why are many of them of little use for navigation? Name a few of the larger rivers. How would you account for the great length of the Yukon River? The Columbia River? How long are they? (See Text-book, page 273.) Why are there so few rivers south of the Canada-United States boundary flowing into the Pacific Ocean?


Why are the rivers that flow from the Appalachian Highland to the Atlantic comparatively short? Why are many of them navigable in the lower parts of their course but not in their upper stretches? One of these rivers is in Canada. Name it. What city is at its mouth? Name three American rivers flowing into the Atlantic, each of which has a very large city at or near its mouth. Name the cities. Why are large cities so often found at or near the mouths of rivers?


This extensive Plain comprises three very large river basins. What are they? Locate on the map the divide between the Mackenzie Basin and the Winnipeg Basin. Note that it runs in a north-easterly direction from the vicinity of Mounts Brown and Hooker in the Rockies to the Nelson River. The Winnipeg Basin includes those of the Saskatchewan, Red, and Winnipeg Rivers.

The divide between the Winnipeg Basin and the Mississippi Basin, like that between the Mackenzie and Winnipeg Basins, is low (prairie) ; yet it is called a Height of Land. Trace, on the map on page 73 of the Text-book, its course from the Rocky Mountains to the Drainage Divide a short distance west of Lake Superior. Note that it follows roughly the international boundary line, but that it takes a dip to the south round the head-waters of the Red River. Repeat the tracing until you are thoroughly familiar with its location.


What three large lakes are in the Mackenzie Basin? What two large rivers flow into the western end of Lake Athabaska ? What river drains Lake Athabaska into Great Slave Lake? What river flows out of Great Slave Lake? In what direction does it flow? Locate its mouth. What meridian line (see page 70) crosses its mouth? Follow this meridian line south on the map, and show that the mouth of the Mackenzie River is really much farther west than Vancouver Island.

The Mackenzie River is icebound in winter. Why? In what part of the river will the ice break up first in spring? Why? If the ice breaks up and the river becomes flooded in the upper parts of its course while the lower part is still fast icebound, what is likely to be the result? Why?

It is said that the finest wheat in the world can be grown in the Peace River country—a part of the Mackenzie Basin. In this connection note that wheat can be successfully grown as far north-west of Winnipeg as Winnipeg is north-west of New York City. Read what you can about the great natural resources and wonderful possibilities of the Mackenzie Basin.


General subject-matter only should be taught at this stage. A more detailed treatment will follow in the Senior Grade of Form III.


General subject-matter only should be taught at this stage. A more detailed treatment will follow in the Senior Grade of Form IV.


General subject-matter only should be taught at this stage. A more detailed treatment will follow in the Senior Grade of Form III.


Consult the map and note that the rivers that have their source in the Laurentian Highland flow into the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes from its southern slope, and into Hudson and James Bays from its northern slope. Is there a Hudson Bay Basin? Why do you think so? Try to trace on the map the divide (" height of land") that separates the Hudson Bay Basin from the St. Lawrence Basin on the south and from the Mackenzie Basin on the west. Repeat the tracing until you are quite familiar with the general trend of this so-called " height of land ".

If a basin includes the whole area drained into a common outlet, then the Winnipeg Basin should be included as part of the Hudson Bay Basin. Why? For teaching purposes, however, it will be better to teach the former first as a basin by itself. With the exception of the Nelson River, the names of the others flowing into Hudson and James Bays may be reserved for the Senior Grade, Form III, when Canada will be studied in greater detail.


The Canada-United States international boundary line divides the North American Continent into almost equal parts. Verify this statement by consulting the Reference Tables in the Text-book. In what respect does the coast-line of the northern half of the continent differ greatly from that of the southern half? The former is much broken; the latter is comparatively unbroken. What do these terms mean?

In regard to the shore forms of North America, the map should be made the essential basis alike for the teacher in his teaching and for the pupils in their preparation. The method of prescribing a list of names to be memorized is, as has already been pointed out (page 95), not a good one.

A better method would be to select a definite part, or unit, of the coast for study, and with the map before the class, require them to make close observations of its various shore forms. The capes, bays, river mouths, etc., are care-fully traced in due order. Every pupil thus becomes, as it were, a geographical explorer, noting for himself the physical features of the area selected for study and fixing them upon his memory as they appear on the map.

The teacher should aim at conducting the recitation in a bright, informal, and conversational manner—questioning from the pupils all that they may be expected to know from their own observations or reflection, and incidentally calling their attention to details with which they are not familiar but which will add interest and vividness to the subject. Instead of seeking to fix a form, name, or idea, in the memory in its isolation, aim rather at associating it with others, in the hope that the associated group will aid in the memorizing of its parts.

As an illustration, take those shore forms associated with the Gulf of St. Lawrence : Locate the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the map. Who discovered this Gulf? Tell the story of its discovery. How did it get its name? Read Thomas D'Arcy McGee's poem, Jacques Cartier, to the class. What large river flows into the Gulf? Note its wide mouth. What island is at its mouth? What great lakes are drained by the St. Lawrence River? What two large islands are at the entrance of the Gulf? What strait separates Newfoundland from Labrador? When sailing out of the Gulf through the Strait of Belle Isle, what cape is on the left? What general shape has Newfoundland? What capes form its three corners? Locate the "Banks of Newfoundland ". What are they? For what are they famous? How are cod and lobsters caught and prepared for market? What large island forms part of the Province of Nova Scotia? What strait separates it from the main-land? Locate Cape Breton on this island. What separates Cape Breton Island from Newfoundland? Cabot Strait. What Island Province lies in the southern part of the Gulf ? What strait separates it from the mainland? Why are the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence so inaccessible during the winter months? Etc.

Show pictures of this part of North America with its fisheries, icebergs, etc., to help in developing interest. Drill thoroughly.

Deal in a similar way with other coast units. Only the more important shore forms should be taught in the Junior Grade of Form III.


The teaching of this topic should present no special difficulty provided the following general principles are carefully observed:

1. Only "continental" notions of climate should be considered, as the detailed geography of Canada, the United States, etc., will follow at a later stage.

2. The question method should be followed through-out.

3. Insist upon the map being freely used as the subject is being developed.

The main factors that determine climate are: (1) temperature, (2) moisture, (3) winds. And these factors are affected by, (a) distance from the equator, (b) elevation above the sea-level, (c) distance from the sea, (d) direction of the mountain ranges, (e) character and direction of ocean currents, and (f) other less important causes.

Apply these factors to the North American Continent chiefly by questioning the class before the map.

Let the class remember' that North America extends through every possible variety of climate, from that of tropical Panama to that of Arctic Greenland. Generally speaking, we may say that it is extremely hot in the far south and extremely cold in the far north. Local conditions, however, must be taken into account when estimating what the climate of any particular region is.

Note that the land rapidly absorbs heat in summer and rapidly radiates away heat in winter; that the ocean slowly absorbs heat in summer and slowly radiates away heat in winter. That is, water is both heated and cooled much more slowly than land. Hence, the interior of the continent is much hotter in summer and much colder in winter than corresponding places at the sea-shore that are the same distance from the equator.

What rivers, seas, lakes, etc., are likely to be icebound during the winter? In the far north and on the Island of Greenland, winter is very severe and lasts most of the year. What people live in these cold regions? How are the Eskimos able to keep themselves from freezing?

In what regions of North America is the rainfall heaviest? At this point let the teacher sketch on the black-board a rainfall map of. North America. Use different-coloured crayons to indicate the regions of heavy, medium, and light rainfall. Locate the two regions of least rainfall (desert conditions). Consult the rainfall map of the world on page 40 of the Text-book. Require the pupils for seat work to make a similar map of North America as a review test.

Remember that rainfall is dependent upon winds. A brief consideration, therefore, of the principal winds of North America at this stage should help the pupils to understand the continental rainfall better. In this connection consider briefly the Prevailing Westerlies from the Pacific Ocean, the more variable winds from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Trade-winds in the South. The Atlantic coast, especially from Newfoundland to Cape Cod, has quite a heavy rainfall and much fog. Speaking generally, the rainfall is heaviest on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and diminishes toward the interior of the continent.

The Course of Study reserves a more detailed consideration of these winds for the Senior Grade of Form IV.


The chief natural resources of North America may be summarized as follows :

1. Vegetation, which is dependent upon temperature, rainfall, and character of soil.

2. Animals, which are dependent upon vegetation.

3. Minerals.


North America has such an enormous area and such a great variety of climate that its vegetation varies greatly. Why is vegetation lacking in the regions of unbroken snow and ice? South of this is an immense region called Tundra, growing mosses, shrubs, and stunted trees. Why cannot trees grow there? The soil is always frozen, except at the very surface, which thaws out for a few brief weeks in summer. Trees such as we have here cannot grow be-cause their roots cannot penetrate the frozen subsoil in order to get nourishment. The brief summer, however, is warm enough to enable some grasses and small-flowering plants to grow rapidly. Some of these plants produce berries which, after ripening, are preserved in the snow, and thus are available as food for the birds when they arrive in the spring.

Show that on the southern edge of the Tundra region forests begin to appear, at first scanty and with stunted trees; but that further south they are composed of magnificent forests of pines, spruce, and other conifers. What is pulpwood? From what trees is it obtained?

Draw from the class that wherever it is warm enough and wet enough they may expect to find forests. Refer to the maps showing the rainfall and note where the wet regions are. These are the districts where the forests are to be found. The kind of trees found in these forests varies with the latitude (distance north of the equator). What kind of trees grow in the more temperate regions? Here are found "mixed woods ". Name some of the " hard woods" of the temperate regions. Tropical forests contain ebony, mahogany, logwood, rose-wood, etc.; these are called cabinet woods or dye woods, according to the use that is made of them. Shade or colour the forest areas of North America on a black-board map ; then cover the map and require the pupils, for seat work, to draw similar maps on paper; uncover the black-board map and compare results. (Consult map on page 51 of the Text-book.)

The grass lands are the. next most extensive areas of natural vegetation. Grass flourishes well in regions that are subject to extremes of climate, for it grows quickly, and a short, hot summer will bring it to maturity. Why is there little grass in forest regions? Why are there few trees where there is much grass? For the purpose of showing the location of the grass lands you may, therefore, use the forest map which you have just made. In many areas there is not sufficient rain for forest growth, but there is sufficient for the growth of grass (see map, page 82, Text-book). In Mexico and Central America there are no extensive areas of grass lands, except on the higher plateaus. In areas of little or no rainfall, desert conditions prevail. Mark these districts also on your map.

Make another blank map of North America showing the boundaries of the countries and insert the names of the following plants in the districts where they are grown : Wheat, corn, oats, barley, rice, sugar-cane, cotton, tobacco, hardy fruits (apples, etc.), tropical fruits (bananas, oranges, pineapples, spices, etc.). (Consult map on page 81 of the Text-book.)


Why does the north produce the best fur-bearing animals? What is the most important fur-bearing animal? Fur-bearing seals are found on the Pribylof Islands and on the coasts of Alaska. There are seal fisheries off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, but the seals are taken for their oil and skins, and their fur is of no value. What other animals are found in the northern seas that are of commercial value?

Sheep, cattle, and other domestic animals have been introduced into most parts of the continent. Note that sheep feed on the dry plains and hillsides, while cattle are found in the lower, richer, and warmer areas. Why? What conditions necessary to successful stock-raising are found in the Great Central Plain ? The climate is suitable, grass and water are abundant, land is fairly cheap, and transportation is easy.

The food fishes found in the coast waters of the northern half of North America are of great value. What are the principal food fishes found in these waters? What natural conditions exist in northern waters favourable to the production of fish? (See Text-book, page 94.)


North America is rich in minerals. In what kind of districts are minerals usually found? Why are they found in hilly or mountainous districts and not in flat, alluvial plains?

Use blank maps again. Shade the areas where coal is found. Locate, by writing their names on the map, the areas where iron, gold, silver, copper, mineral oil, and gas are found. Why are districts where coal and iron are found in close proximity likely to become important centres of industry? Name and locate such a centre. The deposits of nickel in Ontario are the richest in the world. Why is coal found extensively underlying the Great Central Plain? Use a blank map to indicate where the above-named minerals are found. (See page 82 of the Text-book.)

Other resources that may be briefly considered are good harbours, useful lakes and rivers, and water-powers.


Locate on the map the districts where the population is most sparse. Are these districts hot or cold, fertile or barren? In what regions is the population dense? Are these regions, on the whole, temperate or tropical? Are they grass lands, forest lands, or mineral areas? Does excessive tropical vegetation encourage or hinder a large population? Why?


In Canada the Tundra region is called the "Barren Lands ". What does this name indicate? The people who live there have not much choice of occupation. Why not? They cannot farm. Why not? How do they make their living?

What are the possible industries in a temperate forest area? What are the areas where the agricultural industries (grain-growing, cotton-raising, stock-raising, dairying, fruit-growing, etc.) are carried on? Question the class about the industries carried on in connection with the coast waters.

In order that manufactures may be successfully carried on, what conditions are necessary? There must be power available to drive machinery, good transportation facilities, a climate suitable for hard work, and food must be abundant and cheap. Locate the principal districts where manufactures are carried on and show to what extent the above facilities are available. What effect has the great European market upon the location of North American industries? How is the opening of the Panama Canal likely to affect the industries of Western America?

Do not consider special manufactures at this stage. They will be considered at a later stage, when the countries of North America are taken in detail.


Consider in a general way:

(1) Internal trade, with routes

(2) External trade, with routes

(3) Commercial centres, with reason for location and growth.

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