Of the 195 countries in the world, 81 are classed as high income and developed. 1.2 billion people, or 22% of people globally, live in developing countries. However, look at a map of developed countries and you’ll notice one thing in particular… they are almost all in the northern part of the globe, but why? Why are northern countries more developed? Well, actually there are a number of factors. Let’s take a look…
A first reason why northern countries are more developed is because of their climate.
Climate is key to the development of societies. Historians believe that the colder climates of northern countries forced people to become more organised, entrepreneurial, and industrial, in order to survive. This meant societies formed that were able to develop faster and as a result, countries in the north of the world are more developed to this day.
As well as having colder climates, northern countries also have more varied seasons that countries nearer the equator. This meant that societies in these regions had to plan for times of the year when food would be harder to grow. This also led more ordered societies, which has resulted in more developed nations.
Climate is a vital factor in how people live their lives. There is much evidence that, especially in the early stages of a society’s development, that colder climates help people become more systemic and industrious. This is a key reason why countries in the north are richer.
A second reason why northern countries are more developed is because of their geography.
Geography is a major factor in how countries develop. The natural landscape of a country, including mountains, rivers, flatlands, arable land, and forests, are fundamental to how people who live there create their societies. More northern countries generally have better geography that allowed them to build societies with natural defences, with farmable land and navigable rivers. This helped these countries develop.
More southern countries generally have weaker geography. This has meant that societies there were historically more nomadic, less individualist, and less industrious. This meant they were less able to coalesce around arable land that could be defended more easily. This held back their development over many centuries.
As well as having better geography, most northern countries are less susceptible to natural disasters. This is another reason why they have been able to develop further and become wealthier.
3. Scarcity of Resources
A third reason why northern countries are more developed is because of the scarcity of resources.
Generally, countries in the northern hemisphere lack an abundance of natural resources. Historically, these lands were harder to grow food on, and societies needed to organise better to ensure their food needs were met. Societies in the north also had to domesticate animals to make sure they had food supplies. This organisation and planning allowed for societies in the north to develop more.
Lands nearer to the equator are generally more lush, fertile, and easier to grow food on. This meant societies living further south could rely on their natural environment to meet their needs. This is one factor for why southern countries developed less.
In more recent times, natural resources, such as oil, gas, coal, gold, diamonds, copper, and uranium, have been found in abundance in developing countries. However, most northern countries still do not have large reserves of natural resources. This has forced them to develop businesses and institutions that can create wealth, as they cannot rely on resource extraction. This is a further key factor why northern countries are more developed.
Another reason why northern countries are richer is because of the legacy of colonialism.
From the 15th Century onwards, many northern countries began taking territory around the world. Countries such as Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal and Japan all formed vast empires. By taking land around the world, countries such as these were able to extract natural resources, exploit human labor and control strategically important locations. Colonialism resulted in many northern countries becoming wealthy and this helped them to develop.
Colonialism is a key factor in why northern countries are more developed. By forming empires, these countries were able to dominate the globe for several centuries. Colonialism also meant that the development of countries outside of the north was held back as empires worked to exploit these lands rather than develop them.
It cannot be said that colonialism is the only reason why northern countries are more developed, however, it is one of the most important ones.
5. Effective Institutions
A further reason why northern countries are more developed is because they have been able to create effective institutions.
A nations success depends a lot on how well the institutions of a country are ran. Governments, legal systems, financial institutions, and businesses all need to be effectively ran in order for a country to become developed. Fair competition between enterprises, as well as the rule of law and protection of people’s rights are also key to successful development. Northern countries have been able to develop strong institutions, and this is why they are wealthier.
Southern countries have, more generally, been unable to create institutions that can effectively serve their populations. Corruption, nepotism, market controls and poor governance plague many developing countries. This is a major factor in why they have failed to become rich, and why development still remains mainly in more northern countries.
A key reason why northern countries are more developed is because of the historical competition between them.
Northern societies generally developed into smaller nations surrounded by others. This meant that there was competition between societies. This is a considered to be one of the major reasons why northern countries are developed, as competition bred innovation and forced countries to develop expertise and industries to protect themselves against competing states.
Historians generally view a lack of competition between societies across the global south as one of the reasons why the region is less developed today. As societies were forced less to compete with other nearby groups, they were not pressured to develop the techniques and tools required to protect themselves and their resources. This is one reason why even today; southern countries are generally less wealthy than northern ones.
A final reason why northern countries are more developed than southern ones is because of the way their cultures developed.
Many aspects we have discussed, such as climate, geography, scarcity of resources and competition between smaller countries, all resulted in the creation of cultures in northern countries that allowed them to develop. Factors such as individualism, human rights, legal protections, and limitation on the role of the state, are all examples of cultural norms that came to precedence in northern countries and were key to making them develop faster.
All countries around the world have rich cultures and histories. However, the cultures that developed in many northern countries turned out to be more successful in developing wealthy modern societies. Although it would be incorrect to say culture is the only, or main, factor in why northern countries are more developed, the cultures that formed in northern societies is an important factor.