Shapes of States: Compact, Prorupted, Perforated & More

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  • 0:02 Definition of a State
  • 1:24 Compact & Elongated
  • 2:26 Prorupted & Perforated
  • 3:19 Enclave & Exclave
  • 4:03 Fragmented
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain and identify the many shapes that states can be found in. In doing so, it will define the word state and the importance of sovereignty.

Definition of a State

When we place this shape on screen I'm guessing most of us can identify it:

image of the united states

It's the United States. If we place this one on screen, I'm guessing many of us can identify it:

image of italy

It's Italy. However, if we place this one on screen, I bet a bunch of us would have a pretty hard time identifying it:

image of poland

This one is Poland.

Looking at these three, it's pretty easy to see that different states have different shapes. That's obvious. What is lesser known is that the different shapes and sizes of states actually have their own names. In today's lesson, we'll discuss these names and shapes.

However, before we get to this, we should probably take a moment and define the concept of a state. Stated very simply, a state is an autonomous political unit, including many communities within its territories over which it has legitimate centralized power. Very important to this definition, a state is sovereign holding supreme rule over its territory. The concept of state doesn't just denote places like Oregon, Delaware, or Arizona. A state is any territory with its own centralized and sovereign power.

Keeping this in mind, let's get on to the different shapes that states come in. Lucky for us, the names of most of them are rather easy to remember.

Compact & Elongated

We'll start with compact. A compact state is typically small and roundish in shape. Adding to this, a compact state is usually very centralized with its capital area usually in the middle of its territory. I like to remember this simply by thinking of compact as small, as in a little compact car where everyone sort of squishes together in the middle. A great example of a compact state is our previously used Poland. Found all over the map, other compact states include places like Kenya and Uruguay.

Next we come to elongated states. With this name making these states particularly easy to remember, elongated states are states with a long, narrow extended territory. Again, found all over the world, some great examples of elongated states are Norway, Chile, and our already-used Italy. According to some geographical theories, these states have been historically difficult to govern and defend due to their expansive boundary lines.

Prorupted & Perforated

Sort of similar to elongated states are prorupted states. These states have a long extension as part of their territory. Take a look at the country of Thailand:

image of thailand

See how this long piece sort of juts out from the bottom?

This is a great example of a prorupted state shape. To help me remember prorupted, I like to think of it as the long piece sort of erupting from the main piece. Other good examples of prorupted states are Namibia and Mozambique.

Leaving prorupted states, we now come to perforated ones. A perforated state is a state that completely surrounds another. Just like a perforated piece of paper has a hole in it, a perforated state actually has another state in it. Probably the most popular example given for a perforated state is the nation of South Africa that has the nation of Lesotho right smack dab in it!

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