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In this topic, we look at the location, growth and nature of settlements. They compare settlements from different locations around the world and then identify the patterns you can find in settlements. There are some wonderful ideas for geography models to make with the theme of settlements.  We have also collected some thought provoking images and ideas to help you understand more about the Geography topic of settlements.

Geography topics for you to learn and enjoy

What is a settlement?

Definition of settlement -

A settlement is any form of human dwelling, from the smallest house to the largest city.

Oxford Dictionary of Geography

Settlements can vary in size from the very small to extremely large. They can be as small as one house and as large as a megacity, home to tens of millions of people. They can be permanent or temporary. Settlements start in different places for different reasons. 

A Bedouin's tent in the Sahara, Morocco

Settlement geography | Homes around the world

Factors affecting the location of settlements

We call the place where a settlement starts the site of a settlement and settlement sites are chosen because they have lots of good reasons for locating a settlement there. Flat land is a good reason for locating a settlement in a particular place. Can you think of any more reasons? Read on to see if you thought of the same reasons we came up with.

factors affecting location | factors affecting settlements | settlement geography

Flat land is easier to build on and it is good for growing crops. 

Positive factors

factors affecting settlement

Building supplies

Building supplies are needed for homes but they are also needed to build farm buildings. A good supply of wood and stone helps.

Negative factors

factors affecting location  |  KS3 geography

Land that floods

Flat land is great but if it is next to a river and floods every year, it is no good. 

settlement location | CE Geography settlement

Water supplies

Water is essential as it is needed for cooking, washing, cleaning and drinking. It is also heavy to move around so you want a water supply close by to your house.

settlement geography

Narshy land

Marshy land is bad for two reasons. It is difficult to build on and it is difficult to grow crops on.

factors affecting settlement | ks3 geography

Flat land

Flat land is good for crowing crops such as wheat and vegetables. It is also easier to build houses on flat land and it is easier to travel around.

factors affecting location

Steep land

Steep land is difficult to build on and it is difficult to plant crops on. Farms in highland areas often have cows and sheep, not crops, because the steep land make growing wheat too difficult.

settlement location | CE geography


Villages a long time ago were always being attacked by Saxon and Viking invaders. Being on a hill made the settlement easier to defend and see your enemies coming.

settlement geography | KS 2 geography

Easy to be attacked

When fighting, fight downhill as it is easier. Similarly, do not build your settlement at the bottom of a hill because those pesky viking raiders will take advantage. Rivers often make good protection too.

settlement location | settlement geography

Supply of wood

Wood was needed for fires to cook on and keep warm. Wood was also used for making utensils and farming implements.

factors affecting settlement | factors affecting location

Poor quality farmland

When we are hungry, we want to eat but if we haven't grown much food through the year, come winter time, we will starve. Placing a settlement near poor farmland isn't going to help the settlement to grow.

factors affecting settlement | factors affecting location | settlement location | settlement geography

Bridging point

It is hard to imagine now with our modern wide bridges crossing rivers wherever we want but many years ago, rivers proved to be huge obstacles preventing easy movement of goods and people. Where rivers were easier to cross, many people met there proving to be a good place to have a market. 

factors affecting settlement | factors affecting location | settlement location | settlement geography
factors affecting settlement | factors affecting location | settlement location
factors affecting settlement | factors affecting location | settlement location

Shelter from the weather

Winds from the north are cold and south facing slopes get more sun so crops grow well when they are sheltered from the cold weather.

No wood supplies

It is going to be hard to build our homes without wood and we also need the wood to cook our food and keep us warm. 

No water supply

Cooking, washing, cleaning and drinking all become much more difficult without water. Similarly, we cannot irrigate our crops during any dry periods. So locate your village near a river, stream or spring.

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