Enclaves and Exclaves

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Enclaves and Exclaves


Enclaves and exclaves are discontiguous territories of states which are located within the territory of other states. Seen from the state within which the outlier is located, it is an enclave; seen from the state to which the outlier belongs, it is an exclave. A typical example is the Spanish town of Llivia in the eastern Pyrenees of France: this is an exclave of Spain, entirely surrounded by French territory and located about four miles from the main Spanish territory; it is also a Spanish enclave within French territory.

Enclaves (exclaves) may be accessible to the main territory of the state to which they belong by land, through the territory of other states, as well as by sea. A typical example is the former German exclave of East Prussia, which from 1919 to 1939, as well as in previous centuries, was separated from the main German territory by Polish territory and the Baltic Sea. However, if discontiguous territories are accessible only by sea, they are usually described as islands; if they are located on other continents, as colonies or associated territories. Thus Hong Kong is regarded as a colony of Great Britain in eastern Asia, although, from the Chinese point of view, it is sometimes described as a British enclave surrounded, on the landward side, by Chinese territory. Gibraltar can similarly be regarded as a British colony on the continent of Europe and as an enclave within Spain. In these cases the nomenclature is necessarily vague; however, this does not detract from the political, economic, and historical significance of enclaves and exclaves.

Territorial waters have the same sovereign attributes as land, and enclaves may therefore exist within territorial waters. A typical example is the islands of Chisamula and Likoma in Lake Nyasa; they are located within the territorial waters of Portuguese Mozambique but are exclaves of Malawi.

States entirely surrounded by territory of one other state, for example, the Vatican, share the characteristics of enclaves and are sometimes referred to as virtual exclaves. Contiguous territories of states which for all regular commercial and administrative purposes can be reached only through the territory of other states are called pene-enclaves (pene-exclaves). These have virtually the same characteristics as complete enclaves (exclaves). A typical example is the Drumully area of the Republic of Ireland, which can be reached by road and rail only through territory of Great Britain (Northern Ireland).

Enclaves (exclaves) should be distinguished from neutral territories that sometimes separate states, for example, those on the northeastern border of Saudi Arabia. Sovereignty in neutral territories is shared between two or more states, and territorial discontiguity is not an essential characteristic. However, for convenience of administration some governmental functions, for example, customs and excise, may be relinquished by the sovereign of the enclave (exclave) to the sovereign of the surrounding territory, and thus an impression of shared sovereignty can result.

Except for the unique cases of East Pakistan and West Berlin, enclaves are today relatively unimportant economically and cover only small areas, usually less than 20 square kilometers. Their political and military value is probably also very limited. Some enclaves (exclaves), for example, West Berlin (including Steinstücken, Papenberger Wiesen, etc.) consist of several parcels of territory, which makes accurate statistical accounting virtually impossible.

Origin of the terms . Use of the terms originated during the late Middle Ages. The first diplomatic document to contain the word “enclave” was the Treaty of Madrid, signed in 1526. Since then the terms have also been used outside political geography; parks, for example, have been described as rural enclaves within cities. Similarly, areas of low prices located within higher price regions, for example, areas along major highways within a high price region where low gasoline prices are posted, are described as low-price enclaves.

Geographical distribution . Most enclaves today are relics of the feudal era, and western Europe contains the largest number, about fifteen. Formerly there were many more; for example, prior to 1866 Prussia alone consisted of more than 270 discontiguous pieces of territory. India also contained large numbers of enclaves prior to independence. During and after the crusades, enclaves were a fairly widespread phenomenon in the eastern Mediterranean region, and presumably they also existed elsewhere during periods of feudal rule. Through accidents of discovery and difficulties of inland penetration, enclaves were also frequently established during the colonial era in or near the coasts of Africa and Asia. Today only a few survive, for example, the Portuguese Cabinda enclave north of the mouth of the Congo. When considered as enclaves, British Hong Kong and Gibraltar fall into this category. Similar Portuguese (Goa, for instance, but also complete exclaves entirely surrounded by non-Portuguese territory, such as Nagar Aveli) and French enclaves (such as Pondicherry, but also complete exclaves, such as Chandernagore) in India have disappeared from the map since India gained independence.

Throughout history, enclaves were sometimes deliberately established to assure control of neighboring areas, for example, by the settlement of Roman veterans in classical times; a modern example is that of the British enclaves on Cyprus created in 1960 to control the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Errors of definition with respect to straight-line boundaries have caused the establishment of two enclaves in North America near the 49th parallel (Point Roberts, Washington, and Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, both of which are in Canada). Where rivers form boundaries between states, changes of river courses have frequently created enclaves on opposite shores, as on the Mississippi River; where such changes resulted in international boundary problems, these enclaves were usually eliminated by exchange of territory and other compensation, as occurred between the United States and Mexico on the Rio Grande.

The enclaves of West Berlin and of the Hebrew University campus (part of Israel within Jordanian territory) were the result of recent armistice agreements. Similar temporary arrangements have been recorded frequently, particularly in feudal times. The enclaves of East Prussia and of East Pakistan were created in this century to accommodate national or religious aspirations. For the same national reasons the internal spatial organization of the Soviet Union exhibits several enclaves. Parts of former German East Prussia now constitute an enclave of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. To what extent the enclaves shown on maps of the Soviet Union are economically or politically significant is not known. Although several enclaves have survived since the early Middle Ages, most have disappeared with the growth of centralized states, and many appear to be only temporary features of modern political geography.

Theories of origin . Most settlements were virtually self-sufficient before the advent of modern transportation, and generally only goods of high value and little bulk were exchanged over distances of more than a few miles. Because of high costs of transportation, most settlements and their environs were surrounded by undeveloped lands separating them from neighboring settlements (Thünen 1826-1863). In the feudal era each of these settlements became dominated by a local ruler who, by war, marriage, or purchase, tried to enlarge his territories. Messengers and the small armies of the era could move through the undeveloped lands between the settlements, and since there was also little trade, there was no need for feudal territories to be contiguous. Thus the pattern of enclaves which is so characteristic of this period gradually evolved. Territorial discontiguity was found not only at the lowest but also at the highest level of the feudal hierarchy. Even self-governing cities contained both enclaves and ex-claves. Territorial discontiguity was most marked in Germany but also existed in much more centralized Great Britain, where a few enclaves survive to this day among county areas, for example, in Flintshire.

The modern era. As a result of the growth of the modern state, enclaves were gradually absorbed into the new national territories. Ratzel (1896) and other German geographers, particularly the later German school of “geopolitics,” regarded this absorption as an “organic” phenomenon in the evolution of so-called natural boundaries of states. These are frequently related to physical features of geography, such as seacoasts, watersheds, or mountain crests, but usually are poorly definable except in the context of nationalistic ambition. Arguments of this nature were, for example, used by India to defend its action in occupying the Portuguese enclaves and exclaves on the Indian subcontinent. At the time of the French Revolution the process of absorption was already virtually complete in the Iberian Peninsula, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. As a result of the French Revolution the many vestiges of enclaves (particularly with respect to internal tariffs) disappeared from France, and the number of enclaves was considerably reduced in central Europe and Italy. Because of the lesser significance of feudalism in eastern Europe, enclaves were far less important, and they completely disappeared during the nineteenth century.

The final reduction in the number of enclaves to the present low and insignificant figure took place during the period of railway construction. Enclaves came to be regarded as economically and politically absurd, as revealed in the discussion of the problem of German East Prussia during the period between the two world wars. The introduction of motorcars also increased the possibility of smuggling from enclaves (always a serious matter) and assisted public demand for the abolition of enclaves, as in India and Switzerland. Within sovereign states, administrative enclaves, usually relics of the process of state amalgamation following the feudal era, were also greatly reduced in number by the redefinition of local boundaries, as in India and Germany. However, many enclaves have survived in the cantonal system of the Swiss Confederation. Since World War n the development of air transportation and the building of limited-access highways and railways with systems of overpasses and underpasses have presented new opportunities for connecting enclaves to other territory of the same state. The air lanes, highways, and railways connecting West Berlin to West Germany are an example, although these connections have not worked very satisfactorily. The United Nations partition scheme in 1947 for the former British mandate of Palestine called for a series of discontiguous Arab and Jewish territories, each consisting of a main territory and two exclaves. These exclaves were to touch the main territories at two junction points, where short overpasses and under passes of limited-access transportation avenues were to connect them with the main territories. While the violent rejection of this partition scheme was the result of other more serious national considerations, there appears to be little doubt that these connecting links between exclaves and main territories were also regarded as highly unsatisfactory. For all these reasons it is unlikely that the new means of transportation will bring about an increase in the number of enclaves.

Alexander Melamid


Losch, August (1940) 1954 The Economics of Location. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. → First published as Die räumliche Ordnung der Wirtschaft.

Melamid, Alexander 1955 The Economic Geography of Neutral Territories. Geographical Review 45:359— 374.

Melamid, Alexander 1966 Municipal Quasi-exclaves: Examples From Yonkers, New York. Professional Geographer 18, no. 2:94-96.

Minghi, Julian V. 1963 Boundary Studies in Political Geography. Association of American Geographers, Annals 53:407-428.

Ratzel, Friedrich 1896 Die Gesetze des raumlichen Wachstums der Staaten. Petermann’s Mitteilungen 42:97-107.

Robinson, G. W. S. 1959 Exclaves. Association of American Geographers, Annals 49:283-295. → Contains the best listing of the exclaves existing in 1958.

Thunen, Johann H. VON (1826-1863) 1930 Der iso-lierte Staat in Beziehung auf Landwirtschaft und Nationalohonomie. 3 vols. Jena (Germany): Fischer.