What is the national territory?

What Does National territory Mean

We explain what the national territory is, its elements, conformation and other characteristics. In addition, provincial territories.

The State administers the right to enter or leave the national territory.

What is the national territory?

The national territory is the geographic space that belongs to a specific nation and over which it exercises its sovereignty . In other words, the entire portion of the land surface that is within the borders of a country constitutes its territory.


Also part of the national territory are all those territories subject to its law (such as colonies and extraterritorial possessions) or to its jurisdiction (such as embassies, consuls, and warships). Each national territory is under the management and authority of the State in charge of administering it, and normally the exercise of this authority is entrusted to the armed forces of each country.

Thus, the State administers the right to enter or leave the country, the economic activities carried out in the territory, the transport dynamics that exist in it, etc. Similarly, the interference without consent of the forces of one State in the national territory of another is usually considered an aggression and a cause of war .

There is also a specific use of this term, in the case of the laws of some countries, such as Argentina, Colombia or the United States, according to which a national territory or national territories are political-administrative instances of lesser rank within the organization. of the State.

In the latter case, these are portions of territory considered “sub-national”, that is, subject to the discretion of the nation despite not actually being part of the State. Such was, for example, the case of the Argentine Patagonian region, inhabited by indigenous peoples, between 1853 and the mid-20th century.

It can help you: Political geography

Characteristics of the national territory

National territories are characterized by the following:

  • They are portions of the earth's surface administered politically, economically and legally by a sovereign State , that is, by a country.
  • They have defined borders and are adjacent to other people's borders, which define where the national territory begins and where it ends.
  • Generally they can be alienated , without this implying the cessation of their geographical belonging to a nation: a house is private property, but it is still located in a specific country, nor is it subject to the laws by which it is governed.
  • They not only cover land geography, but also maritime and air .

Elements of the national territory

Diplomatic delegations in other countries are also part of the national territory.

All national territory consists of:

  • A terrestrial space , which includes both the soil and the subsoil (up to the center of the earth, proportionally), enclosed between national borders, encompassing the lakes and rivers that exist in its interior, and also the soil and subsoil of the islands that are part of the territory.
  • A maritime space , which is the extension of land space towards the sea , especially in the region attached to its coasts, encompassing the seabed and the subsoil below it. This same criterion applies to the islands or islets that exist.
  • An airspace , which is a portion of the earth's atmosphere located directly over territorial and maritime space, until it reaches the stratosphere. Airspace above this level is usually considered international airspace.
  • A legal space , which is the set of buildings committed to diplomatic delegations, war ships and aircraft, ships and commercial aircraft, as well as other types of possessions that are subject to national legislation.

Conformation of the national territory

The territories that were delimited by other countries have arbitrary borders.

The national territories of most countries were formed historically, that is, as a result of a series of political, economic, military and cultural dynamics .

The configuration of nations has varied immensely over time (and will surely continue to do so). In fact, until the seventeenth century it could not be said that nation states really existed, endowed with a territory and a relationship of identity with respect to their citizens.

However, some national territories are the result of the interference of other nations , through processes of imperialism and colonialism , as is the case of the African nations.

These are the only countries in the world whose borders are 100% straight, because they do not obey, as usual, the topographic or geographical limits imposed by nature (rivers, mountain ranges , etc.), but were drawn by the European powers during their colonial division of Africa , guided by the terrestrial meridians .

Provincial territories

Provincial territories are those that are part of a national territory, but differ from each other by belonging to different provinces, that is, to political-territorial entities of lower hierarchy than the nation .

Thus, most countries are divided into provinces, states or communities, depending on the case. Each of these divisions has its own assigned provincial territory, delimited by borders and in which it has full jurisdiction, although always subject to the general power embodied in the national State.

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