If you've ever flown over the United States during the day, you've probably noticed the patchwork of farms that stretch over vast swaths of the country like a grid. This signature land use pattern isn't the same in the UK, where the farms are laid out in a much more chaotic, scattershot fashion.
It turns out there's a good reason for this visual phenomenon. After the Revolutionary War, the US and Britain signed the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which delineated the new boundaries between what belonged to Britain, and what belonged to the new country of the United States.
The U.S. when about organizing its new land mostly by creating townships, six mile by six mile squares. Within those squares was a smaller grid of 36 one square mile squares. These plots of land were sold off mainly to settlers. In older countries like the UK, where the societies had carved up the land over thousands of years, no such deliberate pattern is found.
There are other parts of the country where this pattern doesn't appear, including in the Gulf Coast around Louisiana, originally settled by France which had a different style of land allocation. The French were partial to long skinny tracts of land that all bordered the river, giving everyone access to the river to send their crops off on a boat, and making sure everyone was close enough to socialize. It's incredible to realize how these historical decisions continue to influence the culture and industry of our country, hundreds of years later. So the next time you're flying cross country, you'll know what you aren't just looking at a bunch of farmland—you're looking at history.