geography: a history
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DESCRIPTIONA brief history of the development of geography as an academic subject.
- 1. Geography: A History
2. Origins of modern Geography
- Origins of modern geography can be dated back to western Europe in the 16 thcentury.
- Expansion of European power.
- By 1600 the Atlantic trading system had establish links between Europe and the New World .
- Increased range of European travel and trade transformed European perceptions of the world.
- European universities began to offer specialized courses in geography.
3. Scientific Revolution
- Foundations of modern science established during 17 thcentury.
- Navigational skills that merely facilitated scientific discovery.
- Discussions of the relative merits of different societies, cultures and civilizations around the world.
- 18 thcentury era of European enlightenment.
4. Geography as exploration
- Geography as navigation transformed into Geography as exploration.
- Scientific exploration as an objective
- New navigational and cartographical techniques.
- 1769 James Cook voyage a turning point in the development of modern geography.
- Exploration reflected imperial objectives
5. Enlightenment Geography
- Alexander von Humboldt : Prussian, explorer and author
- Ideas shaped by late 18 thcentury European romanticism
- Notable travels in South America
- Sought a systematic science of geography
- Carl Ritter : German, writer, explorer
- Unfinished 19 volume Erdkunde published in mid 19 thC
- Objective to create a generalized world geography
6. Emergence of Societies
- 1778 Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa.
- Pioneering expeditions by Mungo Park, Hugh Clapperton and Alexander Gordon Laing
- French Revolution: halt the Enlightenment geographical enquiry but provided purpose for the further development of cartography and land survey.
- First geographical societies emerge: Paris (1821), Berlin (1828), London (1830)
7. Emergence of the RGS
- Royal Geographical Society became the focal point of world exploration.
- 1850: nearly 800 fellows
- 1870: 2,400 fellows
- Number of prominent scientists joined: including Charles Darwin.
- Dominant figure: Sir Roderick Murchison
- Published general advice through its Hints to Travellers plus it boasts one of the largest private map collections in the world.
8. Success of the RGS
- RGS exploited a national passion for heroism in exotic places that was enthusiastically promoted by the British press.
- The explorer was the ideal masculine hero of Victorian society.
- Extensive exploration of Africa many of the major explorers: Burton, Speke, Livingstone, Stanley were influenced by the RGS.
- New challenges posed by exploration into Asia, the polar ice caps, and in particular the Himalayas.
- Geographical societies across Europe expanded rapidly.
9. The time of imperialism
- An age of European military and commercial colonization of the Americas, Asia and Africa.
- After the Franco-Prussian war (1870) aggressive colonial expansion
- The Scramble for Africa
- RGS remained the largest and wealthiest geographical society in the world.
10. Geography enters universities
- Chair of geography established in UCL in 1833
- First full time post in a British university not until 1887 in Oxford University: Halford Mackinder.
- The RGS and GA worked hard to promote the study of geography.
- Sir Harry Johnstone argued that geography should become a compulsory school subject.
- it was only through detailed geographical description, complete with authoritative and regularly updated topographical and thematic maps, that a region could be know, understood and therefore fully possessed by those in authority (Heffernan, 1996:520).
11. Natural Selection?
- University geography sought to explain human and natural features of the world, but also to justify the existence of European empires.
- Friedrich Ratzel (and others) insisted that the principles of natural selection applied equally to the natural, social and political realms.
- Imperial race of Europe
- Environmental determinism and scientific racism
12. Alternative views
- Environmental and moral improvement were the justification for intervention from the Western World.
- Petr Kropotkin & Elisee Reclus argued that geography suggested ways of developing a new harmony of human societies with the natural world.
13. Crisis of the 20 thCentury
- Unexplored and unclaimed blank spaces on the world map were rapidly diminishing.
- Mackinder talked of the emergence of 20 thC world order dominated by land based empires bound together by railways.
- Eurasian landmass: the geographical pivot of history = whoever had control would have power over limitless resources and would dominate world affairs.
14. Global Conflict
- WWI: first truly global conflict
- Mackinder: war had erupted from the territorial struggle he had foreseen.
- Leading geographers involved in redrawing the political map after WWI.
- Isiah Bowman adviser to US President Woodrow Wilson during peace negotiations.
- Several French geographers advised the French government during peace conferences and the RGS was involved in aiding the Naval and War Office Intelligence services.
15. 16. Post-war Geography
- First schools of geography established during the war:
- Liverpool (1917), LSE and Aberystwyth (1918), UCL and Cambridge (1918), Manchester (1923)
- Expansion of the discipline eroded the control of the RGS on the geographical agenda.
- Geographers keen to establish the subject as scientifically rigorous.
- Institute of British Geographers established in 1933
17. The Interwar Years
- Interwar years: evolved into a popular discipline.
- Sub-disciplines arose.
- Physical and human geography should be brought together in the analysis of specific regions.
- The region became the building block of Geography.
- School of cultural geography established at Berkeley with the idea that historical and geographical particularism and the unique qualities of diverse regions should be explored.
18. Emergence of spatial science
- Nationalistic geographers
- WWII end of geopolitical movements of Italy and Germany.
- 1960s and 1970s stress on quantitative geographical enquiry.
- New and more rigorously scientific regional science developed during the post war years.