geography: a history

Download Geography: A History

If you can't read please download the document

Post on 17-May-2015




0 download

Embed Size (px)


A 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.
  • However,
    • 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.