History Of Geography, What is the development and growth of geography?


What is the history of geography? Information about Greek, Roman, Islamic geography etc. What is the development and growth of geography?

Geography has been shaped by a shifting interplay of time and technique, purpose and problem. Both change and continuity are evident in the long historical development of geography, which is usually, if somewhat dubiously, considered as beginning with the ancient Greeks. The Greeks undoubtedly derived much geographic information from the Minoans and the far-ranging Phoenicians, although the Phoenicians were^ioto-riously secretive and closely guarded their findings.

Greek and Roman Geography.

The Greek contributions of critical thought and scientific organization were essential to the development of geography. The Greek philosophers were not initially concerned with classifying their knowledge. Their geographical concepts have to be dissected out of their stories and poetry. It has been argued that the ancients were once aware of the presence of Antarctica, but poems of Homer (8th century b.c.), mixing mythology with geography, seem to show firm knowledge of only the eastern and central Mediterranean, though some scholars believe that Homer’s Odyssey carries echoes of more distant journeying.

In the following centuries, Greek horizons broadened as colonies and trade spread around Mediterranean and Black Sea shores, as the navigator Pytheas, who lived in the early 4th century b. c., returned with tales of Britain and the northern seas, as Madeira and the Canary Islands were discovered, and as journeys were made across the Sahara desert and down the Nile, and perhaps around Africa. The expedition of Alexander the Great, from 331 to 325 b. c., yielded precise data on central Asia, the Caspian Sea, the Indus Valley, and the Persian Gulf.

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A primary task of early geographers was to measure the size and shape of the earth. Homer had presented the earth as a disk encircled by the River of Ocean and overarched by the pillared vault of the sky. Thales of Miletus (640-546 b. c. ) conceived of the earth as a floating disk, and his pupil Anaximander thought it a cylinder. The belief by the Pythagoreans after the 5th century b. c. that the earth was round was supported in the 4th century b. c. by Aristotle’s evidence of centripetal force and the appearance of earth shadows on the eclipsing moon. The measurement of the earth followed in the 3d century b. c., when Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth to be 29,000 miles (465,000 km)—an exaggeration of only about 16%. However, Eratosthenes’ estimate did not prevail over that of Posidonius (c.135-c.51 b.c.), who believed it to be about 18,000 miles (290,000 km). About 250 b. c., Aristarchus of Samos affirmed that the earth went around the sun, but this daring surmise did not gain general acceptance. In the 4th century b. c., Aristotle postulated parallel temperature zones for both hemispheres, and in the 2d century b. c., Hipparchus introduced latitudinal belts, called klimata, subdivided the great circle into 360 degrees, and urged a precisely determined grid of latitude and longitude —a thought later followed up by Marinus of Tyre and by Ptolemy in the 2d century a. d.

Such initial achievements were based largely on the application of mathematics to problems of distance and location. Corresponding progress in other branches of geography had to await the development of a network of scientific correlation and empirical observation. Nevertheless, Posidonius and others had studied the sun, moon, and tides, pondered the significance of earthquakes and volcanoes, and observed the role of running water in erosion and deposition. Alexander the Great’s expedition of conquest to India brought back stories of strange mountain forests and mangrove-lined shores, while Theophrastus (c.372—c.287 b. c. ) correlated vegetation and environment. Much data on human and regional geography were threaded through the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Polybius, and many speculations were made as to the role of the environment on man’s physical and mental development.

Greek scientific and philosophical enthusiasm faded in the following era of Roman practicality. The road map was more characteristic than the globe. However, it was during Roman times that Strabo (63 b. c.-36 a. d. ) and Ptolemy (c.100-170 a. d) summed up much of the work of earlier geographers. Strabo’s Geography, concentrating on the ecumene, or known world of man, was a massive and often skillful synthesis of historical, cultural, and regional data. Ptolemy, by contrast, was a more mathematically sophisticated cartographer who felt that “geography” should depict the whole known world, while local detail should be left to a related field, chorography. Thus Ptolemy foreshadowed the later development of regional and systematic branches of geography. Ptolemy’s famous world map, which extended from Britain to China, used a grid of longitude that was scientific in principle though highly inaccurate in practice. His map also incorporated Posidonius’ underestimate of the earth’s circumference. It is believed that this miscalculation encouraged Columbus in the 15th century to voyage westward in search of a supposedly adjacent Asia.

Islamic Geography.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the works of Strabo, Ptolemy, and other classical geographers were temporarily forgotten. Christendom cherished a cloistered scholarship. Arabic conquests were engulfing a vast and varied empire that included most centers of Greek culture. Geographic learning did not flourish in Islam until after 766 a. d., when the Persian-oriented Abbasid dynasty was established in Baghdad. Then followed the so-called golden age of Muslim geography.

Precise observations were important in both Islamic religion and astrology, and the works of Aristotle, Marinus, and Ptolemy, translated into Arabic, were eagerly scrutinized and corrected. Calculations and instruments were improved, the length of a degree was precisely measured on the Syrian-Iraqi plains, and locations were carefully mapped. Some geographers, such as Ibn Khur-dadbih, who lived in the 9th century, wrote on cosmography and reconsidered the size and shape of the earth. Another geographer, al-Balkhi, helped develop a native tradition, and the world maps of al-Khwarizmi (c.780-850) and al-Idrisi (C.1099-C.1166) expanded and corrected much in Ptolemy’s map.

Fresh data on peoples and economies came from 10th century merchant-travelers such as Ibn Haukal, Istakhri, and Al-Masudi, who also lived in the 10th century. Ibn-Battuta, who lived in the 14th century, covered 75,000 miles (120,000 km) in his travels from western Africa to China and made significant observations correlating culture and environment. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), reflecting on the contrast between nomadic peoples and sedentary peoples, postulated an environmental cycle of cultural progress and decay. Avicenna (980-1037) may even have caught a hint of the process of mountain building and erosion.

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Development of Geography in the Christian World.

In the early Christian era the study of geography was based on ancient authors, and inferior ones at that. Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Ana Solinus, who were fanciful and often plagiaristic, were poor substitutes for Ptolemy. Prevailing religious views did not help matters. Pagan assertions about a spherical world and a population of antipodes living on the other side of the earth beyond the Gospel’s pale seemed perilously heretical to the 5th century theologians Lactantius and Orosius, who revived the concept of the earth as an ocean-circled disk. Cosmas Indicopleustes, a well-read and widely traveled merchant and monk, reached a low point in geographical thought in his book Christian Topography (c.540). In this work, he referred to a table in the Tabernacle, with its molding and candlestick, as proof of a flat rectangular earth rimmed by the ocean and illuminated by a sun that nightly circled behind a northern mountain.

Cosmas was an extremist in a two-sided debate, however, and it is doubtful that the belief in a spherical earth was ever completely rejected. The English monk Bede (673-735) is believed to have accepted it, and both the earth’s roundness and its central location in a vast universe of circling spheres were commonly accepted in medieval times. There is reason to believe that the maps of the day, even those depicting the earth as a disk, reflected artistic license and problems of hemispheric projection rather than credulity. Accuracy was largely confined to itineraries, or road maps, and portolani, or sailors’ charts.

Exploration did not cease completely during the early Middle Ages. Othere’s voyage to the White Sea was described by King Alfred of England and the transatlantic travels to Vineland and Greenland by Erik the Bed and others were recorded by the German historian Adam of Bremen around 1075. The Norwegian work King’s Mirror, written around 1250, vividly described glaciers and geysers. In the east, Nestorians— religious followers of Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople—were in China by the 7th century. The papal missions of the Franciscan monks Piano Carpini and Guillaume de Bubruquis penetrated central Asia well before the Venetian explorer Marco Polo, in 1295, and the Italian friar Oderic, around 1325, had returned to tell their tales of the Orient.

The 13th century witnessed something of a renaissance in geography. The English philosopher Adelard of Bath had translated mathematical data from Arabic. The English scientist Boger Bacon calculated the earth’s circumference and urged more accurate mapping. And the German scholar Albertus Magnus revived an Aristotelian interest in physical geography.

After Ptolemy’s book Geography was translated into Latin in 1410, renewed interest in ancient works led the Italian monk Fra Mauro, in 1457, and the German geographer Martin Behaim, in 1492, to discard valid data that conflicted with Ptolemy’s concepts.

Age of Discovery.

Adherence to Ptolemy’s views diminished after 1486, when the Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope and the implications of the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan became clear. The spherical shape of the earth was demonstrated beyond doubt, the earth’s circumference and size were more clearly determined, and the Indian Ocean was shown to be open sea despite Ptolemy’s portrayal of it as an enclosed body of water. Climatic zones were confirmed, although in modified form, and the hypothetically uninhabitable “burning zone,” which was believed to be at the equator, was proved to be purely mythical. The patterns of trade winds, doldrums, monsoons, and ocean currents were gradually discovered, and unfamiliar plants and animals were found along with new and puzzling peoples and cultures.

The assimilation of new data was somewhat delayed, but the development of cartography soon received new impetus. The transatlantic shorelines plotted by the Spanish navigator Juan de la Cosa in 1502 were hazy, but in 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemiiller boldly printed the name “America ” over the New World on his map of the world. Reinforcing a tradition of fine sea charts with the new techniques of printing and surveying, the Flemish geographers Gerardus Mercator ( Gerhard Kremer ) and Ortel-ius (Abraham Oertel), followed by the Flemish engraver Jodocus Hondius, the Dutch geographer Jan Jansson, and the Dutch cartographer Willem Blaeu, refined the map of Europe, adjusted degrees and distances, developed new projections, and initiated the publication of atlases. Merca-tor’s projection, Waghenaer’s Mariner’s Mirror, and the Secret Atlas of the Dutch East India Company served maritime interests, and the Germans, French, and English were anxious to emulate and improve them. By 1700 the French geographer Guillaume Delisle had freed the world map of all vestiges of the Ptolemaic tradition. Shortly thereafter, the maps of Jean Baptiste B. d’An ville discarded the hypothetical and gratuitous additions of previous generations of cartographers and included only what was known and factual.

The French contribution to geography during this period was characterized by great precision. The French mathematician Jean Picard and the Cassinis, a family of astronomers, developed more accurate triangulation and M.S. Cruquis initiated relief maps with contours. However, the 16th century development of chorography and cosmography, which combined astronomy and general geography, was primarily a German achievement. The German geographer Petrus Apianus (Peter Bienewitz) derived data from Waldseemüller and the mathematician and geographer Johannes Schöner, but he followed the Ptolemaic pattern in distinguishing geography from chorography and publishing a series of charts and coordinates in his Cosmographicus Liber in 1524. It was left to Gemma Frisius, a Flemish mathematician and astronomer, to add descriptive notes. Sebastian Münster, by contrast, was more akin to Strabo in his book Cosmographia (1544), which provided the groundwork for much descriptive and regional geography.

Although Münster had much to say about Germany, he had less to say on Europe in general and little on the rest of the world. The gap was partially filled by accounts of explorations compiled by Ramusio in Italy, Theodore de Bry in the Netherlands, and especially by Richard Hakluyt the younger, whose works Divers Voyages Touching the Discovery of America (1582) and Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) foreshadowed the later bent of much British geography.

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Nathaniel Carpenter’s Geography Delineated Forth in Two Boohes (1625) was probably the first scientific book on geography in English. Carpenter stressed general and physical aspects of geography, postulating that cosmography, geography, chorography, and topography differ only in scale. Slightly earlier, the German geographer Philipp Cluverius wrote fine historical and regional descriptions.


The Varenian Framework.

Bernhardus Varenius (originally Varen), was a German who lived in Amsterdam in the mid-17th century. He urged that mathematics be applied to both the earth and its parts, and he subdivided general, or universal, geography into absolute, relative, and comparative parts that described properties of terrestrial, celestial, and local origin. He described special, or chorographical, studies as adding human elements to localized properties of celestial and terrestrial origin.

Varenius’ early death cut short the development of his themes. But his Geographica Generalis, published in 1650, was acclaimed by the English mathematician and scientist Isaac Newton (1642-1727). The natural sciences, which were becoming specialized, interacted with geography as Newton “flattened the poles and the dissenting Cassinis” and studied the tides. At the same time, the English astronomer Edmund Halley and others studied evaporation, winds, and ocean currents, and the English botanist John Ray and the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus outlined biological “systems of nature.” The Scottish geologist James Hutton and others examined fossils, rock strata, and mountain structure.

In the study of man the German statistician Johann Süssmilch applied statistics to society, and the Scottish economist Adam Smith developed economic principles. The French philosopher Montesquieu affirmed environmental influences, and the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon classified races and synthesized much data on natural history. Geography received even more direct benefits as the study of geodesy developed and as thermometers, barometers, and hygrometers came into use. Continuing exploration culminated in the epoch-making voyages of the British naval captain James Cook in the late 18th century.

Progress in aerial analysis and synthesis, however, was less dramatic. Giovanni Riccioli’s geography (1661) was essentially mathematical, and the German archaeologist and natural scientist Athanasius Kircher in 1664 stressed individual physical phenomena, as did Lulofs, Philippe Buache, and Torbern Bergman a century later. And although the German geographer Anton Biisching fostered an enduring combination of topography and statistics in his Neue Erdbeschreibung, which was first published in 1754, he worked within the traditional framework of geographically arbitrary political boundaries.

Leyser sounded a new and distinctively geographical note in 1726, when he urged a deeper investigation of the nature of lands and natural boundaries. In a similar spirit Buache in 1756 and Gatterer in 1775 searched for a defining network of mountains and basins. The trend toward “pure geography” continued into the 19th century as J. A. Zeune and H. G. Hommeyer sought to eliminate historical and explanatory information from descriptions of natural regions.

The Kantian Framework.

Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher, was not primarily a geographer, but he assigned geography a clearcut place within his philosophy. To Kant, all empirical knowledge was organized either according to concepts that yielded systems of nature, as those formulated by Linnaeus, or according to concepts of time and space, which yielded historical sequence and geographical association. History and geography thus filled “the entire circumference of our perceptions” from both temporal and spatial viewpoints. Physical geography, to Kant, formed a foundation both for history and for all other geographies—mathematical, moral, political, commercial, and religious.

Kant was not a traveler and depended on the data of Varenius, Lulofs, and Busching. Others, however, were filling in the gaps. The father and son team of Johann and Georg Forster returned from Cook’s second voyage around the world with well-organized and sensitive descriptions. These stimulated the interest of Alexander von Humboldt, who with Carl Ritter is said to be the cofounder of modern geography.

Humboldt and Ritter.

The epitome of versatility, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) made many scientific contributions, not the least of which were in the field of geography. A well-trained and sturdy traveler in tropical America and Russian Asia, he showed a keen aesthetic and empirical concern for terrestrial harmony—the unity of things in their areal relationships. He related his data to their precise locations, invented isotherms (lines joining places of equal temperature at a given time) to elucidate climatic zones, and made drawings that correlated altitude and vegetation. Humboldt’s Kosmos, a 5-volume study of physical geography published from 1845 to 1862, was his major work in geography. However, as seen in retrospect, it is not this work but his descriptions of regions, such as Mexico and the Llanos (of Venezuela-), and his contributions to the studies of climatology and plant geography that are of more enduring value.

The geography of Carl Ritter (1779-1859) was complementary to that of Humboldt. Ritter’s was human and historical rather than physical, regional rather than systematic. Convinced that the earth was divinely designed for man, he anticipated the ultimate elucidation of laws that would guide human progress and give the varied regions of the world their proper roles. The objective observation of facts was deemed essential, and regional “wholes” were to be given recognition according to the integration of their components. The relationship of environment to history had to be deduced from painstaking comparative analysis.

In practice, Ritter was more a teacher and synthesizer than a traveler and observer. He received early recognition from his publication of an atlas that pioneered in the correlation of some cultural and physical features of Europe. An invitation to the first chair of geography at the University of Berlin in 1820 followed the publication of the first 2 of the 19 volumes of his Erdkunde. His goal of providing a geographic basis for world history proved unattainable, but much of his work furthered the development of regional geography. Selecting landforms as basic, he related these “fixed forms” of the earth to the “mobile forms” of air, fire, and water and held that these produced varying combinations of animal, vegetable, and mineral matter.

Ritter and Humboldt laid the foundations for modern geography—physical and human, systematic and regional—but that fact was not immediately clear. Humboldt inspired the scientific travelers of the day, but he did not hold an influential university position and provided no methodologies. Ritter lacked successors, for his chair at the university was left unfilled after his death. Although some of his students, including Arnold Guyot and Élisée Reclus, adopted some of his concepts, others were confused by his teleology, the vagueness of his comparative geography, and the supposed dualism of physical science and history.


A Time of Uncertainty.

The deaths of Ritter and Humboldt left an aftermath of uncertainty in German geography. Not infrequently, some geography was taught peripherally within other fields. Although “general geography” retained its Varenian framework and was allied to navigation and cartography, the most popular form of geography, called “special geography,” was merely a collection of uncoordinated facts. Thus the English geographer John Pinkerton, in his Modern Geography (1807), wrote that geography “only aspires to illustrate history.” In the United States the clergyman Jedidiah Morse became known as the father of American geography for his Geography Made Easy ( 1784 ) and successive editions of American Geography, which had information on individual states. Regional geography was advanced by Conrad Malte-Brun Précis de géographie universelle (1810-1829). Systematic geography was developed in the Physikalischer Atlas (1837-1848) of Heinrich Berghaus and the Physical Geography (1848) of the Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville.

It was systematic physical geography that expanded after 1859, the year that Ritter and Humboldt died and that Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was published. Exploration was proceeding in Africa and the polar fringes, Arnold Guyot was introducing Ritter’s theories in America, and Reclus was enriching literature and regional geography alike with his 19-volume work Nouvelle Géographie Universelle: la terre et les hommes (1875-1894).

Growth of Physical Geography.

It was the “spirit of natural science” that the German geographer Oscar Peschel (1826—1875) reintroduced to geography during the time when the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess was studying the formation of mountains, seas, and continents, and others, including the American geologists John Wesley Powell and Grove Karl Gilbert, were studying the role of rivers in shaping the earth’s surface. Although Peschel still had to appeal to analogy rather than evidence of origin in his studies of comparative morphology, the German geologist Ferdinand von Richthofen would shortly thereafter develop a firmly historical approach, and the American geologist William Morris Davis would formulate the cycle of erosion.

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The study of climatology was furthered by the increasing flow of meteorological data and the delineation of global patterns of wind and weather. Prehistoric climatic changes were deduced from fossils and déglaciation—the ultimate disappearance of former glaciers. Storms were studied, conflicts of polar and tropical air were detected, and pressure patterns were mapped by the Scottish meteorologist Alexander Buchan. Karl Wilhelm Dove drew mean monthly isotherms in 1852, and the isohyets (lines connecting places with equal rainfall ) published by Berghaus for Europe in 1845 were extended around the world by the American physicist Elias Loomis in 1882. The Meteorological Atlas and Handbook written by the Austrian meteorologist Julius Ferdinand von Hann and the classification systems of Wladimir Koppen ( 1900 ) and Alexander Supan (1903) summed up a century of progress.

Climatology interlocked with oceanography, as in the work of the American naval officer Matthew Maury, and impinged on patterns of biogeography. Animal geography was studied by Darwin. the British natural philosopher Alfred Russel Wallace, and R. Hesse. Others, including August H. R. Grisebach, Andreas F. W. Schimper, and Johannes E. B. Warming elucidated the patterns of plant geography. The Soviet soil scientists Konstantin Dmitriyevich Glinka and Vasili Dokuchayev discerned the close relationship of Russian soils to climate and vegetation.

Human Geography.

The study of human geography lagged behind that of physical geography. Peschel and his contemporary Georg Cornelius Karl Gerland conceived geography as a natural earth science and relegated man and his works to the field of ethnology. In the late 19th century, however, Ferdinand von Richthofen, though basically a physical geographer, analyzed human migration and settlement, and Friedrich Ratzel, though trained in natural science, was primarily interested in the human aspect of geography.

Ratzel, relating Darwinian principles to Ritterian geography, maintained that man, a product of environmental and natural selection, must be viewed in his terrestrial setting. In the first volume of his Anthropogeographie, published in 1882, he analyzed the environment before describing societies. However, in the second volume, published in 1891, he reversed his original theme and stressed the influence of man on nature. Man was not just a creature of his environment.

The Chronological Concept.

While Ratzel restored some balance to geography by reinforcing the study of human conditions and space relations, regional geography lacked a comparable stimulus. Ratzel himself touched on the regional characteristics of America and Germany, and F. Marthe, in 1877, stressed the areal, or chronological, principle as of major significance. However, it was Rich tli of en and Alfred Hettner ( 1859-1941 ) who provided more impetus for the modern development of regional geography.

As Richthofen emphasized in 1883, separate analyses of physical, biological, and human realms must be followed by areal synthesis. Chorography (or non explanatory description), must be completed by chorology (or explanatory analysis of regions based on systematic geography). To Hettner, geography was the chorological, or aerial, science of the earth’s surface. It did not single out particular phenomena, as did the systematic sciences, or concern itself with chronology. General geography analyzed each areal component, whereas special geography synthesized them.

Vidal and French Geography.

Neither Hettner nor his students practiced regional synthesis as clearly and consistently as Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845-1918) and the French school he inspired. Vidal refined, synthesized, and developed the concepts of Reclus and others. Vidal’s appointment to the Sorbonne in 1898 marked the coming of age of French geography.


Repudiating the supposed environmental determinism of Ratzel in favor of what Lucien Febvre later called “possibilism,” Vidal maintained that nature offers man a number of possibilities and that man makes his choice. For evidence he pointed to the development of regionally distinctive genres de vie (life-styles) that stamped the land with the image of the people. The mainstream of French geographers followed Vidal’s tradition and evolved a synthesis grounded in geology and history. The themes that Vidal developed in his books Atlas d’histoire et de géographie ( 1894) and the masterly Tableau de la géographie de la France ( 1903 ) and his articles in the periodical Annales de géographie were continued in the works of his influential followers.

Mackinder and British Geography.

British geography, previously characterized by a lively interest in exploration and mapping, was beginning its academic development in the 19th century. The Royal Geographical Society, guided by such men as Roderick Impey Murchison and Clements R. Markham, was not uninfluential, and some geographers held college posts. Nevertheless a report by J. Scott Keltie in 1885 underscored the meager role accorded British geography.

Geography in Britain reached a new height in 1887, when Halford J. Mackinder was appointed to Oxford. A brilliant lecturer, Mackinder drew on German concepts as he sought to focus thought on distributions and interactions of peoples in different environments. His flair for regional and historical geography was evident in his book Britain and the British Seas ( 1902), and his challenging thesis, expressed in 1904, that world power was potentially concentrated in the Eurasian heartland was only temporarily overlooked.

The often-revised Handbook of Commercial Geography (1889) by G. G. Chisolm, however, seemed more relevant at the time. Although Hugh R. Mill’s climatic and hydrological studies were valued, his plea for regional studies in Britain had little effect. In 1905, Andrew J. Herbertson formulated a world pattern of “natural regions.”

American Geography. After the pioneering work of Jedidiah Morse and other Americans in the 18th century, the study of geography in the United States declined. It was revived in the mid-19th century with the founding of the American Geographical Society in 1852, Guyot’s appointment to Princeton in 1854, Maury’s publication of Physical Geography of the Sea in 1855, and George Perkins Marsh’s early plea for conservation in his Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, published in 1865.

The real tone and stature of early American geography were provided by William Morris Davis (1850-1934) and Ellen Churchill Semple (1863-1932). Davis, trained in geology and meteorology, studied the physical geography of Europe and the American west and developed his concept of the geographic cycle, or cycle of erosion. He described landforms with emphasis on their structure and their stage in the erosion process. Although his own focus was on physical geography, he believed that geography must join physiography and ontography, linking the inorganic environment with organic life.

Other Americans accepted at least part of the challenging task set forth by Davis. Semple, modifier of Ratzel, eloquently highlighted the importance of the lie of the land in the shaping of American history. In 1911 she published Influences of the Geographical Environment, and she later studied environmental influences in Mediterranean history. In contrast, Ellsworth Huntington (1876-1947) selected climate as the primary determinant in his Pulse of Asia, published in 1907. Geographers such as Albert Perry Brigham and Robert De Courcy Ward followed suit, but Isaiah Bowman and Mark Jefferson urged more balanced views of man and the environment.

From Environmentalism to Regionalism.

A critical approach to environmental determinism and an increased application of regional methodologies were characteristic of the first half of the 20th century. Many British and American geographers, while studying physical processes and patterns, defined their field in terms of human ecology or concern with the earth as the “home of man.” Those who referred to the “geographic factor” considered it to be but one of many factors in shaping human life.

It was the regional concept that seemed essential, a concept both flexible and applicable to any selection of data. Defined by formal unity or functional cohesion, landscape or way of life, unique features or general principles, regions seemed to epitomize the geographical approach. French and German geographers continued to excel in patient and perceptive synthesis, but national boundaries were transcended and every subdivision of geography became impregnated with the regional concept.

Physical geography expressed this trend as N. M. Fennemann mapped physiographic regions of America and R. Linton did so for Britain, and as Kôppen revised his climatic classification. Kendrew described the climatic regions of the world, and C. Warren Thornthwaite sought to map and measure the crucial patterns of évapotranspiration, the loss of water from the soil through evaporation and from plants.

Human geography showed similar trends as Sten de Geer mapped the Swedish population and devised a regional framework, and as Carl O. Sauer in the United States and L. Dudley Stamp in Britain launched land use surveys. In the United States, Vernon C. Finch and Oliver E. Baker mapped varied elements in the Atlas of World Agriculture (1917), while successive continental analyses and the increasing use of statistical data enabled D. Whittlesey to elucidate the world pattern of agricultural regions in 1936. Industry was found to be partly amenable to similar methods as Sten de Geer defined the American manufacturing belt in 1927 and Chauncy D. Harris and B. W. Watkinson extended the concept to Europe and T. R. Smith to Japan.


The complexities of economic and social life were less amenable to sharp areal definition. However, Herbert J. Fleure differentiated environmental regions in terms of economic problems imposed by the environment, and L. Dominion, Isaiah Bowman, and Bichard Hartshorne analyzed political patterns. Hartshorne’s stress on functional relationships was evident in the urban studies of Sten de Geer, Raoul Blanchard, and C. E. Fawcett as well as in Walter Christaller’s work, in 1933, on the spacing of cities in southern Germany.

Some Divergent Concepts.

In one form or another, the regional principle seemed to be the touchstone of modern geography. However, some geographers selected individual physical and social processes for study without much reference to areas. As subfields became more developed and as independent centers of geographic study arose in different parts of the world, the dominance of individual personalities and principles diminished.

Some geographers felt constrained to balance substantive progress with theoretical analysis. In 1923, Sten de Geer urged definition in terms * of “the present day distribution pattern” of populations, and Harlan Barrows made his plea to limit geography to human ecology. In France, as early as 1910, Jean Brunhes implicitly challenged the Vidalian tendency to start with regions and proposed instead that research begin with the “essential geographic facts” inscribed in the earth’s surface.

A parallel tendency developed in Germany, where Otto Schlüter (1872-1952) urged that the Landschaft, the perceptible landscape, should replace the Hettnerian concept of the area as the unifying principle of geography, a position introduced to the United States by Carl Sauer in his Morphology of Landscape (1925). Hartshorne, however, rejected the “landscape” concept and reaffirmed the chorological principle. Tracing its ramifications through systematic and regional geography, he summed up the chronological concept as the study of areal differentiation.

Hartshorne’s sharp-cut cleavage between time and space cut across the developmental grain of historical geography, and Sauer and others explored the interface of natural history and cultural history, with no concern for formal boundaries. In 1959, Hartshorne revised his framework to include areal differentiation through time.


The zoning of production land around a market was elucidated by J. H. von Thünen as early as 1827, and Christaller in the 1930 s developed his “central place theory” of the location of cities. However, the real “quantitative revolution” is largely a post-World War II phenomenon. As advocated by such practitioners as William Bunge, Brian Berry, and E. A. Wrigley, the “new geography” places less emphasis on specific regions in favor of general laws and principles underlying all spatial patterns, a trend furthered by statistical analysis and the use of computers. The emphasis in geography thus has shifted from place to space and from a static emphasis on the unique to predictive model building and systems analysis.


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