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I. The FieldRichard Hartshorne


II. Political GeographyHarold H. Sprout


III. Economic GeographyRichard S. Thoman


IV. Cultural GeographyEdward T. Price


V. Social GeographyAnne Buttimer


VI. Statistical GeographyBrian J. L. Berry


The articles under this heading describe the main fields of contemporary geography and the field of statistical geography, which is an approach to geography rather than a discrete field. Other material of direct or related interest to geography may be found under Area; Cartography; Central place; City; Conservation; Culture area; Diffusion, article onthe diffusion of innovations; Ecology; Enclaves and exclaves; Environment; Environmentalism; Industrial concentration; Land; Landscape; Location theory; Planning, social; Population; Rank-size relations; Region; Regional science; Water resources. Biographical articles of relevance to geography include Bowman; Brown; Fleure; Hettner; Humboldt; Huntington; KjellÉn; Mackinder; Marsh; Ratzel; Rltter; Sauer; Teleki; Vldal de la Blache.


Geography is neither a purely natural nor a purely social science. From its early development as an organized field of knowledge in classical Greece, geography has included animate as well as inanimate things, man and his works as well as nature. This was of little concern as long as man was regarded as an integral part of nature. But geography, although a very old subject, did not become established as a university discipline with an organized academic profession until after the natural and social sciences had become divided into separate faculties. Regular university departments of geography were first established in German-speaking countries in the 1870s and 1880s; in France a little later; and in Great Britain and the United States generally in the present century. In each country the first generation of professors of geography had been trained in other fields, in most cases the natural sciences. Self-taught in geography, few of them outside Germany were fa miliar with its past development.

One consequence was that geography tended to separate into two parts: one natural, more commonly called physical geography, and one human or social, sometimes called economic geography. (In different countries and in different institutions in the same country practice varies as to whether the subject is part of the natural science faculty, part of the social science faculty, or split between the two.) For many students, on the other hand, it was the connections between the two parts, the man-land relationships, that constituted the distinctive subject matter of geography. During the period of its initial establishment as a university subject in the English-speaking countries, geography was commonly defined as the study of the relationships, in whichever direction, between the natural environment and man. This “environmen talist” concept of the field seems to have been first formulated in Germany, and then in France, late in the nineteenth century, but it was very soon discarded, both in theory and practice by German geographers and, to a large degree, in practice by those of France; in both countries geography returned to its historic focus of interest in the study of the distinctive character of the areas of the earth. This concept and its historical background were made familiar to American and British geographers only in the 1920s and 1930s. And although today few geographers would assert the environmentalist concept, many of its aspects, notably the emphasis on a man-nature dichotomy, still color much of their writing. [seeEnvironmentalism.]

Modern geography, like the geography of past centuries, studies the earth as the space in which man lives—his habitat, milieu, or environment. This includes not just part of the environment, the physical or natural part, but the total environment; in any inhabited area the environment of today has been in part produced by man, and the existing population constitutes a living factor in the present environment. Geography, of course, is not alone in studying man’s environment. Many fields in the natural and social sciences study a particular category of phenomena, not excluding its distribution and variations over the earth. What geography, and geography alone, studies is the areal character of the earth in which man lives—the form, the content, and the function of each areal part, region, or place and the pattern of and interconnections between the areal parts.

If the total diversity of places and their interrelations were simply the sum of areal variations and connections of physical, biological, and social phe nomena, the subject could readily be divided into distinct fields: physical geography, biogeography, and human, or social, geography; or possibly two parts, the geography of nature and the geography of man. In reality, however, the phenomena of these several abstract categories are in many cases very closely interrelated in their areal variations and connections from place to place. Indeed, what the geographer observes as individual features—i.e., a soil, river water, a farm, a transport route—are element complexes in which factors of physical, animate, and social origin are so intricately interwoven as to require study within a single field.

Places or areas, large or small, may be studied either specifically or generically. Human interest in individual places is indicated by the practice from earliest times of giving each area a proper name—“Hudson River,” “Pennsylvania,” or “the South.” Geography, like history, is ultimately concerned with attaining maximum comprehension of individual cases. An essential step in the description as well as the understanding of the individual area is the determination of its generic characteristics. When we speak of places as “deserts,” “can yons,” “cities,” “farms,” or “culture areas,” we limit the criteria in each case to a few closely interrelated features, overlooking aspects in which places of the same type may be radically different. Comparative study of the characteristics of places by kind may reveal indications of significant correspondence, leading to hypotheses of generic relationships. [The use of modern statistical methods to discover and determine such correlations is discussed below in Geography, article onstatistical geography.]

Among the social sciences geography, like history, overlaps the fields which study a particular category—economic, political, or sociological. In geography, as in history, it is the integrated combinations of diverse elements, in their complex inter relationships, that form the direct subjects of study. While the ultimate objective in geography is comprehension of the full integration of areas, analysis requires focusing successively on partial integrations. Comparative study of areas, to establish generic concepts and relationships, must be limited to partial integrations over many areas or over the whole world. Such studies may be confined to a very narrow topic, such as the relation of crop yield to rainfall, or may cover the whole group of features which form the economy of areas. [Divisions of human geography based on common groupings of social features are treated in the articles that follow.]

Richard Hartshorne


An excellent introduction by a professional geographer is Broek 1965. A much more exhaustive treatment, with lengthy bibliographies, may be found in Hartshorne 1939; 1959; two collections of essays, James & Jones 1954 and Taylor 1951, should also be consulted. The classic work in German geography is Hettner 1927. The French literature is reviewed in Claval 1964. The bibligraphies of the articles that follow should also be consulted.

Broek, Jan O. M. 1965 Geography: Its Scope and Spirit. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill.

Claval, Paul 1964 Essai sur I’évolution de la géographic humaine. Cahiers de géographie de Besançon, No. 12. Paris; Les Belles-Lettres.

Crone, Gerald R. 1951 Modern Geographers: An Outline of Progress in Geography Since 1800 A.D. London: Royal Geographical Society.

Freeman, Thomas W. (1961) 1963 A Hundred Years of Geography. Chicago: Aldine.

Hartshorne, Richard (1939) 1964 The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past. Lancaster, Pa.: Association of American Geographers.

Hartshorne, Richard 1959 Perspective on the Nature of Geography. Association of American Geographers, Monograph Series, No. 1. Chicago: Rand McNally. → A restatement and, in part, an extensive revision of Hartshorne (1939).

Hettner, Alfred 1927 Die Geographie: Ihre Geschichte, ihr Wesen und ihre Methoden. Breslau (then Ger many): Hirt.

James, Preston E.; and Jones, Clarence F. (editors) (1954) 1964 American Geography: Inventory and Prospect. Syracuse Univ. Press.

National Council for the Social Studies 1959 Year book, 29th: New Viewpoints in Geography. Edited by James E. Preston. Washington: The Council.

Taylor, Thomas Griffith (editor) (1951) 1958 Geography in the Twentieth Century: A Study of Growth, Fields, Techniques, Aims and Trends. 3d ed., enl. New York: Philosophical Library.


Political geography may be defined from the disciplinary perspective of either geography or political science. From the former perspective, political geography appears as “the study of political phenomena in their areal context” (Jackson 1964, p. 1). This is amplified in the statement political geography is “the study of areal differences and similarities in political character as an interrelated part of the total complex of areal differences and similarities” (Hartshorne et al. 1954, p. 178). Attention to areal dimensions and patterns—sug gested by such terms as location, distance, space, distribution, configuration—is also evident in research under the rubric of political science; the same holds for research in political history and politically oriented research in sociology and other disciplines.

Concepts and techniques

Classical writings on political subjects contain many speculations regarding man’s relations to the earth (Thomas 1925). Several contemporary political scientists have given special attention to areal aspects of political institutions, processes, relationships, and policies (e.g., Spykman 1938; 1942; 1944; Spykman & Rollins 1939; Deutsch 1953; Smuckler 1953; Herz 1957; Sprout 1931; 1963; Sprout & Sprout 1946; 1960; 1962; 1965). But with very few exceptions (e.g., Van Dyke 1960, p. 128), commentaries on the political science discipline deal with the areal focus trivially or not at all.

Geographers have given more attention to areal aspects of political phenomena. Although its antecedents go back to the nineteenth century and earlier (Hartshorne 1935), the modern field of political geography dates in America from World War I (e.g., Bowman 1921) and in Europe from somewhat earlier (Ratzel 1897; George 1901; Mackinder 1902; 1904; 1911-1923; Fairgrieve 1915; and others). The American college catalogues of 1930 announced few courses in political geography. Thirty years later the number exceeded 300, a growth accompanied by proliferation of teaching materials and buttressed by theoretical and substantive research. Contributors to theory include Whittlesey (1939), Hartshorne (1935; 1950), Gottmann (1952), and Jones (1954a; 1954b).

In the idiom of modern geography, geographic quality attaches to any phenomena, human as well as nonhuman, intangible as well as tangible, exhibiting areal dimensions and associations that “give character to particular places” (James & Jones 1954, p. 4). To anticipate a point that will be stressed later, areal patterns of behavior and other intangible human phenomena are becoming increasingly central to research in political geog raphy.

Similarly, the “political” in political science refers to more than the formal apparatus of government; political quality attaches to any aspect of power and influence in society. A community organized on the basis of power is by definition a political community. Every political community (though not every political organization) has a territorial base. Country, often used as a synonym for state, denotes the territorial aspect of a state. Province, city, village, school district, port authority, and other subdivisions of a state all carry territorial connotations. The same holds for empire, political bloc, coalition, and other terms that identify units and combinations of units in imperial and international relationships.

Political areas

In the idiom of geography, any section of the earth’s surface delineated by refer ence to political criteria is a political area. These criteria include de jure jurisdiction and authoritative decision making. Political areas so delineated include nation-states, their formally constituted subdivisions, and empires. These are unquestion ably significant political areas, and a great deal of political geography has been written in terms of them. As geographers have emphasized (e.g., Whit tlesey 1935), the “impress” of political authority changes both the physical and social aspects of landscapes: it affects, for example, inspection stations and other boundary structures; transportation grids that conform to political requirements (e.g., Wolfe 1963); movements of goods and peo ple within a frame of migration and commercial laws; and linguistic and other cultural homoge neities imposed by political authority.

But delineating political areas by reference only to political authority and legal jurisdiction leaves many phenomena uncovered: for example, it does not account for frontier zones that exhibit political homogeneities of personal behavior at variance with de jure jurisdiction (Hartshorne 1950), and areal patterns of behavior that are within a recog nized territorial jurisdiction but not coterminous with its boundaries, such as the region of “isolation” in the United States (Smuckler 1953) or the Washington—Boston “megalopolis” (Gottmann 1961).

The criteria of jurisdiction and authority completely fail to delineate areas that exhibit patterns of political interaction but no overarching organization of authority. These are the characteristic patterns of international politics, whether of the society of nations as a global whole or of less-than-global areas such as the communist “realm,” the so-called free world, the Atlantic “community,” and many others.

Geographers have traditionally emphasized the more tangible aspects of political areas. This emphasis is evident in Sauer’s morphological conception of political geography as “the study of political landscapes”—i.e., “the administrative centers, the boundaries, and the defensive lines and positions” (1927, p. 208). With reference to political bound aries, Fischer (1949) noted that geographers have usually stressed the stabilizing influence of physio graphicfactors, often to the neglect of historical and other cultural processes. Stephen B. Jones (1959) reviewed the geographical literature on boundaries, analyzing the ways in which these have been conceived in different places and periods.

Geographers have given increasing attention to intangible factors and to processes of social change. This trend is evident in the writings noted above. In a plea for more “functional” political geography, Hartshorne (1950) emphasized the importance of “centripetal” and “centrifugal” ideas and social movements in the evolution of state areas. Gottmann (1951) introduced the concepts of circulation (a French term for which the nearest English equivalent is probably “movement”) and icono-graphie (symbols that foster loyalty, solidarity, and conformity) as organizing ideas for the analysis of change and resistance to change in political areas. Jones (1954a) brought these and other ideas together in a “unified field theory.”

Political potential

In a period of history, the results of political interaction, whether within a single national community or upon the broader stage of international politics, exhibit areal patterns of coercion–submission and influence-deference. Within nation-states and empires, these patterns evolve under processes of authoritative decision making, no matter how primitive or obscure these processes may be. The patterns of international politics, however, have evolved in the absence of legitimized overriding authority. In consequence, these patterns are derived in the main from less sharply delineated images of the distribution of power and influence among the interacting national communities.

There is no standard term to denote the aggre gate pressure, pull, attraction, or simply effect that one nation or coalition exerts on the behavior of others. The term “power,” with its strong military connotations, is too restrictive, since relations of influence–deference are derived from a much broader spectrum of behavior than coercion–sub mission—i.e., brute force and the threat of it. The term “political potential” has been suggested to denote this broader spectrum (Sprout & Sprout 1962, p. 158).

The concept of political potential has definite areal connotations. It expresses areal variations in the intensity and efficacy of a government’s demands on other nations, i.e., when and how it gets what where. In addition, political potential expresses the total, or aggregative, effect of a nation’s statecraft plus effects deriving from that nation’s sheer presence on the international landscape, which are evident in the behavior of other nations. Common sense, confirmed by observation, indicates that location, distance, space, the configuration of lands and seas, and the distributions of population, raw materials, technology, institutions, ideologies, and other phenomena may all have some bearing on the political potential of every nation and on the resulting patterns of political interaction and relationship [seeMilitary power potential].

Maps of the international potentials of both particular states and the major regions and the society of nations as a whole might somewhat resemble a topographic contour map. Such maps, however, do not exist; perhaps the available data are too amorphous and ambiguous to render trustworthy mapping possible in the present state of knowledge. But studies of political potential from a geographic perspective, utilizing geographic methods, should help to clarify the areal concepts implicit in the vocabulary of international politics—e.g., bipolar-ity, polycentricity, balance of power, sphere of influence, political orbit, and many others in common use [seeInternational politics].

Geographic areas and political systems

Although geographers and political scientists share an inter est in political phenomena, their disciplinary frame works are recognizably different. Political scientists exhibit interest in areal dimensions and patterns only to the extent that these seem to contribute to an understanding of institutions, processes, relationships, and issues of public concern. In conse quence, political analysts tend to view geographic dimensions and patterns from a predominantly ecological perspective, i.e., relations between “po litical actors” and their milieux. The ways in which students of politics generally frame problems tend to focus attention especially on the psychological linkages between actor and milieu (Sprout & Sprout 1965).

For most geographers (but there are many exceptions) interest in ecological relationships, although generally active, tends to be subsidiary to areal patterns per se. However, this contrast in perspective should not be exaggerated. When one considers the increasing attention that geographers are giving to intangible social patterns and their evolution through time and to the values and moti vations that underlie such patterns, it may be more nearly correct to say that “area” is simply the frame of reference within which geographers study polit ical behavior and its results.

In political theory the concept of system has come to occupy a position somewhat analogous to the concept of area in geography [seeSystems analysis]. These organizing ideas are interestingly relatable. What appears from the geographic perspective to be a political area—city, province, state, empire, major political region, etc.—may appear from the viewpoint of political science to be a system, i.e., a constellation of political units (in dividuals, groups, or organized communities) that interact and relate in describable patterns. Hartshorne and others have emphasized the comple mentarity of these perspectives (James & Jones 1954, p. 174).

This complementarity comes through strongly in Jones’s “unified field theory of political geography” (1954a). Jones’s model consists of five interconnecting categories—“political idea-decision-move ment-field-political area.” These are likened to a “chain of lakes or basins … at one level, so that whatever enters one will spread to all the others.” There are close counterparts to Jones’s “basins” in other vocabularies. His term “political idea” ap proximates the concepts of image and goal-orientation in behavioral theory. “Decision” is just what it is elsewhere. “Movement” and “field” seem to be more or less analogous to a course of action that changes, even as it is changed by, the encompas sing milieu. Finally, “political area” includes “any political organized area” that has “recognized limits, though not necessarily linear or permanent.” Thus, the communist international system, the Atlantic alliance, the British Commonwealth, or any other international system constitutes (with suitable change in perspective and terminology) a political area, just as does a state, a subdivision thereof, or any other areally expressible system of political interaction.

Flow from idea to area, in Jones’s model, is the process by which people control and alter their milieu. The idea of man as a geographic agent, refashioning the landscape along with the physical processes of nature, is an important concept of modern geography. It was given arresting expression in the mid-nineteenth century (see Glacken 1956, pp. 70 ff.) and, more recently, by Sauer (1925) and others. The increasing capacity in technically advanced societies to alter the milieu has immense political implications.

The concept of flow from idea to area, in Jones’s model—i.e., from image and purpose to operational result in the behavioral idiom—rests (more often implicitly than explicitly) on the general man–milieu hypothesis of “possibilism.” This is the proposition that the capacities of the actor and the properties of his milieu set limits to his accomplishment with reference to any given course of action and that these limitations may be operative irrespective of whether or how he perceives and takes them into account. One corollary is the hypothesis that the higher the level of technology, the greater becomes human capacity to control and modify nonhuman components of the milieu. Another corollary is that an operator’s ability to affect the behavior of human components of his milieu depends on his capabilities in relation to theirs at the place where their relative capabilities are tested.

The reverse flow, from area to idea, in Jones’s model, is the process by which the milieu is said to condition human behavior. This conditioning process has been a focus of controversy, largely because of the teleological imagery to which many writers (though not Jones) are addicted. The influences ascribed to nature or to other aspects of the milieu can be expressed, free from teleological overtones, by such psychological concepts as perception, cognition, recognition, stimulus, response, feedback, etc. (Sprout & Sprout 1965). Expressing the conditioning process in such terms emphasizes the complementarity of geography and behavioral science. With certain exceptions, usually unimportant in political contexts, the phenomena of psychological stimulus and response provide the only demonstrated path of influence from milieu to actor, from environment to environed organism, from “area” to “ideas.” The psychological nature of environmental conditioning of behavior (from which many areal patterns are derived) has long been understood, although not always clearly delineated (e.g., Mackinder 1919, p. 28; Febvre 1922, p. 171; James & Jones 1954, p. 13). At least one contemporary geographer has explicitly restated this process in the idiom of psychological theory (Kirk 1952).

Geographic techniques

A major contribution which geographers have made to the study of political phenomena is the development of graphic techniques. Most political areas are too large to be directly perceived in toto. The eye may not differentiate and relate various categories of phenomena distributed over the area, even when they are directly perceivable; hence the value of graphic modes of research, analysis, and presentation, by means of model globes, maps, cartograms, photographs, etc. (Bowman 1934, chapter 4; Boggs 1948). Maps delineating selected features of an area can be compared and superposed (e.g., Bowman [1921] 1928, pp. 146, 460). Large segments of the earth’s surface can be examined from different perspectives (Harrison 1944; Boggs 1945). High-altitude and low-altitude photographs and oblique-angle pictures add new dimensions and textures to the perception of smaller areas (e.g., Gutkind 1956, pp. 1 ff.). Maps and cartograms can deceive as well as inform and hence are powerful instruments of political propaganda (Boggs 1946). Maps and other graphic tools not only carry preconceived messages but, when studied, may also evoke new insights and hypotheses [seeCartography].

Research in political geography

The substantive literature divides roughly into two categories: (1) works that focus on political areas as such; and (2) works that utilize areal concepts and patterns to explain or to predict political events. This cleavage more or less follows disciplinary lines, but by no means consistently. Some of the more important theoretical works have been cited, and a few teaching books are included in the bibliography, along with works cited in this text. A more comprehensive bibliography is appended to the long essay on political geography in James and Jones (see Hartshorne et al. 1954).

With respect to research on particular political areas, one should distinguish between works that deal primarily with political phenomena in an areal context and those that merely utilize political boundaries as a frame of reference for a wider range of phenomena—e.g., works on areal distributions of agriculture, industry, communication grids, etc.

Works that are politically oriented in the stricter sense cluster around various focuses. One of these is the formation, expansion, and disintegration of political areas (e.g., Bowman 1921; Whittlesey 1939; Hartshorne 1950; Deutsch 1953). The following are of particular interest: Herz’s analysis of the formation of modern “large-area” states and of the advances in technology that are making these states progressively vulnerable to economic, psychological, and military penetration (1957); Vevier’s essay on geographical ideas in the territorial expansion of the United States (I960); and Hart’s hypotheses regarding the logistical requisites of political areas (1949). There are many studies of functioning political areas which reflect the varied research perspectives and methods of several disciplines. The Searchlight Series, edited by G. W. Hoffman and G. E. Pearcy, offers a continually growing list of short books of this type.

A second focus is on the analysis of political areas in the light of population growth, spreading communication grids, industrialization, and urban sprawl (e.g., Gottmann 1961; Wolfe 1963). Worthy of special mention is Mumford’s historical study of cities (1961).

A third focus is on areal patterns delineated not by political authority but by civic attitudes and preferences. This involves studies of integrative and disintegrative ideas and movements within state areas (e.g., Hartshorne 1950); attitudes toward the “national space” (e.g., Herman’s study of communist China, 1959); regional variations in civic postures toward public problems such as military defense and foreign policy (e.g., Beard 1934; Sprout & Sprout 1939; Smuckler 1953).

A fourth focus is on the role of political authority in the development, use, depletion, conservation, and renewal of resources. These questions are approached from different angles in International Symposium on Man’s Role …(1956) and also in Udall (1963) and Herber (1962). The effects of resource use and of regulations governing use constitute important exhibits of the “impress” of political authority upon the earth.

A fifth research focus is on political regions larger than nation-state areas. These include an cient and modern empires (e.g., Fawcett 1951; Fisher 1950) and international regions delineated in various ways (Jones 1955a). Boggs’s essay on the Western Hemisphere (1945) focused attention on the need for precise criteria for delineating ma jor political regions. This need is exemplified in some textbooks, in which political regions are variously delineated by physiographic, historical, broadly cultural, or other criteria, sometimes with out clear demonstration of political relevance.

The geographic dimensions and patterns of in ternational politics have been analyzed from various perspectives. Virtually every textbook on international politics gives attention to the uneven distribution of people and things among nations. Areal variations are recognized to be strategic in the estimation of state capabilities (e.g., Sprout & Sprout 1962; Jones 1954b). Such variations form the basis of hypotheses invented to explain or to predict patterns of interaction in the society of nations (Jones 1955a; 1955fc; Sprout 1963). Such hypotheses represent attempts to identify factors whose uneven distribution in space provides a plausible explanation of international patterns.


Most attention has been given to hypotheses derived from the global and regional configuration of lands and seas. These include Mahan’s sea-power interpretation of history (1900; Sprout & Sprout 1962); Mackinder’s hypothesis of trend toward a world empire based in the “heartland” of Eurasia (1904; 1919), later modified considerably (see especially 1911-1923, vol. 2; 1943); and variants and critiques of Mahan’s and Mackinder’s theories too numerous to list here [seeMackinder; Mahan; see also, e.g., Fairgrieve 1915; Dorpalen 1942; Spykman 1944; East & Moodie 1956, chapter 18].

Climatic variations have inspired another set of geopolitical hypotheses and critiques (e.g., Huntington 1915; Wheeler 1946; Mills 1949; Missenard 1954). International political patterns have also been linked with the uneven distribution of the various raw-material requisites of modern industry. There is some disposition to regard areal differentials in technology as the critical variable (e.g., Brown 1956), a hypothesis that has been linked with demographic distribution to produce a prediction that international political patterns will ultimately be determined by the latter. The pre diction is based on the premise that technological primacy will vary with relative numbers of supe rior scientists and other gifted individuals, the incidence of such individuals varying, in the long run, with the size of population (Blount 1957; critique by Sprout 1963).

The adjective “geopolitical” requires some explanation. Political geography in general, and in ternational political geography in particular, is often confused with geopolitics. This word entered the English language as a loose translation of Geopolitik, which came, in the interwar period, 1919-1939, to denote mobilization of areal knowl edge for purposes of state—in short, geo-policy. Geopolitics was associated in particular with the Institut für Geopolitik in Munich, directed by Karl Haushofer, a general turned geographer and propagandist, who is widely believed (perhaps mistakenly) to have contributed significantly to Hitler’s strategy of conquest (e.g., Dorpalen 1942; Fifield 1945).

Because certain Germans exploited the concept of Lebensraum and other geopolitical ideas for aggressive purposes, many in America and else where illogically concluded that any mixing of geography and politics must be tainted with war and conquest. Geographers insisted that geopolitics was a part of political science. Political scientists tossed the pariah subject back to the geographers. Time has blurred the odious policy connotations of geopolitics, perhaps more so in America than in Europe. The term has even acquired some respect ability, especially in the context of military-defense analysis.

The adjective “geopolitical,” never as value laden as the noun “geopolitics,” was employed sparingly in the 1930s (e.g., Whittlesey 1939), and increasingly in more recent years, to denote the areal aspect of any political pattern and, in particular, hypotheses that purport to explain or to predict areal distributions and patterns of political potential in the society of nations. All such hypotheses represent assessments of opportunities and limitations implicit in the properties of the interacting political communities and of the milieu in which they operate. Such assessments (in the idiom of ecological theory) are essentially possibilistic, even though they may be expressed in deterministic or near deterministic rhetoric (Sprout & Sprout 1965).

Harold Sprout

[See alsoEcology; International Politics. Other relevant material may be found underEnclaves and Exclaves; International Relations.]


Alexander, Lewis M. (1957) 1963 World Political Pat terns. 2d ed. Chicago: Rand McNally. → A college text organized regionally.

Beard, Charles A. 1934 The Idea of National Interest: An Analytical Study in American Foreign Policy. New York: Macmillan.

Blount, B. K. 1957 Science Will Change the Balance of Power. New Scientist 2, no. 32:8–9.

Boggs, S. W. 1945 This Hemisphere. U.S. Department of State, Bulletin 12:845–850.

Boggs, S. W. 1946 Cartohypnosis. U.S. Department of State, Bulletin 15:1119–1125.

Boggs, S. W. 1948 Geographic and Other Scientific Techniques for Political Science. American Political Science Review 42:223–248.

Bowman, Isaiah (1921) 1928 The New World: Prob lems in Political Geography. 4th ed. New York: World. → The first edition is important as an early comprehensive American work on political geography; the later editions, considerably revised, have more enduring value.

Bowman, Isaiah 1934 Geography in Relation to the Social Sciences. New York: Scribner.

Brown, Harrison 1956 Technological Denudation. Pages 1023-1032 in International Symposium on Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, Prince ton, N.J., 1955, Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Edited by William L. Thomas et al. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Dasmann, Raymond F. 1963 The Last Horizon. New York: Macmillan.

Deutsch, Karl W. 1953 The Growth of Nations: Some Recurrent Patterns of Political and Social Integration. World Politics 5:168–195.

Dorpalen, Andreas 1942 The World of General Haus hofer. New York: Farrar.

East, William G.; and Moodie, A. E. (editors) 1956 The Changing World: Studies in Political Geography. New York: World. → A symposium textbook in the tradition of Isaiah Bowman’s The New World.

Fairgrieve, James (1915) 1941 Geography and World Power. 8th ed., rev. New York: Dutton. → After 1915 a new Chapter 18 was included that considerably altered the main thesis of the book.

Fawcett, Charles B. (1951) 1957 Geography and Em pire. Pages 418-432 in Thomas Griffith Taylor (edi tor), Geography in the Tvientieth Century. 2d ed., rev. New York: Philosophical Library.

Febvre, Lucien (1922) 1925 A Geographical Introduction to History. New York: Knopf. → First published as La terre et revolution humaine.

Fifield, Russell H. 1945 Geopolitics at Munich. U.S. Department of State, Bulletin 12:1152–1162.

Fischer, Eric 1949 On Boundaries. World Politics 1: 196–222.

Fisher, Charles A. 1950 The Expansion of Japan: A Study in Oriental Geopolitics. Geographical Journal 115:1-19, 179–193.

Fisher, Charles A. 1964 Southeast Asia: A Social, Economic, and Political Geography. New York: Dutton.

George, Hereford B. (1901) 1924 The Relations of Geography and History. 5th ed., rev. & enl. Oxford: Clarendon.

Glacken, Clarence J. 1956 Changing Ideas of the Habitable World. Pages 70-92 in International Sym posium on Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, Princeton, N.J., 1955, Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Edited by William L. Thomas et al. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Goblet, Yann M. 1955 Political Geography and the World Map. New York: Praeger.

Gottmann, Jean 1951 Geography and International Re lations. World Politics 3:153–173.

Gottmann, Jean 1952 La politique des etats et leur geographic Paris: Colin.

Gottmann, Jean (1961) 1964 Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. Cam bridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press. → An urban-economic evaluation of the nature of a continuously urbanized section of the eastern United States.

Gutkind, E. A. 1956 Our World From the Air: Conflict and Adaptation. Pages 1-44 in International Sym posium on Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, Princeton, N.J., 1955, Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Edited by William L. Thomas et al. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Harrison, Richard E. 1944 Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas for World Strategy. New York: Knopf.

Hart, Hornell 1949 Technology and the Growth of Political Areas. Pages 28-57 in William F. Ogburn (editor), Technology and International Relations. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Hartshorne, Richard 1935 Recent Developments in Political Geography. American Political Science Review 29:785-804, 943–966.

Hartshorne, Richard 1950 The Functional Approach in Political Geography. Association of American Geographers, Annals 40:95–130.

Hartshorne, Richard 1959 Perspective on the Nature of Geography. Association of American Geographers, Monograph Series, No. 1. Chicago: Rand McNally. → A restatement and, in part, an extensive revision of “The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Cur rent Thought in the Light of the Past,” published in 1939.

Hartshorne, Richard et al. 1954 Political Geography. Pages 167-225 in Preston E. James and Clarence F. Jones (editors), American Geography: Inventory and Prospect. Syracuse Univ. Press. → An excellent bibli ography appears on pages 222–225.

Herber, Lewis 1962 Our Synthetic Environment. New York: Knopf.

Herman, Theodore 1959 Group Values Toward the National Space: The Case of China. Geographical Review 49:164–182.

Herz, John H. 1957 Rise and Demise of the Territorial State. World Politics 9:473–493.

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Jackson, W. A. douglas (editor) 1964 Politics and Geographic Relationships. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. → A well-chosen collection of teaching materials drawn from several disciplines.

James, Preston E.; and Jones, Clarence F. (editors) 1954 American Geography: Inventory and Prospect. Univ. of Syracuse Press.

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The subject matter of economic geography is related substantively and historically to both disciplines from which the field receives its name. It obtains from geography an emphasis upon similarities and differences from area to area, large and small, on the earth’s surface, and upon linkages or circulations between areas. It acquires from economics an interest in the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of goods and services. Economic geography therefore may be denned as an inquiry into similarities, differences, and link ages within and between areas in the production, exchange, transfer, and consumption of goods and services. Particular attention is given to the location of economic activity, considered both in theoretical and practical terms [seeSpatial economics].

Relationship to geography and economics. Economic geography is so intimately a part of the whole of geography that separating it from the general field is difficult. Because gaining a livelihood not only is essential to human existence but also involves a wide range of cultural and natural (physical and biological) features and interrelationships between those features, most matters of concern within economic geography are of concern within the over-all discipline, and vice versa. This is especially true if natural and noneconomic cultural features are considered in terms of their positive and negative implications for human use of earth space in gaining a livelihood. However, the emphasis upon livelihood in economic geogra phy does mean a corresponding reduction of attention to those cultural or natural conditions which may be only loosely related to spatial aspects of livelihood. Thus, for example, neither the cultural origin of a religious belief nor the process of land-form development is of direct interest to the economic geographer unless applicable in some way— as an advantage or constraint—to the location and interrelationships of economic activities.

As in the whole of geography, the spectrum of the totality of interrelationships in economic geography may be horizontal (involving different areas or different points within a given area), vertical (involving a morphological column of cultural and natural features at a specific point on the earth’s surface), or both horizontal and vertical. Hori zontal relationships are stressed in most work now being carried on.

We may consider economic geography, therefore, as emphasizing the livelihood aspects of the whole of geography, rather than as a compartment of the parent discipline. The field has a direct tie to economics and, by way of the whole of geog raphy, indirect ties to other disciplines in the social and natural sciences. So considered, the field by definition is sufficiently broad in scope to antici pate any methodological changes from time to time and place to place, although specific approaches, concepts, points of view and emphasis, immediate objectives, and methods have ranged rather widely with change of either time or place.

Trends. However, among economic geographers there is lack of agreement as to specific direction, particularly in the United States and Canada. For a time after its emergence as a separate field in the United States, during the early years of the twentieth century, economic geography relied primarily upon the inductive approach, with individual scholars aggregating ideas and data from field and library work into descriptions, classifications, and qualitative interpretations, utilizing numerical evidence when possible. Partially because of limitations on the amount of information obtainable in these ways, emphasis was placed on the unique or at least the distinctive features and interrelationships in both systematic and regional work; generalizations were made when possible. Although this approach continues to be utilized profitably by many economic geographers, the past decade has marked the emergence of a new school of thought, with immediate roots going as far back as the 1930s and indirect roots into the early portion of the nineteenth century. This school has chosen an explicitly theoretical approach, emphasizing nomothetic research and depending ap preciably upon mathematical abstraction. In the early 1960s the suggestion was made that geography basically is concerned with systems analysis (Ackerman 1963) and that the overriding problem of geography is understanding the man-land system of the earth. This giant system in turn is considered by Ackerman to comprise a large number of hierarchically arranged subsystems and processes. Such a concept places economic geography in the position of searching for laws involving livelihood within a context of systems analysis applied to earth space. The degree to which the concept has been generally accepted is not yet certain.

Two basic rationales. Like the over-all discipline, economic geography in the United States and Canada can be visualized in terms of two funda mental rationales—the topical, or systematic (not to be confused with system in systems analysis), and the regional. In economic geography both rationales focus on primary activities (here, as generally in economics, considered to be agriculture, grazing, forest-products industries, mining, fishing, and hunting), secondary activities (manufacturing and construction), and tertiary activities (all other occupations). The two rationales differ espe cially as to initial starting position. The topical, or systematic, rationale begins with structural aspects and works toward their earth-space expression and relationships, whereas the regional begins with space and works toward structure. The respective starting positions are usually reflected in various emphases in the completed works. Both rationales can be divided into subjects which themselves have become research interests for certain economic geographers. In practice these subjects are usually called systematic or topical specialties. Agricultural geography, manufacturing geography, and marketing geography have been of long-standing interest. Transportation geography and theoretical approaches to certain tertiary activities and domestic trading patterns have been developed actively within the past decade [seeCentral place]. In addition, increasing attention is being given to recreation geography and to aspects of tertiary ac tivities not yet accorded full consideration, to geographical aspects of international trade, and to the economic geography of primary activities other than agriculture. Work has begun on the geogra phy of consumption and the geography of price.

Because economic activities are earth based and may be clustered, as to location and/or function, into patterns of differing kinds and intensity, regions are important to economic geography. As in the whole of geography, regions in economic geography may be either homogeneous or nodal. The homogeneous region, sometimes called the formal region, is more or less an inventory of static features and relationships within an area that has been delimited on the basis of prevailing homo geneity of at least one feature. Both cultural and natural features and relationships may be so classified: the spring wheat belt, the manufacturing belt between Chicago and New York, and the Appa lachian Mountains are three examples in North America of this classification. Each example has been delimited on the basis of a single criterion, but multiple-criterion regions are possible at higher levels of generalization.

The nodal, or functional, region classifies hu man organization of earth space. This region has a point of focus (such as a city or town), an organ ized area of mutual interdependence with respect to that point and associated territory (such as the trading area of a city or town), and connecting lines to the territory (such as transportation and communication routes) providing the linkage (such as commuter and freight traffic and communications flows) between the point and the area.

Both the homogeneous and the nodal regions are here envisaged as means of classification and not as objective entities to be discovered in a scien tific sense. Either type of region can be considered at various levels of observation and detail. When several levels are superimposed, a pyramidlike framework with hierarchical tendencies may be recognizable.

Realms of interdisciplinary contact. Besides its subfields, economic geography extends into realms of interest shared with other disciplines. The uti lization and conservation of natural and human re sources is of long-standing interest to some economic geographers. More recently, the development of regional science is of definite interest to some economic geographers, many of whom participated in that development. Especially in the 1960s some economic geographers have become very interested in regional inequalities of economic development, whether within a country or at a continental or global level of observation.

Theoretical and practical implications. The theoretical importance and practical significance of economic geography are inextricably intertwined. Theories seek optimum circumstances and efficien cy in human utilization of earth space: what are the most desirable size, spacing, and intermix of specific economic units of production, exchange, transfer, and consumption within selected typolo gies of cultural and natural conditions? On the other hand, evaluations of historical and current practices indicate the degree to which theoretical models are actually applicable, especially in view of the cultural institutions, personalities and wills of key individuals, and specific natural conditions of a given area. Such evaluations also provide a degree and type of qualitative insight not obtainable through hypothesis alone.

Once a satisfactory relationship between theory and practice has been established, a logical step is application to planning procedures. In economic geography the value of both theoretical and prag matic study to planning is clear, whether the view point of the planner is the broad outlook of the regional analyst, concerned with an intermix of varied economic activities and resources, or the more restricted and highly specialized view of the expert in finding locations for individual units of economic activity.

Methods of study. Inasmuch as developments and trends in the United States from 1904 to 1954, the first 50 years of geography’s existence as a uni versity discipline, have been evaluated elsewhere (James & Jones 1954), the events of succeeding years will be emphasized here. A survey of the literature indicates that research since 1954 can be divided into three categories, on the basis of approach and method: qualitative interpretation, usually with substantial numerical evidence and sometimes making use of the case-study technique; quantitative classification, in a more or less de scriptive sense, with qualitative elaboration and explanation and involving a specific procedure applicable to different areas and time periods; and formulation and testing of specific hypotheses and models. These approaches have been applied, with varying degrees of intensity, to most facets of economic geography, but they will be discussed here with respect to agriculture, manufacturing, trade, and transportation.

Agricultural geography. All three approaches are utilized in agricultural geography, which is still a subject of keen interest. Books and articles in volving qualitative interpretation are diverse as to specific subject matter, but most can be classified under certain broad headings. Approximately one-third of the articles on agriculture appearing in four professional journals of the United States and Canada—Annals (Association of American Geog raphers), Canadian Geographer, Economic Geogra phy, Geographical Review—treated a specific agri cultural activity in a definite area, evaluating such aspects as type and size of enterprises, natural environmental advantages or constraints, combinations of selected crops and livestock with other crops and livestock, allocation of land, general farming practices, and trends. One-fourth empha sized over-all use of agricultural land in a specified area, considering other aspects of agricultural geography in a subsidiary way. Nearly one-fifth were concerned primarily with reclamation of agri cultural land—irrigation, drainage, erosion control, etc. A final one-fourth involved miscellaneous in terests, such as land redistribution in a given area, agricultural colonies of a minority group in a given area, land tenure in a specified place, the economic development of a country that is heavily dependent on agriculture, and the historical geography of agri cultural change in a selected location, etc. These four categories of qualitative interpretation, which cover the most numerous writings on agricultural geography in literature published in the United States and Canada, provide valuable insight into conditions evaluated by each author but have almost no common denominator.

Descriptive and analytic interpretation of a quantitative nature involves a classification based on numerical information, preferably official data continually available. The classification reveals pattern when plotted on a map and hence may be used to construct generic regions (typologies of regions) based on quantitative criteria. Once the criteria become standardized on a world-wide basis, the classifications will become standardized and applicable to all parts of the world. In principle both the homogeneous and the functional region may be so constructed, but in practice the homo geneous region has received the most attention to date in agricultural work. Prior to 1954 most studies were based on inadequate quantitative evi dence, rather highly generalized, and presented at continental or even global levels of observation. Weaver (1954, especially pp. 175-184) applied a greater measure of objectivity to an area of inter mediate size, aggregating data from county units to compute, for the Middle West of the United States, areal differences in crop combinations on the basis of degree of variance from a theoretical curve of optimal combinations. Subsequent work by other geographers includes a quantitative sampling approach to agricultural regionalization, the application of multiple correlation and regression analysis to rural farm population densities in the Great Plains, and the statistical association of cash grain farming in the Middle West with landforms.

The application of hypotheses to agricultural geography has been based on a rediscovery of im plications of Thiinen’s pioneer work treating the effect of transport cost and market price on crop and livestock combinations (1826–1863). Cur rent research suggests that, while the influence of distance to market on agricultural land use does not result today in patterns so simple as those set down by Thtinen, the influence of market price and transport cost does exist and can be analyzed mathematically [seeRent].

Manufacturing geography. Qualitative interpre tation of manufacturing geography, as indicated in publications of the United States and Canada, has been applied especially to areas other than Anglo-America, usually where numerical information is not fully available. Such an article or monograph may be an appraisal of a specific industry or group of industries or may involve a general examination of all manufacturing. The method of the historical geographer, providing the time di mension, may or may not be utilized. The case study is seldom used. Work involving only qualitative interpretation constitutes a relatively small percentage of all studies in manufacturing geog raphy, largely because numerical data are available to a greater degree than, for example, in agri culture.

Quantitative classifications are numerous in manufacturing geography. Labor force and value added are usually the criteria of measurement, although the list of possibilities is long and includes value of product, wages paid, amount of energy consumed, area of ground space, area of floor space, and land value. One such classification, with labor force used as the measuring criterion, has revealed structural and spatial changes in the manufacturing of the United States. Another has been based on magnitude (number of employees, wages paid, and value added) and intensity (ratios of labor force and value added to selected national totals), the classification being applied, with allow ance for kind and amount of data available, to the United States, Japan, and the Soviet Union. In still another classification based on labor force and value added, the author developed a technique for showing change over time on a single map and applied his technique not only to conditions within specific regions but also to differential rates of regional growth, as measured by national totals. Another study classified cities by labor force on the basis of prevailing industries, after first removing from consideration the city-serving functions of the industries. Several indices of industrial di versification also have been developed, with labor force the prime criterion of measurement. A typology of manufacturing flows relies, on the one hand, upon the orientation of manufacturing to raw materials or agglomerations of input factors and, on the other, upon access to both national and regional markets.

Increased attention is also being accorded theo retical approaches to manufacturing geography. Here, especially, work is being shared—by economic geography and regional science [seeRegional science]. Among initial geographical mod els was a construction by Harris (1954) showing the importance of market potential to industrial localization. Other geographers have used models to measure association tendencies in manufactur ing, concluding that agglomeration is a very important force. Models have been used to examine tendencies of high-value-added manufacturing to concentrate in certain areas, and they have also been used to associate circular and cumulative causation with the growth of manufacturing and associated urbanization. [SeeEconomies of scaleandExternal economies and diseconomies.]

Geography of trade. Attention to trade in economic geography has focused especially on domes tic trade. Theoretical work is being pursued vigor ously under the stimulus of central-place theory. Pragmatic work, whether qualitative interpretation or quantitative classification, also has been of keen interest. This pragmatic work is usually called mar keting geography, although some studies in domes tic commodity flow would not necessarily be in cluded under such a heading. Early research of this kind was associated especially with urban geogra phy, which developed as a field in the first half of the twentieth century and is becoming increasingly important. This early research has been a valuable antecedent to both central-place theory and mar keting geography. From numerous studies of indi vidual urban units and, subsequently, from use of census information three significant contributions were made: the idea of the cityregion, a functional region of interdependent units, including an urban unit; the classification of all cities in a country by relatively dominant functions, as measured by nationwide norms; and the concept of an economic base comprised, on the one hand, of trading and related activities or portions of activities which provide financial support for a specified area and, on the other, of activities or portions of activities which merely provide local interaction and have no influence outside that area (James & Jones [1954] 1964, pp. 142-166, 245-251). Subsequently, Murphy and Vance (1954) developed a technique for delimiting the central business district (CBD), based on land use involving the retailing of goods and services and the provision of office space. Ullman (1957) developed a series of maps in terpreting commodity flow within the United States, emphasizing principles of complementarity, transferability, and intervening opportunity. Other writers have been interested in the most appropriate location for shopping centers, especially with respect to market areas shared by competing firms. Questions have been raised as to the necessity of formal theories in marketing geography, but as yet no definite answers have emerged. Meanwhile, in a related area efforts are being made to map and evaluate the spatial distribution of finance as an economic activity and to associate this distribution with trading areas of cities.

Most geographical work in international trade has been pragmatic. One study has associated broad regional patterns (countries or groups of countries) and degree of dependence upon categories of exports and imports, and another has classified countries by degree of dependence upon exports. Still another has examined the free port, concluding that it may have outlived its usefulness in technically advanced, highly industrialized coun tries. Thoman and Conkling (1967) appraised national and bloc trends in international trade between 1938 and 1963, dependence of individual economies upon exports and export specialties, and logistics and mechanics of such trade.

Transportation geography. Although transpor tation long has been treated in the literature of economic geography, its full significance is only coming to be realized as the functional region, which depends for interpretation largely upon the flow of commodities and people to and from central places, comes to the forefront of attention. This is especially true of linkage studies involving transportation and trade—the carrier and route, plus shipping costs, plus direction and composition of commodity and passenger movement, plus alternative opportunities for such movement. Such link age studies reveal the dynamic aspects of an area, whether for a specified time or with change over time. Again, all three categories of approach are to be seen, with qualitative interpretation utilized particularly to present an unusual idea or to appraise general conditions over a wide area where adequate numerical information is lacking. Some geographers, however, have produced excellent qualitative interpretations concerning areas, small or large, that are covered rather fully by census and comparable data. In addition, historical geographers have provided insight into the development of somewhat analogous transportation routes that have evolved at different times and for different purposes.

Classifications by density of route and by general direction and function of route, again usually at continental or global levels of observation, are not new in transportation geography; but these have been augmented, usually at national or regional levels, by more-detailed and more-meaningful studies. Models have also been used to indicate the impact of highways on geographic change, to anticipate the development of transportation networks, and to explain differential rates of growth in passenger traffic between leading airports.

Regional economic geography. Several recent books and monographs have applied regional approaches to economic geography. Gottmann (1961) evaluated the urban-economic aspects of Megalopolis, an urbanized section of the Atlantic seaboard of the United States stretching from Boston south ward beyond Washington, D.C. Hance (1964) presented a regional examination of Africa, based on many years of study there. Camu and his associates (1964) produced a regional-systematic survey of the economic geography of Canada, introducing a multiple-criterion regional construct and several new ideas in regionalization, including the areal distribution of the total amount and types of capital investment. These and similar works have carried forward the continuing aspects of traditional economic geography as expressed regionally. In addition, as has been shown, many economic geographers have contributed to regional science and to regional economic development.

Other viewpoints. Economic geography is widely accepted outside the United States and Canada and generally is defined in terms already stated. The field is especially comprehensive in the Soviet Union, by definition virtually replacing human geography (Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo SSSR [1961] 1962, especially pp. 31-44). Under the stimuli of dialectical materialism and national development, economic and physical geographers of the Soviet Union have devoted close attention to pragmatic aspects of their respective subdivisions of the over-all discipline. A keen interest also exists in the Soviet Union in planning, particularly in the roles of theory and measurement. An emerging school of thought there holds that geography should not be compartmentalized but be considered as a unit—a view somewhat similar to Ackerman’s concept of the discipline as a man-land system.

Europe and the United Kingdom have continued a long-standing interest in economic geography. German geographers have built on the work of Thünen and Alfred Weber, fusing these studies with evaluations of management practices, enterprises, and land use to produce a well-founded inductive-deductive concept of the field (Otremba 1953). The term “applied geography” has come into use, particularly in France but also in other parts of Europe and, recently, in the International Geographical Union (Phlipponneau 1960). Although not limited to economic geography, applied geography stresses maximum efficiency in man’s use of earth space. In the United Kingdom economic geographers have bridged the gap rather smoothly between the deductive and inductive approaches, providing valuable and well-written reviews that take cognizance of historical development (Estall & Buchanan 1961; Chisholm 1962). Planning is of long-standing interest to British economic geographers, and recent work evinces growth of theoretical work (Haggett 1965). In Scandinavia, notably Sweden, theoretical approaches have been utilized actively for a long time, although pragmatic work continues.

There are many examples in other countries of application of the approaches already mentioned. Qualitative interpretation frequently is a detailed inventory of available resources under specified conditions and cutoff limits. Classifications are becoming more numerous, and there is some experimentation with hypotheses.

No one of the three approaches in economic geography necessarily is superior to the others, and more work is urgently needed in all. As additional data become available and increasingly standardized internationally, classifications and theories probably will become more numerous and will be produced mainly by committee or team efforts. Qualitative interpretations by individuals, however, always will be necessary—not only to provide unusual stimuli and insights but also to bring together cogently the threads of complex ideas, a result that cannot be expected from anthologies.

Richard S. Thoman

[See alsoCentral Place; Conservation; Regional Science; Transportation.]


Ackerman, Edward A. 1963 Where Is a Research Frontier? Association of American Geographers, Annals 53:429–440. → A logical argument for the proc ess-system concept of geography as a nomothetic science.

Alexandersson, Gunnar; and NÕrstrÕm, GÕran 1963 World Shipping: An Economic Geography of Ports and Seaborne Trade. New York: Wiley. → A thorough assessment of ocean commerce and ports on a worldwide and regional basis.

Camu, Pierre; Weeks, E. P.; and Sametz, Z. W. 1964 Economic Geography of Canada. Toronto: Macmillan. → An intriguing systematic and regional survey, using a 68-region classification developed over a ten-year period.

Chatterjee, Shiba Prasad 1964 Fifty Years of Science in India: Progress of Geography. Calcutta: Indian Science Congress Association. → Contains a detailed bibliography.

Chisholm, Michael 1962 Rural Settlement and Land Use: An Essay in Location. London: Hutchinson’s University Library. → An able presentation of theoretical approaches to agricultural geography, viewed at different levels of observation and in cognizance of technical change.

Estall, R. C; and Buchanan, R. O. 1961 Industrial Activity and Economic Geography. London: Hutchinson’s University Library. → An excellent survey of selected theoretical and pragmatic considerations, in cluding government policy, in the location of industry.

Garrison, William L. 1959-1960 Spatial Structure of the Economy. Association of American Geographers, Annals 49:232-239, 471-482; 50:357–373. → An excellent review of trends and methods in theoretical economic geography.

Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo SSSR (1961) 1962 Soviet Geography: Accomplishments and Tasks. New York: American Geographical Society. → First published in Russian. A methodological statement by 56 leading Soviet geographers.

Ginsburg, Norton S. (editor) 1961 Atlas of Economic Development. Univ. of Chicago Press. A careful interdisciplinary effort to map economies by specified criteria and, through factor analysis, by combinations of those indices.

Gottmann, Jean (1961) 1964 Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press → An urban-economic evaluation of the nature of a continuous urbanized section of the eastern United States.

GrÖtewald, A. 1959 Von Thünen in Retrospect. English Geography 35:346–355.

Haggett, Peter (1965) 1966 Locational Analysis in Human Geography. New York: St. Martins.

Hance, William 1964 The Geography of Modern Africa. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Harris, Chauncy D. 1954 The Market as a Factor in the Localization of Industry in the United States. Association of American Geographers, Annals 44: 315–348. → An evaluation of the role of market potential in industrial location, especially as expressed in numbers of people and associated sales less shipping charges from specified central places.

James, Preston E.; and Jones, Clarence F. (editors) (1954) 1964 American Geography: Inventory and Prospect. Syracuse Univ. Press. → A survey of trends in geography during its first 50 years in the United States and of the status of geography at mid-century. See especially pages 3-68, 142-166, 240-332 and references in bibliographies to monographs by Richard Hartshorne.

Johnson, Hildegard B. 1962 A Note on Thünen’s Circles. Association of American Geographers, Annals 52:213–220.

Murphy, Raymond E.; and Vance, J. E. Jr. 1954 Delimiting the CBD. Economic Geography 30:189–222.

Otremba, Erich 1953 Allgemeine Agrar- und Industriegeographie. Stuttgart (Germany): Franckh’sche Verlagshandlung. → Provides a thorough review of the development and mid-1950 status of economic geography in Germany, especially the German Federal Republic.

Otremba, Erich 1957 Allgemeine Geographie des Welt-handels und des Weltverkehrs. Stuttgart (Germany): Franckh’sche Verlagshandlung.

Phlipponneau, Michel 1960 Géographie et action: Introduction à la géographie appliquée. Paris: Colin. → Emphasis on the need for study of the functional region, with attention to planning.

Taaffe, Edward J. 1962 The Urban Hierarchy: An Air Passenger Definition. Economic Geography 38:1–14. → An experiment in the use of a model to predict trends in air passenger traffic between major cities of the United States.

Thoman, Richard S.; and Conkling, Edgar C. 1967 Geography of International Trade. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. → A survey of characteristics and trends in world trade by global, regional, and national patterns, and of the logistics and mechanics involved in such trade.

ThÜnen, Johann H. von (1826–1863) 1930 Der iso-lierte Staat in Beziehung auf Landwirtschaft und Nationalökonomie. 3 vols. Jena (Germany): Fischer.

Ullman, Edward L. 1957 American Commodity Flow: A Geographical Interpretation of Rail and Water Traffic Based on Principles of Spatial Interchange. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

Weaver, John C. 1954 Crop-combination Regions in the Middle West. Geographical Review 44:175–200. → A pioneer experiment in close measurement of crop combinations in terms of relative percentages of harvested land.


Cultural geography as treated here is peculiar to American geography and can be understood as a complement to certain of the trends in American geography in the early part of this century. Cultural geography in a broader sense deals with any part of man’s culture in the same way that plant geography deals with the distribution of plant species and vegetation or that economic geography is concerned with the production and distribution of goods and services. Cultural geography in the narrower sense used here is also characterized by certain cultural topics with which it deals, although its unifying thread is its manner of using the anthropological idea of culture to give meaning to its material. The tracing of continuity in space and time can help account for cultures and culture traits whose presence may not seem satisfactorily explained by their function in meeting overt ends. The subject matter of cultural geography has been winnowed by its need of such probing into origins. Cultural geography is not a self-sufficient field of study that produces all its own data and examines them as part of a closed system; it is rather an exchange in which data and interpretations from many sources are examined from one general point of view.

Development. Physiography was emphasized in the formative period of American geography, which occurred around the turn of the century. The first human geography then admitted inquiry into selected relationships between man and his physical environment. Later, concern with the productive capacities of the land came to be coupled with the growth of an economic geography that concentrated on production and trade. Economic geog raphers either assumed or looked for a functionalism or an adherence to economic laws that assured efficiency.

Carl Sauer (1925; 1931) outlined a new cultural geography dealing with those elements of material culture that give character to area through being “inscribed into the earth’s surface.” The focus was to be on those works of man rather than on man himself. The study was to be empirical and historical, without preference for environmental or any other selected class of explanation. The elements studied were to be broadly economic as well as material, although Sauer (1941) was later to expand their scope.

Sauer’s proposals produced, first, a general change in the direction of American geography and, later, the more special cultural geography, whose early growth was chiefly through his own students. This cultural geography has increasingly occupied the territory its name and rationale have staked out; its content has been limited chiefly by what other fields have previously claimed.

European geography contributes a great portion of the material of cultural geography, especially in dealing with Europe’s own rich heritage, but mostly under the heading of a general human geography or a less inclusive social geography. The models for Sauer’s program were heavily German, especially Friedrich Ratzel’s work on culture spread, Eduard Hahn’s work on agricultural development, and regional studies focused on settlement history. Kulturgeographie continues as a broad division of geography in Germany, where the modern idea of culture developed, but it does not parallel the American cultural geography as a specific hub for the swapping of ideas (National Research Council …1965). The absence of a recognized cultural geography in Britain and France is hardly surprising, for the culture concept is less used in those countries (the genre de vie of Vidal de la Blache is similar in use but much less inclusive).

Content. Most studies in cultural geography develop one or more of the following subjects:

The growth of man’s exploitation of his habitat. The study of man’s use of his environment includes such topics as the early use of tools and implements, domestication of plants and animals, and the various economies of food production. Human development and human invention both have geographic dimensions in that they are composed of specific events occurring in specific places. The geographer’s concern with both the spatial arrangement and the qualities of habitats qualifies him for taking part in the reconstruction of man’s past as well as in the understanding of the present. The cultural geographer’s interest in the past begins with the beginning of man and follows his wanderings with ever more cultural equipment into new surroundings (Sauer 1952).

Archeology, history, physical geography, and field observation provide much of the raw material for work in this field. Archeology and history, each limited by its sources of data, must remain incom plete records. Cultural geography often asks questions they are least likely to have answered. Thus, many early chapters in man’s growth can at best be speculative theories that may remain unverified.

Physical change induced on the surface of the earth by man. Man’s material advance leaves its mark on the earth he works. Physical change may be an inadvertent product of man’s use of the land: soil erosion induced by cultivation, soil enrichment around human habitations, and vegetation change induced by grazing or burning. It may be a deliberate change, such as the clearing of woods or terracing of hillsides for farming (Spencer & Hale 1961). The actions of man and nature have been of such duration and of such intermixture as to be often no longer separable.

American concern with man’s part in the processes of physical geography dates from George P. Marsh’s writing, in 1864, of Man and Nature. A more recent study, Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth (International Symposium …1956), explores the earth as the imprint of man’s way of life, as a record of his past, and as a material resource for the present and future. The proc esses that explain the past may serve as guides for the future.

Settlement formsrural and urban. Settlement forms make up a large part of the features of the man-made landscape. Study of rural settlement has dealt mostly with house types, the arrangement of houses and other structures in relation to each other and to road networks, and the arrangement of fields. Although the settlement of the United States is recent, the history of its house forms is already partly lost, and tracing them is difficult (Kniffen 1965). The settlement patterns, more easily reconstructed, have converged on variations of the isolated farmstead. For most of Anglo-America the field pattern had to fit the rectangular survey; older areas show the confusion of metes and bounds, but traditional patterns survive, particularly in the old French riverine settlements. Reconstruction of the history of American settlement forms has not proceeded nearly so far as the inventorylike studies of rural patterns in Germany or of rural houses in Italy. Even where inventories are thorough, the forms have resisted satisfactory explanatory generalization.

American geographers have done relatively little with urban settlement forms. Enticing opportunities for study may be found in regionally dominant town and city plans, the pattern of street and lot layout, and cross-city comparison of house types, building materials, and architectural styles.

Nonmaterial culture, such as language and religion. Languages are considered the most reliable ethnic tracers, since the arbitrary choosing of words from a very large pool makes accidental repetition most improbable. Further, language, as a means and a mark of intercommunication, is a maker and a product of group cohesion and, hence, of cultures. Analysis of languages and their distributions has usually been the work of the specialist, but the results are widely used in geography. Toponyms are components of language that are very close to geography because of their fixture on the land and their frequent reference to its qualities.

Religion, also a conservative marker of peoples, is a social institution with significant spatial structure and a molder of the cultural landscape. Geography deals with religion in ways that range from the distribution of specific religions to the expression of a primal sense of order in the landscape—for example, orientation of streets or property lines with the compass (Isaac 1965).

Origin and spread of cultures and civilizations. The spread of culture is most simply studied through particular culture traits, but often an entire complex of culture traits may be welded to gether by a powerful or influential people and spread over a wide area in relatively uniform fashion. A way of living or a civilization may be traced from its inception to its expansion into a greater territorial base, until finally it reaches its limits and is absorbed or replaced by another expanding culture. The growth of potamic civilizations from their home in Mesopotamia, the growth of the Chinese nation from its culture hearth in the Wei Valley, or the grafting of the Marxist politico-economic complex onto a variety of cultural trunks in the past fifty years would be suitable subjects for such analysis.

Geographers have treated cultures in a variety of ways, such as dividing the world into major culture regions (Russell & Kniffen 1951), examining the development of cultures and subcultures, mapping the core and fringe areas of cultures (Meinig 1965), and studying culture islands.

Cultural evaluation of the environment. The favorite theories of geography are often themselves generalized evaluations of environment. Their change with the passage of time is evidence that they too, however reasoned, are part and parcel of changing culture. What man does with his natural resources depends on his technology, on his perception of his natural resources and of his place among them, and on a complex of values concerning the present and future. Clarence Glacken (1956) has studied man’s place in nature from the viewpoint of changes in Western ideas about the habitable world. Non-Western conceptions, as shaped by cosmologies, modified by experience, and revealed in language, are also essential to interpretation of living patterns (Lowenthal 1961).

The environment may be graded in aesthetic terms. Modification of the landscape, including the productive portion of the landscape, may then be guided by aesthetic senses and axioms. Yet the perception of the environment and the responses to environmental stimuli are probably not purely cultural. Sonnenfeld (1965) has asserted the need for isolating the noncultural parts of the behavior that relate to the environment and effect the shaping of the landscape. To do so would better sort the variables with which the cultural geographer deals and would clarify his ideas of causality.

Purposes. Many studies are undertaken to provide factual answers to specific questions. Some studies are primarily in the geographical tradition of exploration; these include many of the regional inquiries in cultural geography (e.g., Wagner 1958) as well as more specific data-collecting trips (e.g., Zelinsky 1958). Other studies seek links in the solution of specified larger problems, be they geographic in nature or otherwise. A major theme of Kniffen’s work has been the use of a particular culture trait as an index to migration and diffusion and the culture regions they shape.

H. C. Brookfield (1964), in a thoughtful critique of American cultural geography, noted its frequent reluctance to compare, generalize, or explain, especially if doing so meant going into social organization or social attitudes. American cultural geog raphers have often preferred to focus their immediate interest on filling selected gaps in knowledge rather than on using the material gained primarily as a means to further the abstract concepts of the field. There are advantages in developing a reliable body of elaborated description relatively free of the data selection that would be suitable for testing prechosen abstractions. However, cultural geography should also work ahead with generalization as fast as the data and advance of theory permit. Some division of labor may optimize the exchange between description and abstraction.

Purposes of scholarly study are often indeterminate. Idle curiosity may impel the investigator, even while specific hope of practical application accounts for his financial support. Many of the world’s problems are not abstract generalizations but are stresses that arise from unique local conditions. A geography that views every place as sui generis is a likely source of help. The theme of man’s use of his environment, enmeshed in most of cultural geography, gives geography its widest views and most likely application on a world scale. Certainly the cultural geographer is not much drawn to his study by the hope of immediate application, even though it is with past and present application that he constantly deals. Rather he is lured on by the prospect of a better articulated view of man’s work and works in their terrestrial frame.

Methods. Studies of small areas are most likely to depend for their data on field observation. Those on a world-wide scale necessarily depend on secondary sources. Spatial and chronological analysis of the data often form the logical core of the study. The former seeks simplification through the demonstration of spatial order or pattern; the latter emphasizes change in historical depth or the more detailed sequence of change known as process.

Spatial arrangement of data is an essential characteristic of geography. The map is the visual means of arranging the data in its spatial order. (To spread out or to unfold in this manner approximates the literal meanings of explanare and explicare, bases for the verb explain in English and the modern Latin languages). Mapping the distribution of a culture trait or complex does not con stitute an explanation, but it leads to hypotheses as to how the culture trait developed. One common method of map interpretation is to seek correlative distributions that may also be causal associations. A second method is to treat the distribution as a changing product of diffusion and extinction and to seek the conditions that have governed the changes (Zelinsky 1958; Spencer & Hale 1961). An isochronic map is useful in combining both temporal and spatial analysis.

Chronological arrangement of data is essential to the study of culture. The conservative nature of culture, which follows earlier models even in the process of change, encourages one to study it by tracing its continuity. If a device is not demonstrably functional in every aspect of its design, it may be explained genetically by tracing its origins and movements. John Leighly emphasized this type of cultural explanation in his proposal for a study of the tangible works of man in the landscape in the terms of art history, stressing “the essential time-bond of culture rather than its looser place-bond” (1937, p. 135). The culture concept provides a means of giving intelligibility to what, at least to people removed from the particular cultural context, seems irrational.

Plumbing the basic reasons for cultural choices may provide a functional explanation of what was once considered irrational. Cultural geography would become less dependent on genetic explanation as its mainstay to the extent that culture change—or lack of it—could be explained in terms of human satisfactions. Predictions of the direction of culture change will lead to more application of the findings of cultural geography. Any theory of culture change could have a corresponding theory of cultural geography as the spatial expression of the change. Uses of the culture concept in regional study by geographers and anthropologists have been considered by Thomas (1957).

A battery of general methods is summed up by Wagner and Mikesell (1962, p. 24): “Who? Where? What? When? and How? The themes of culture, culture area, cultural landscape, culture history, and cultural ecology respond to these queries.” The themes imply cross sections of investigation, most of them with conceptual dimensions rather than geometrical ones as in the case of the map. Since cultural geography deals with such a great range of phenomena, its methods must also be varied.

Persistent questions. The objects of study in cultural geography may be seen as forms—abstract or concrete, single or complex. Many of the general questions of cultural geography hinge on the derivation of these forms, which is variously sought in environment, function, ideology, technology, ornamentation, previous forms, and the chances of invention and accident. The derivation of one form does not necessarily serve as a model for the derivation of others.

The role of the physical environment. Cultural geography can deal with man’s relations with his physical environment at any depth of understanding of this environment. Sauer’s work with early man leaned heavily on assessments of environmental change and of environmental opportunity to supply gaps in the a posteriori record. On the other hand, the continuity of culture can be traced over the earth without attention to the physical environments through which the culture spread, although to do so is to ignore a part of the possible explanation.

The reaction against environmental determinism (the doctrine that the physical environment determines the way in which man lives in an area) has united with a culturally oriented geography to produce a new geographic etiology that stresses cultural determinism (a doctrine that emphasizes the role of culture as opposed to that of the environment). One statement of cultural determinism is that culture determines what the environment means to man. An even stronger position holds that man’s perception of the environment is all that matters about the physical environment; since perception is culturally controlled, explanation of human behavior is then deemed to be cultural. Cultural determinism presents useful views of the continuity of culture growth, but is less successful as an analysis of cause (a precursor without which the result would have been different). One must remember, first, that perception, by its definition, is not merely hallucination (i.e., independent of external stimulus) and, second, that the environment may not respond to man’s management in just the way his perception of it orders.

The difficulties of the man-nature and culture-environment dichotomies are sometimes dissolved in union. Man is often conveniently viewed as a part of nature. Man, culture, and environment in a land have been treated as one in sketches of regional “personality.”

Form versus function. What part does function play in cultural design and what part do previous forms play? How fast do forms change to conform to changing needs? Are forms also molded by aesthetic considerations? A barn is built for certain purposes, and a given design is likely to be retained only so long as it fulfills its function reasonably well. But the differences between two barns performing the same functions must be explained on some other basis. Even if the differing features mirror cultural traditions, they may still have originated in functions of other times and other places. Purely decorative features, too, sometimes originate in function. Relic forms may continue to be built or may survive in structures that have out lived their original functions. Whether function or form is stressed in any particular comparison may depend on whether the similarities or the differences are sought.

Form and ideals. A simple feature in the landscape, say a post, serves its function and reflects some particular post-making tradition. It probably has no particular relation to the ethos or set of ideals of the people who use it. A more complicated form with a more complicated function, say the physical form of the village or community built to facilitate a way of living, is more likely to reflect the distinctiveness of that way of living or of the ideals that lie behind it. An ascetic people, not given to social intercourse, probably would not provide their town with plazas and esplanades or decorate it in bright colors. The few geographic studies that deal specifically with form in relation to ideology suggest that rather different peoples may adopt the same readily available forms for the same overt purposes. An account of a Dutch Reformed settlement in Michigan (Bjorklund 1964) tells how immigrants largely gave up their old forms in favor of the common American forms, but it also shows how the American forms still conformed to the old ideology. If identical forms conform to different ideologies, we must assume that the differing peo ples see the forms as fulfilling different inner functions and gain different satisfactions from them. In another study Philip Wagner concludes: “Nicoya suggests that thoroughgoing transformations in the social sphere may sometimes produce only moderate variations in technology and landscape, and thus that two or more very dissimilar societies may differ little in the way they conceive and utilize a given habitat” (1958, p. 248). Conversely, peoples with similar ideologies are likely to evolve different community forms for their living. Inquiry into the regulation of form by ideals should be carried further.

Forms of distributions. The forms of distributions are also subject to systematization. The significance of continuous and discontinuous distributions, the relation of area of origin to area of greatest intensity, or the persistence of the core area of a culture region are all aspects of the structure or form of culture areas.

Relation to other fields. Historical geography is the division of geography most closely related to cultural geography. The two complement each other in a cultural-historical geography, in which history provides the explanation of culture and culture provides the organizing concept for the subjects of most geographic interest in history. Historical geography can stand alone, however, for it is often not organized around the culture concept. On the other hand, culture is always dependent on the past for its explanation.

Economic geography and cultural geography could go separate ways as long as one depended primarily on economic laws for its explanation while the other depended on the patterns of the past. But an entire system of economic laws may be found to be a culture complex that has evolved somewhat accidentally and not in an inescapable mesh of cosmic law. Even in our market economy the prices bid for goods may be but expressions of cultural preference (for example, the American preference for corn-fed ham versus the European for barley-fed). And within a changing economy new institutions, products, and types of enterprise originate and diffuse in a fashion suggestive of the culture traits that they are. On the other hand, the relevant economic laws are also necessary parts of the cultural explanation. Thus, economic and cultural geography join in any broad view of the two fields.

Political geography, like economic geography, is supported by an independent discipline that has its own laws (although less precise), and its systems fulfill stated functions. A nation represents an idea that had an origin and has been spread with some show of power to the borders of the land. The generic idea of nation is again a cultural concept that had an origin and a diffusion that just now seems about to complete the circuit of the earth. Each nation depends on a community of interests, often including such culture traits as a national language and religion. The behavior of its voters, too, reflects persistent patterns in its regional culture.

Cities have both economic and political dimensions, although the economic has loomed larger in urban geographical studies. City planning and urban sociology are cognate disciplines that help provide the rationale for an independent urban geography. At the same time, cities are concentrations of culture that are very sensitive to cultural differences. Internally, the distribution of subcultures within a complex city and the city landscape are equally concerns of cultural geography. Externally, urban functions and rural-urban attitudes vary from culture to culture.

The mathematical formulations now popular in economic and urban studies will be most successful if they can describe the regularities and implications of cultural behavior. Swedish studies have originated quantitative analysis of culture transmission and have attempted to simulate both its rational and random qualities.

The idea of culture provides a frame into which man-made functional systems fit. The narrower cultural geography and the fields that deal with the functional systems that are also a part of culture can fuse into a broader cultural geography in which the culture concept constantly insists on a proper relativity in time and space. Grasp of the concepts of culture and cultures is perhaps the quickest route to a viewpoint not entirely bound by one’s own culture and from which one can even see one’s own culture in some perspective. Culture is a fit mediator in a study whose point of departure is the comparison of different peoples and lands.

Edward T. Price

[Other relevant material may be found inCartography; Culture; Environmentalism; Landscape; and in the biographies ofMarsh; Ratzel; Sauer; Vldal de la Blache.]


Bjorklund, Elaine M. 1964 Ideology and Culture Exemplified in Southwestern Michigan. Association of American Geographers, Annals 54:227–241.

Brookfield, H. C. 1964 Questions on the Human Frontiers of Geography. Economic Geography 40:283–303.

Glacken, Clarence J. 1956 Changing Ideas of the Habitable World. Pages 70-92 in International Symposium on Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, Princeton, N.J., 1955, Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Edited by William L. Thomas et al. Univ. of Chicago Press.

International Symposium on Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, Princeton, N.J., 1955 1956 Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Edited by William L. Thomas et al. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Isaac, Erich 1965 Religious Geography and the Geography of Religion. Pages 1-14 in Man and Earth. Series in Earth Sciences, No. 3. Boulder: Univ. of Colorado.

Kniffen, Fred 1965 Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion. Association of American Geographers, Annals 55: 549–577.

Leighly, John B. 1937 Some Comments on Contemporary Geographic Method. Association of American Geographers, Annals 27:125–141.

Lowenthal, David 1961 Geography, Experience, and Imagination: Towards a Geographical Epistemology. Association of American Geographers, Annals 51:241–260.

Marsh, George P. (1864) 1965 Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Edited by David Lowenthal. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Meinig, D. W. 1965 The Mormon Culture Region: Strategies and Patterns in the Geography of the American West, 1847–1964. Association of American Geog raphers, Annals 55:191–220.

National Research Council, Ad Hoc Committee on Geography 1965 The Science of Geography: Report. National Research Council Publication No. 1277. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

Russell, Richard; and Kniffen, Fred B. 1951 Culture Worlds. New York: Macmillan.

Sauer, Carl O. (1915–1962) 1963 Land and Life: A Selection From the Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer. Edited by John Leighly. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Sauer, Carl O. (1925) 1963 The Morphology of Landscape. Pages 315-350 in Carl O. Sauer, Land and Life: A Selection From the Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Sauer, Carl O. (1931) 1962 Cultural Geography. Pages 30-34 in Philip L. Wagner and Marvin W. Mikesell (editors), Readings in Cultural Geography. Univ. of Chicago Press. → First published in Volume 6 of the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences.

Sauer, Carl O. (1941) 1963 Foreword to Historical Geography. Pages 351-379 in Carl O. Sauer, Land and Life: A Selection From the Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. → First published in Volume 31 of the Association of American Geographers, Annals.

Sauer, Carl O. 1952 Agricultural Origins and Dispersals. New York: American Geographical Society.

Sonnenfeld, Joseph 1965 A Behavioral Approach to Cultural Geography. Pages 10-18 in Discussion Papers in Cultural Geography. Unpublished manuscript. → Prepared for the 61st annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Columbus, Ohio.

Spencer, J. E.; and Hale, G. A. 1961 The Origin, Nature, and Distribution of Agricultural Terracing. Pacific Viewpoint 2:1–40.

Thomas, William L. Jr. 1957 Land, Man and Culture in Mainland Southeast Asia. Glen Rock, N.J.: Privately published.

Wagner, Philip L. 1958 Nicoya: A Cultural Geography. University of California Publications in Geography, Vol. 12. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Wagner, Philip L.; and Mikesell, Marvin W. (editors) 1962 Readings in Cultural Geography. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Zelinsky, Wilbur 1958 The New England Connecting Barn. Geographical Review 48:540–553.


No generally accepted definition of social geography exists. The variety of literature which has appeared under the title of social geography is astounding; even within particular schools there are wide disparities of approach and definition. With some notable exceptions, for example, in Sweden and Holland, social geography can be considered a field created and cultivated by a number of individual scholars rather than an academic tradition built up within particular schools. Further more, for many people the term “social geography” itself is in disfavor because of its past association with various forms of determinism that postulated a causal connection between society and the geographical environment.

Perhaps, therefore, the best way to examine social geography is to establish a general theoretical outline of the field and, on this basis, to review the existing literature. Naturally, many of the works relevant to what is here called social geography will have been written as contributions to some other discipline.

The argument that social geography is a necessary discipline can be made in at least two ways. One is by analogy with other, better established branches of geography. A widely accepted definition of “human geography” is that it deals with mankind in the context of his total geographical milieu. For the purposes of analysis this milieu has been subdivided into separate categories corre sponding to various orders of human activity, for example, the economic, the political, and the cultural. Therefore, one could postulate that social geography is the subdivision of geography that deals specifically with the social order, or that it is the systematic study of the social dimension in areal differentiation.

An alternative way is to begin with the definition of geography as the study of similarities and contrasts between places on the face of the earth. Society, that is, social organization and values, patterns of social movement and interaction, and social dynamics and change, plays such an important role in producing similarities and contrasts between places on the earth that it justifies syste matic consideration within the discipline.

The question immediately arises as to how to isolate this social dimension for independent study. In fact, since human activities characteristically are group activities, how can human geography be anything else but social? The virtually interchangeable use of the terms “human” and “social” by several geographers in the British and Dutch schools serves to emphasize the logical (and etymological) basis for this question. Yet, although in the evolution of human geography emphasis has been placed in varying degrees on purely social elements—and although languages, races, and religions have rarely been excluded from consideration—the function of these social elements in the total conceptual frame work has not been very clear. In fact, the idea that such social elements could be systematized into a general framework for geographical analysis has been only recently proposed (Bobek 1959; van Paassen 1965).

There are two primary questions social geography must answer: How do mankind’s social characteristics vary through space? How do these characteristics affect (or reflect) man’s adaptation to and adaptation of his total geographical milieu? Since such questions touch every aspect of human geography, it is difficult to conceive of social geography as a separate field. Its distinctive feature would thus appear to lie more in its focus and objectives than in any clearly delineated subject matter. In practical terms, the traditional twofold method of geography can be applied to these central questions in the following way: by the exam ination of spatial variations in the distribution and interaction of social groups within their total geographical milieus and by the examination of differential patterns of society’s use of the earth, as indicated in settlement forms, livelihoods, circulation networks, and land use patterns. While the first method implies a morphological or formal study of world social patterns, the second method implies a functional interpretation of such patterns in terms of their underlying social processes.

Having thus outlined, in broad terms, the place and function of social geography, let us now see how these fundamental questions have been studied in the past. From such a general and necessarily eclectic survey we may discern some of the major conceptual and technical ingredients from which a definition of social geography can be formulated.

The development of social geography

Studies explicitly or implicitly directed toward the exploration of social geography can be considered under two broad headings: first, the his torical precedents, which fall roughly into three major stages, each one characterized by a different approach; and second, the works of twentieth-century geographers.

Historical precedents

Descriptive reports written by explorers and men of letters during classical times, for example, the writings of Herodotus, Thucydides, Strabo, and others, provide the first written recognition of world social differences. Such encyclopedic descriptions continued to appear intermittently in the Occident up to the seventeenth century, for example, the accounts of Marco Polo and the lettres edifiantes of Jesuit missionaries. The twofold implication of these works was that social life takes various forms in different parts of the world and that these differences are caused by, or at least are associated with, differences in the physical—particularly climatic—environment.

A second phase consisted of the various philosophical reflections on these and later geographical discoveries. On the one hand, speculative thinkers sought normative principles for an ideal social order from natural law, and, on the other hand, the positivists insisted that such principles should be sought in the existing and empirically observable conditions of society. The essential message of this second phase was that there is a rational order in world society and that this order can be discovered deductively (speculative approach) or inductively (positivistic approach).

A third and far more significant phase began in the nineteenth century, accompanied in France by the emergence of the idea of democracy, in Ger many by the rise of national consciousness, and elsewhere by the slow yet effective permeation of a “scientific” approach to knowledge. Ethnographers and historians were among the first to study world social variations in a systematic way. As early as 1725 Giambattista Vico suggested that human development followed an identical series of stages and that the actual variations in world society at any particular time were due to their differential positions within that series. Later in the eighteenth century, Johann Gottfried Herder in Germany and Condorcet in France expressed similar ideas. The geographer Johann Georg Kohl examined the social function and significance of various settlement types; later, his colleague E. Hahn (1896) studied the evolution of livelihoods and demonstrated the religious and social origins of some economic prac tices. Yet this “scientific” approach to the study of mankind’s social differences was also associated with exaggerated single-factor explanations, for example, the biological interpretation first expounded by A. Schäffle (1875–1878) and the psychological interpretation, which found its fullest expression in the Durkheimian school in France. Friedrich Ratzel’s Anthropogeographie (1882–1891) incorpo rated both these elements: the ecological view of society within its natural environment and the role of human intelligence (the “idea”) in enabling man to overcome physical barriers (1901). Unfortunately, the latter perspective did not emerge too clearly in his monumental work—on which the whole tradition of anthropogeography has been pat terned—and so his name has been linked with the idea of society being determined by the physical environment. His Politische Geographie (1897) and some articles (1876; 1901) in fact contained hypotheses that were far more relevant to social geography than the Anthropogeographie.

One of the most significant precedents to social geography in the nineteenth century was the work of Frederic Le Play. Disdainful of the various a priori explanations of society prevalent in his day, he set out to study the actual social conditions of worker families in France. His famous mono graph technique produced an encyclopedic inventory of social facts, and from a great number of studies he deduced certain basic types, which then served as bases for comparison. Traces of Le Play’s analytical formula lieu-travail-famille, later adapt ed by Geddes (1915) into the formula “place-work-folk,” can be found in the writings of such early British geographers as H. J. Fleure (1918). French geographers inherited important elements from Le Play, for example, the monograph technique in empirical field studies, but the most important legacy of lieu-travail-famille was the social survey movement, which flourished in Britain and America during the early part of the century.

Many geographers, such as Ritter, von Humboldt, Hassinger, Ruhl, and Hettner in Germany, Reclus in France, George Perkins Marsh in America, and H. J. Mackinder in Britain, deserve recog nition as pioneers of social geography. However, the three major channels of thought that contained the most useful concepts were those initiated by Le Play (the social survey movement), Ratzel (anthropogeography), and Durkheim (social mor phology).

Twentieth-century social geographers

The mutual relations of society and environment was a subject that aroused great speculation and interest at the turn of the century. Yet there was no discipline equipped to embrace the entire question. Ratzel had made an abortive attempt to do so, and his environmentalist disciples exaggerated rather than corrected the deterministic premise of an thropogeography. Many scholars, particularly the Durkheimian sociologists, remained unconvinced that geography had any right to entertain such a monumental task.

At this juncture came one of geography’s great est entrepreneurs, Paul Vidal de la Blache. Society for Vidal (1896; 1902) and his school could not be explained entirely in terms of biological, psychological, or environmental interpretations. It was rather an intricate network of ideas and bonds that provided stability and orientation to human life within particular geographical milieus. In his classical studies of the Mediterranean world and of monsoon Asia (1917–1918), Vidal demonstrated the complex, yet harmoniously balanced, interplay between human institutions and particular natural settings. Genres de vie (literally, patterns of living) were the concrete expressions of a society’s ongoing contact with nature: sets of techniques, cemented through tradition, whereby human groups secured the material necessities of life within a functional social order (Vidal 1911; Sorre 1948). Repeated experiences in meeting life’s common problems within a particular geographical milieu occasioned the development of community consciousness, which made a genre de vie truly an ecological system. Variations of this basic concept appear in the literature of other disciplines, for example, social anthropology (Kroeber & Kluckhohn 1952; Redfield 1955), American human ecology (McKenzie 1934) and urban sociology (Park & Burgess 1921). By means of genre de vie and other concepts, the French school of human geography replaced the exaggerated Ratzelian notions of environmental de terminism by the more elastic concepts of possi-bilism and dismissed the charges made in the Annee sociologique between 1890 and 1910 more by substantive works than by theoretical argu ments. “La géographie humaine,” thus formulated, was a social geography in the broad, integral sense: all other dimensions of the human milieu were studied from the vantage point of society. Many British and American human geographers followed almost identical lines, while the Dutch “sociale geografie” was the direct equivalent of the French “géographie humaine.” The kernel of this orientation, namely, society as the source and framework for all human activity, reappears in the work of Hans Bobek (1959) in Vienna. Lucien Febvre’s famous apologia (1922) articulated the philosophical and historical raison d’etre of such a discipline.

To Vidal’s essentially ecological approach, his disciple Jean Brunhes added the important dimension of group psychology, asking, for example, why similar environments were used in entirely different ways at different periods in history. He defined social geography as the third level of complexity in human geography’s fourfold structure. The fourfold structure included the primary groups of family, kin, and culture; the secondary groupings of livelihood and special interest; the various forms of spatial interaction within and among these groups; and, finally, the legal systems which institutionalize a society’s subdivision and access to land and property ([1910] 1924, pp. 36-46). This definition, admirably suited to the study of European—particu larly French—rural society of the early twentieth century, remained the basic framework for social geography among British, French, and Dutch scholars up to World War II. Most of the early studies in social geography were regional in character, and their excellence consisted more in their artistic cohesion and integrative descriptions than in their analytical or theoretical expertise. The empirical conditions which favored the use of the regional framework by French scholars did not exist to the same extent elsewhere; this partly explains the divergence of orientation and method which developed among the various schools of human geog raphy.

During the 1930s, British social geographers were involved in methodological controversy. Does social geography consist in merely mapping mankind’s social characteristics, or must it also analyze the processes involved in relating a society to its geographical environment? What is the relation between social geography and human ecology? Why not replace the term “human” by “social” as the generic term to signify all the nonphysical aspects of geography?

The fundamental dichotomy between a formal and functional approach expressed in this British debate reiterated the duality that had developed in Holland since the 1920s. While at Utrecht the study of social groups within their territorial framework (de Vooys 1950) was being pursued along the lines of the French school, at Amsterdam Steinmetz’ “sociography” was used to study the entire social content of space as a system in itself —aside from any considerations of a group’s relation to its natural environment. The birth of sociology in Holland—particularly rural sociology as a separate discipline—has no doubt modified the original disciplinary orientations of these two schools (van Paassen 1965).

Prior to World War II little attempt was made to systematize the elements of social geography. In general, the important associations evident in the spatial organization of society—particularly in the United States—appeared in the literature of human ecology (Theodorson 1961) and urban sociology (Park & Burgess 1921). One major exception, of course, was the work of the environmentalists in examining connections between human behavior and the geographical environment (Thomas 1925).

Pierre George and Maximilien Sorre (1943–1953) were the first great systematizers of social geography. In George’s works a close link is maintained between social and economic aspects of hu man behavior, the social being one facet of the economic (1946, p. 1). For Sorre (1948, pp. 13-16, 66-122) society represented a system of techniques—family and kinship systems, livelihoods (genres de vie), languages, and religions, each one having a specific influence on the spatial organization of mankind and his work. Sorre’s schema does not make clear, however, whether social geography consists of a series of systematic subfields based on these various kinds of techniques, or whether a distinction is to be made between the “social” and “political” techniques. In his work all forms of organization from family and kin groups to giant political blocs form a continuum (1961, pp. 211-264). Gourou’s more comprehensive concept of civilisation (1964) comprises both material techniques (modes of production) and spiritual techniques (ideas, values). These three approaches at generalization are important because they try to maintain the integral and holistic character of social geography at the same time that they establish some order and a basis for comparative work. Bobek has made a similar attempt to construct a spatiotemporal framework for world society (1959). His work is a fertile synthesis of French and German traditions: his systematic framework is based on a holistic approach involving types of societies defined in terms of their actual use of their geographical environment (1961).

Several other attempts to formulate the problem of society in geography in terms of a particular systematic framework have appeared: for example, those of Wagner (1960), Ackerman (1963), and van Paassen (1965). Yet more characteristic of postwar work is the development of individual systematic lines of enquiry, for example, geography of rural and urban life, population studies, and geography of religions and political behavior. Associated with this is a more lively va-et-vient between geographers and scholars in other disciplines, particularly concerning questions of rural and urban life (Friedmann 1953) and regional planning (Phlipponneau 1960). Studies are still being made within a regional framework, but the focus has changed. Juillard in Alsace (1953) studied particular social problems from a regional perspective, while Rochefort in Sicily (1961) studied regional life from the perspective of the social processes at work. Such reorientations have, of course, raised new methodological problems and prospects. Chatelain (1947; 1953), for example, postulates a duality between the geography of social classes (a kind of social morphology) and the geography of social life (a sociological geography). Claval (1964) envisions the latter as the most feasible future direction for the discipline, citing the work of W. Hartke at Munich as an example. It is difficult, however, to see how these two aspects of the field can be separated.

To label the research being done at Munich as sociological geography may be misleading. Certainly the perspective is social: social-geographic differentiation (sozialgeographische Differenzierung) implies that social values—as expressed in the occupational structure—are the primary agents of landscape differentiation. Thus, maps of socioprofessional structure (Sozialkartierung) for a series of periods are collated with a corresponding series of land-use patterns (Nutzfiachenkartie-rung), and significant associations are sought. This basic formula has been applied successfully both in rural and urban contexts. Geipel’s study (1952) of one German region, for example, demonstrated that the sources of regional unity—which varied at different periods—are found essentially in the collective decision-making mechanism of the regional community. This is quite a contrast to the sources of regional unity commonly sought in the natural (physiographic) or economic (agricultural) landscape. Hartke (1956) demonstrated that regions where this phenomenon existed had similar geographic (regional) characteristics. Associations found in urban studies are even more interesting. Hartke’s intraurban corridors (Passagen) suggest some qualifications to the traditional concentric zone and sector theories of urban structure, while his study of urban expansion patterns provides new bases for the classification of cities (1961).

In marked contrast to the inductive, empirical, and microscopic approach of the Munich social geographers is the more highly developed theoretical and deductive approach found in Sweden. Torsten Hägerstrand (1952) and Sven Godlund (1956) have applied refined mathematical techniques to the study of migration, rural-urban interaction, circulation, and other dynamic aspects of the field. One of the most interesting developments has been the use of simulation models for the analysis and prediction of spatial movement.

This approach has been adopted and modified in the postwar period by a number of American geographers. At Iowa spatial models have been used to study the distribution patterns of schools, churches, and settlements, often with a view to spatial planning. Morrill’s study of Swedish towns (1963) exemplifies this approach. Yet, in general, social geography in the United States is not a unified field: on the one hand there are holistic regional studies, for example, Platt’s Saarland study (1961) and Broek’s southeast Asian study (1944), and, on the other hand, there are a growing number of systematic studies in racial, linguistic, religious, and other spheres. Some interesting associations have been elaborated, for example, between religion, land use, and livelihood (Isaac 1959), between cultural pluralism and political integration (Lowenthal 1961), and between migration and political behavior within ethnic groups (Lewis 1965). However, the exciting developments in the actual social geography of America have been treated mainly by foreigners (Gottmann 1961) or by scholars in other disciplines.

Résumé of contemporary social geography

In general, the empirical record would seem to characterize social geography as a multifaceted perspective on the spatial organization of mankind. The implication is that some important sources of areal differentiation emanate from society, thus reversing the premises of anthropogeography and other deterministic explanations of social differentiation. Analysis of this social dimension in human geography has involved two basic approaches: the examination of the formal distributions of social phenomena as indices of areal differentiation and the interpretation of these distributions in the light of their underlying social processes. A recent development, particularly in northwestern Europe, is the involvement of social geographers in interdisciplinary research and regional planning.

Nevertheless, the social dimension is one of the least studied aspects of human geography. Social geography lacks definite boundaries and has neither a central unifying concept nor even an agreed content. Instead, there are scattered individual efforts to analyze the changing social patterns of the modern world. Generalizations regarding the nature and potential function of the field, therefore, can only be proffered as suggestions, based on the substantive research directions and ideas of contemporary experts in the field and on the current trends and technical possibilities in other social science disciplines.

The future of social geography

The challenge

Social geography faces a set of challenges that are unprecedented. Revolutionary changes in world social patterns have rendered past analytical techniques obsolete, while philosophical and cultural currents within modern social life tend to increase the propensity to change of both reality itself and its social-psychological significance. Thus, while technological, economic, and commercial evolution tends to produce a certain degree of standardization in society’s spatial order, there is a universal tendency to emphasize social, that is, ethnic, religious, or linguistic, differentiation. The philosophical problems of intersubjectivity and coexistence are ubiquitously discussed. “The home of contemporary man,” wrote Plattel ([I960] 1965, pp. 1-2) “does not lie primarily in a localized environment, but in his fellow-man.” The traditional methods and objectives of social science are being fundamentally challenged. Analysis must some how be broadened so as to arrive at a more holistic vision of social reality: the classical Cartesian premises underlying accepted research method ology led to the discovery of systems, but mechanics and structures of systems constitute only a partial view of reality. Today both subjective (internal) aspects of reality and objective (external) aspects of reality must be analyzed. Modern psychology and sociology have endeavored to meet this challenge by forging new analytical techniques, and many other social science disciplines have adopted a decidedly behavioristic approach in recent years.

In the light of these developments, the spatial patterns of world society assume a new significance; the immediate challenge for social geographers would seem to be the collaboration with other scholars in the monumental task of describing world society within its geographical setting. For such an endeavor, social geography needs a unifying theme, a conceptual framework that will enable it to contribute toward and benefit from the research efforts of scholars in related social science disciplines. Such a unified framework seems to be emerging from the work of some contemporary social geographers. Some of its characteristics are described below.

Social space as central theme

Claval’s critique of contemporary social geography concludes that “to understand the geography of a place means to understand the social organization of those who inhabit it, their mentality, their beliefs, their ‘representations’” (1964, p. 123). Watson’s study of Hamilton demonstrates how “The spatial pattern is, in the last analysis, a reflection of the moral order” ([1951] 1965, p. 476). In this article I have postulated that the raison d’etre of social geography rests on the fact that the social order is distinct from (even if closely interrelated with) the other orders of human activity in space. In order to describe adequately this social dimension or order, contemporary thought would seem to demand the use of both internal and external perspectives. Is this possible?

Sociologists, for example, Chombart de Lauwe (1956) and Gaston Bardet (1951), and human ecologists, for example, Firey (1960), have demonstrated the technical possibility of exploring a society’s perception of its geographical milieu. Geographers, for example, Rochefort (1961), Burton and Kates (1964), and Pataki (1965), have also shown that space has different meanings for different societies, and thus distance and spatial movement can no longer be considered in traditional geodesic terms but must be considered in terms of those dimensions perceived by their human occupants. For example, groups of Italians, Poles, Pakistanis, and Negroes may live side by side in one section of a city. Yet each group, because of economic, historical, cultural, or other reasons, may possess an entirely different conception of space. Some groups may have a social horizon that scarcely transcends the block in which they live or the set of stores in which they work or shop, while others may have social contacts with relatives thousands of miles away. Whether contact with distant relatives is frequent or rare does not influence the fact that a bond is perceived which ignores the barriers of space and time. The social geography of urban neighborhoods cannot ignore these differential attitudes toward space.

This illustration, which challenges traditional notions of space, may lead to the impression that only the social-psychological conception of space matters. Rochefort (1963), in discussing this problem, strongly emphasized that the real dimensions of geographic space must always be kept in mind. Therefore, the central conceptual problem in social geography is to define space in such a way that both subjective and objective dimensions are included.

Sorre’s response (1957) to this challenge was the concept of social space: the synthesis of real and perceived dimensions of space. The subjective component of social space in his view is embodied in the distribution of fundamental social groups, while the objective component consists of their concrete geographic setting.

Bobek’s concept of social landscape already expressed the main idea that a unit of social space is a region or place in which one or several groups live and have a common set of ideas of their environment (1943; 1948). The fundamental merit of this concept, as a central theme for social geography, is that it incorporates the traditional elements of groups and environment, while redefining them in terms which are relevant to the examination of modern society. Let us see how the methodology of contemporary social geography could be organized around such a central theme.

Subjective componentsocial groups. Sociology has shown how the dimensions and meaning of space are colored by the beliefs and group affiliations of its human occupants. Sociologists speak of ethnic space, religious space, and other spaces, and social morphology maps the distribution of groups on the premise that their formal spatial configurations imply the values held by the group (Halbwachs 1938). Social geography must go further: these groups, the subjective component of social space, must be studied not only as morphological patterns on the earth but also as formative influences in molding a society’s perception of its environment. The relevant groups include those which determine or condition the spatial distribution and interaction of people, for example, language and ethnic groups; those which influence a society’s use of space, for example, religious and kin groups; and, most significantly, those which develop as a result of society’s mode of material subsistence, namely, the genres de vie or livelihood groups. The bonds and values engendered by participation in these groups are not directly observable on the earth’s surface, but they are essential to the understanding of the spatial movements and distribution of people on the earth. Classical French geography used such formal categories of relevant groups, but profound transformations in social structure have occurred since the analytical framework of Brunhes, or even Sorre, was first formulated. Even though the choice of relevant grouping will demand close cooperation with sociologists and others, the social geographer does not have to abandon entirely the analytical techniques of his predecessors. Rather, such traditional con cepts should be re-examined in the light of the new analytical possibilities which appear in many social science disciplines. One example which might merit re-examination, for example, is the Vidalian notion of genre de vie. Settlements forms, land use, social interaction, and even political integration have been explained by geographers in terms of genres de vie. Many feel that the concept has lost its applicability to modern social life (George 1951; Le Lannou 1949), but others argue that it can be reformulated (Sorre 1948; Varagnac 1948). By discounting the various modifications which have accrued through the years and by re-examining the original notion in the light of contemporary developments both in world society and in social science, guidelines for a reformulation may become apparent. A genre de vie, in Vidal’s opinion (1911), implies more than a means of material subsistence; its geographical significance stems in large part from its spiritual component, the structures mentales which persist even after the external modalities of livelihood change. The important point is that both material and spiritual elements are harmoniously integrated in the genre de vie community within a particular milieu. Such a conception closely resembles the notion of “com munity” in rural sociology (Hillery 1950).

Without changing the concept at all, there are some applications in the modern world. Witness the adaptation problems of immigrants from rural to urban areas, the psychological problems involved in the retraining of unemployed miners, the social consequences of colonialism and economic restructuring within the “third world.” In the urban industrial world, however, livelihood is a less compelling basis for community consciousness than other similarities, for example, a common racial, professional, or linguistic background or similar consumption habits (Fourastié 1963). But whatever the source, if a recognizable consistency in a group’s perception and consequent use of its environment are associated with a common structure mentale, why not consider this pattern as a genre de vie, for example, that of travel agents, of salesmen, of truck drivers, of commuting students, of social scientists? Chombart de Lauwe (Chombart de Lauwe et al. 1952, p. 243) showed how a deep social rift could prevail in a small dormitory village because the inhabitants belonged to two different genres de vie. The same could be said of immigrant ethnic groups in some urban centers (Taeuber & Taeuber 1965). Ideally, within either an urban or a rural region, one could thus identify the component genres de vie and see if there is a hierarchy of importance among them, the dominant one giving a character to the place, as in pilgrimage, market, or university towns. Many other possibilities exist, but much more substantive work, preferably in conjunction with other disciplines, is needed before any formal categories of modern genres de vie can be made. Until this is done, the existing formal groupings of language, religion, race, etc., may serve to constitute the subjective component of social space; however, if these sociological categories can somehow be integrated into the more geographical concept of genre de vie, the result would be an ideal subjective ingredient for social geography.

Objective componentthe social environment. The term “social environment” is used here to connote all the socially significant aspects of the total geographic milieu. Traditionally, geographers have tended to exaggerate the distinction between the natural (physical-biotic) environment and the artificial network of human establishments created by society. This dualistic conception tends to ignore the fact that mankind’s environment-creating ap paratus has by no means entirely destroyed the natural framework and that the interplay of natural and artificial assumes very different forms throughout the world. The social environment, as objective component of social space, includes more than these two levels. It includes, for example, the relation of social attitudes and traditions to nature, resource use, and the ethics of group relations.

Social geographers are far from a satisfactory definition of the social environment; they lack substantive studies which would provide the raw material for such a definition. What is the social significance, for example, of purely physical elements, such as humidity, temperature, or altitude? Geographers have added very little to the “findings” of the Huntingtonian environmentalists. Yet the behavioral sciences are interested in knowing the connections, real or perceived, between society and its natural environment. The research challenges proposed in Sorre’s Géographie psychologique (1954) remain virtually untouched. In addition, little is known about the “synthetic environment” (Herber 1962): the various consequences of atmospheric and oceanic pollution, or the consumption of medicated foods, stimulants, and sedatives. What are the physiological and pathological consequences of changes in the environment, for example, housing, communication, and diet?

Recently some geographers have viewed the environment as an amalgam of systems (Wagner & Mikesell 1962; Ackerman 1963; van Paassen 1965). This approach is satisfactory from the theoretical and technical points of view, but does it admit of nonsystematic (dysfunctional) elements which often play such an important part in social life? The social geographer must be sensitive to the local exceptions which give special char acter to individual places, such as Rochefort (1961) demonstrated in her study of Sicilian social environment.

Approaches to the study of social space

We have seen that the study of social groups within their territorial (environmental) framework has constituted the basic traditional methodology of the Dutch, British, and some French social geographers. In theory, this has involved a combination of a morphological approach (mapping of social groups) and an ecological approach (relations of groups to environment). Today, however, the latter (vertical) dimension is perhaps less significant than the horizontal one, namely, the spatial patterns of interaction between social groups, such as Lowenthal’s Caribbean study illustrated (Lowen-thal 1961). A psychological approach to group attitudes, such as one finds in the Revue de psychologic des peuples, may provide clues to the origins of some spatial discontinuities in social interaction.

In terms of the notions of group and environment, as redefined above, let us see what analytical methods can be used in the study of social space. Two of the many possible approaches are (1) to consider social space as a mosaic of social areas defined in terms of the occupant groups, for example, genres de vie or ethnic groups; and (2) to view social space as nodally organized, that is, as a network of spatial relations radiating around certain centers (Sorre’s points privilégiés) and permeated by the arteries of circulation.

Formal approachsocial areas. Initially, the formal approach examines the spatial patterns and characteristics of social groups in virtually the same fashion as that used by the disciples of Stein-metz in Amsterdam. On the basis of these distributions a series of regions, homogeneous in terms of individual characteristics, can be compared and associations can be sought. Such associations, however, must then be examined in terms of the social environment in which these social characteristics occur, that is, an ecological approach must supplement the more formal “sociographical” stage of analysis. In addition to these two steps, the geographer must endeavor to see how all these elements combine to form the social whole within a particu larregion and must seek explanations for the vari ations through space in the incidence and functional character of these social wholes, Jones sees “social regions” within the city of Belfast (1960), for example, as a product of historical and religious forces, while the “social area analysis” tradition in American human ecology (Theodorson 1961) has demonstrated the use of various other indices in the establishment of intraurban social regions.

Functional approach. A more dynamic and increasingly popular approach is to consider social space in terms of its nodal organization. The orbit of group activities and the related horizons of social consciousness can be examined (cartographically) in terms of their use of these nodes, for example, markets, cinemas, and schools (Chombart de Lauwe et al. 1952). The hinterland of each of these nodes varies in scale and significance, and these variations provide crucial insights into the social character of particular places. The study of nodal regions and of circulation are two examples of a functional approach to the study of social space.

Sorre (1961) suggests that settlement units— towns, cities, metropolises—provide a primary set of nodes on a world scale. Within each of these nodes is an internal system of centers (schools, churches, cinemas) whose social significance can also be examined cartographically. Here again the social geographer can collaborate with and utilize some of the existing principles of central place theorists and perhaps somewhat qualify definitions of centrality currently based on commercial and industrial criteria. Edgar Kant’s Umland studies (Kant et al. 1951), J. Labasse’s circulation studies (1955), and Pierre George’s studies of the urban fringe (1962) provide orientation for this kind of study. As world society becomes more urbanized, social geographers will concern themselves more with the urban field, and, here, collaboration with other scholars will be imperative.

The essential clue to the internal dynamism of social space can be found in its circulation system. Circulation here includes all kinds of movement of goods, services, people, and ideas—any kind of spatial movement which occasions social communication. As the Paris study (Chombart de Lauwe et al. 1952) demonstrated, the actual and potential use of a circulation system indicates the concrete social horizons of the group it serves; changes within it may indicate or produce changes in the relation between groups and between a group and its social environment.

A vast number of research questions emanate from this dimension of social space, particularly now that the processes of social differentiation and cultural standardization are so closely tied with large-scale, mass-produced goods and services. Interregional traffic, the currents of the tourist world, pilgrimages, daily and seasonal commuting —these are only a few samples of the many activities the student of circulation could investigate.

To summarize, social geography can be defined as the study of the areal (spatial) patterns and functional relations of social groups in the context of their social environment; the internal structure and external relations of the nodes of social activity; and the articulation of various channels of social communication.

Although the discussion has distinguished between various elements and approaches to social geography, it must be emphasized that one of the fundamental characteristics of the field has been, and must remain, its integral, holistic character. Like social history, it must endeavor to maintain the holistic view, that is, to show how the individual parts and their functional connections integrate to give a specific character to the social whole. French geographers have supplied ample precedent for this kind of holism; so, indeed, have the social anthropologists of the Anglo-American world. The more the field becomes theoretically systematized, the greater will the challenge of integration become.

For social geography to fulfill its potential, the various approaches to the field need to be coordinated into a systematic conceptual framework. Sorre’s concept of social space could provide a central theme for such a framework. Its ingredient elements could be considered as bases for systematic subdivisions, for example, geography of language, of religions, and of diet, each of which contributes a valuable perspective on society’s spatial order. The definition given here seems to incorporate the various elements which have belonged to the field of social geography and which, given the trends in contemporary social science, could constitute fruitful future directions for the discipline.

Anne Buttimer


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Statistical geography is to geography what econometrics is to economics, sociometrics to sociology, psychometrics to psychology, or even jurimetrics to jurisprudence—an approach to the field rather than a subdivision of that field. Like these other approaches, it is of recent development—the mani festation within geography of the trend to a more quantitative approach that has characterized all the social sciences since the end of World War II. As is also the case with these other approaches, many of the pioneering contributions to statistical geography have come from workers in other fields. The parallel term “geometries” is not used to describe the work of the statistical geographer, how ever, not so much because it provides an inappro priate picture of the statistical geographer’s attempts to identify and measure regularities observable in spatial distributions as because the branch of mathematics that originated in Greek attempts to measure the earth has a two-thousand-year priority in its right to the name. In addition, mathematical geography, concerned as it is with map projections, is the branch of geography that today relies most heavily and directly upon geometry.

The syndrome that characterizes statistical geography today includes a more formal theoretical orientation than was true of geography in the past, a reliance upon statistical inference and numerical analysis in empirical research, the use of mathematical programming and simulation procedures in applied research, a basic concern with model construction, and an involvement with high-speed computers, mass-data banks, and automated map ping devices.

Yet this assemblage of interests is not mono lithic. There are differences in emphasis, corresponding to each of the four main traditions of geographic research: spatial, area studies, man-land, and earth science (Pattison 1964; National Research Council 1965). Statistical geographyorig inated within the spatial tradition, with its em phasis upon analysis of spatial distributions and associations, and initially relied heavily upon exer cises in distribution fitting and upon regression and correlation analysis. It spread to area studies when the spatial tradition began using multivariate analysis, then to the man-land tradition via be havioral studies of environmental perception and individual decision making, and to the earth-science tradition as spatial studies and related systematic sciences began using systems analysis. To understand these several facets of statistical geography, with their differences in use of theory, choices, and timing of applications of statistical methods, and their contacts with the rest of science, therefore requires some understanding of the four research traditions. These, in turn, can best be viewed within a formal overview of approaches to regional analysis (Berry 1964a).

Approaches to regional analysis

Virtually any sort of regional analysis may be considered as starting from information about one or more places. For each place, one or more prop erties, or characteristics, may be measured, and the measurements may be made at one or more points in time. It is often convenient to think in terms of a three-dimensional array X of order v × p × t. Cell xijk of this array (or matrix) re cords the value of variable i at place j in time k. Rows of the array—vectors of array values for fixed i, k—record the distribution of variables over places at some point in time. Column vectors inventory the properties of places at time t. Time vectors report on the t states of variable i at place j.

Operational specification of variables, places, and times varies with the interests of the particular analyst, but a matrix such as X is (albeit usually implicitly) the object of all forms of geographic study. A row vector of X is a spatial distribution that can be mapped. A column vector is a locational inventory. Such row and column vectors are the bases of systematic (topical) and regional geography, respectively. Time vectors report changes in spatial distributions and at locations and are basic to historical geography.

The data. Cell xijk may contain a variety of different records, depending upon specification of i, j, and k. Columns, for example, may be denned as places with area, such as countries, states, counties, census tracts, or quarter-mile-square cells of a half-mile grid. Alternatively, they may be di-mensionless points; three such examples are tri-angulation points used for measuring altitude, weather stations, and soil-sample-core locations (Kao 1963). Rows may be defined as properties of the places (scalar quantities, such as population residing in each of a set of census tracts or altitude at each of a set of triangulation points), or they may refer to connections between places (vector quantities, such as flow of coal from southern Illinois to each of the Midwestern counties). Rows also might be airline traffic flow between cities; in this case columns would represent pairs of cities. In addition, any level of measurement may appear, whether nominal, ordinal, interval, or ratio [seeStatistics, Descriptive, article onlocation and dispersion, for a discussion of levels of meas urement].

Spatial tradition

Geography’s spatial tradition is founded upon cartographic portrayal and subsequent study of spatial distributions, thus having as its base row-wise analysis. A few examples of the kinds of spatial distributions studied follow:

(1) A land-use map—scalar, nominal, of areas, an areal distribution.

(2) A map showing the location of major cities by dots—scalar, nominal, at points, a point distribution.

(3) An airline-route map—vector, nominal, joining points.

(4) A map of soil quality—scalar, ordinal, of areas.

(5) A map showing average annual temperature —scalar, interval. If the map shows averages by states or districts, it is also discontinuous and areal (a choropleth map, if different shadings are ap plied to the units), but if it shows the temperature varying over the country as a surface, it is a con tinuous generalization. The generalization is of point observations (usually isopleth, since the sur face will be depicted by contours) if, for example, weather-station data are used, or of areal data if interpolations were made, for example, with re spect to the district averages treated as points central to each of the districts.

(6) A highway map, with routes classified by quality—vector, ordinal, joining points.

(7) A map of city-to-city air-passenger move ments—vector, ratio, joining points.

Two dominant themes emerge in spatial analysis of such maps: evaluation of the pattern of scalar distributions and of similarities in pattern over a number of such distributions and evaluation of the connectivity evidenced by vector distributions and of similarities in the connectivity of several such distributions. Apparently, the funda mental properties of pattern include absolute location (position), relative location (geometry), and scale, with a family of interesting derived prop erties, including density and density gradients, spacing, directional orientation, and the like. Simi larly, accessibility is central to the study of con nectivity, and from it are derived such properties as centrality itself, relative dominance, degree of interdependence, etc. The two themes merge in spatial-systems analysis, where pattern and connectivity are examined in their association. For example, urban land values decline with increasing distance from the city center, and type of farming varies with distance from market. Such examples are readily generalized to the dynamic, that is, time-dependent, case.

Area-studies (chorographic) tradition

Just as row-wise analysis is the basis of the spatial tradition, so columnwise analysis provides the base for geography’s area-studies tradition. The essential problems of this tradition are those of regional intelligence: the characterization of place in terms of the associations between characteristics localized in that place. This approach is often restricted to those features of place that are directly observable as landscape but, especially among the French school of human geographers, is also extended to an evaluation of both tangible and intangible aspects of “regional character” and of the differentiation of places (the study of “areal differentiation”) [seeLandscape].

An appetite for information, a penchant for the peculiar, emphasis upon field work, attachment to the people and language of a particular part of the world, a strong literary bent, a companionship with history and great reliance upon historical modes of explanation (in contrast to the functional, de terministic, and probabilistic modes of the other geographic traditions)—all these serve to identify the work of the student in the area-studies tradition, whatever the areas examined: countries or continents, regions or culture areas.

Man-land tradition

In the tradition of medieval philosophy, classical geographers distinguished between two major sets of variables: the physical (inorganic plus biotic) and the cultural. The as sociated methodological argument was that these provided the bases of the two major segments of the field: physical geography and cultural geography. Finer groupings of variables within these categories led to the variety of systematic branches of the subject, such as the geographies of landforms, of plants, of industry, of cities, or of language (the many topical fields and subfields might thus be identified as nested subsets of rows of the matrix X ).

The classical modes of thought, however, also led to a particular tradition in geography, the man-land tradition, in which the relationships between physical variables and human characteristics and activities were examined. In combination with the social Darwinism of the late nineteenth century, simple one-way studies were made of the effects of environment on man. These were later complemented by studies of the effects of man on environment, from which emerged much of the original thinking in the field of conservation. More recently the ancient dichotomy has been relaxed with, for example, studies of the effects of environmental perception on resource evaluation and decision making in resources management (Kates 1962) and with the adoption of a systems-analysis frame (Ackerman 1963).

Earth-science tradition

During the eighteenth century, geography was an integral and substantial part of natural philosophy. At that time geographical study embraced all aspects of the earth, air, and waters. Since then, however, most aspects of these studies have branched off as separate systematic sciences, and geography’s earth-science tradition has been left with such concerns as the study of landforms and their evolution (geomorphology), descriptive climatology, and certain as pects of the geographies of soils, plants, and animals, together with the attempt to achieve some spatial synthesis of these in order to identify “natu ral environmental complexes.” It is to this latter end that systems-analysis procedures have recently been employed in this research tradition (Chorley 1962).

Antecedents and stimuli

Prior to World War ii few papers of a statistical nature had been published by geographers. Perhaps the only contributions worthy of note were Matui’s (1932) fitting of the Poisson distribution to quadrat counts of settlements in a portion of Japan and Wright’s (1937) discussion of Lorenz measures of concentration in the spatial case. However, two general antecedents can be distin guished, in addition to the pioneering contributions of workers in other fields: centrography and social physics. From the former came the idea of developing a special family of descriptive statistics for spatial distributions, and from the latter the recognition of certain classes of regularities in such distributions.


During the early part of the twentieth century there was a lively debate among statisticians concerning such measures as the center of population. Part of the debate stemmed from publication by the U.S. Bureau of the Census of a piece entitled Center of Population and Median Lines … (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1923). Many articles were published, notably in the Jour nal of the American Statistical Association and in Metron, concerning the relative advantages of al ternative centers, the center of gravity, the spatial median, and the center of minimum aggregate travel. (The U.S. Census Bureau’s geography branch still reports on the center of gravity of the United States’ population after each census.) This debate gradually subsided in the United States, but in the Soviet Union centrography flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. A centrographic laboratory was founded at Leningrad, under the auspices of the Russian Geographic Society, in 1925, and its director, E. E. Sviatlovsky, pursued studies of the “actual” and “proper” centers and the distributions of all manner of phenomena. However, the set of “proper” centers of economic activities prepared for the Gosplan of 1929 was at odds with the second Five-Year Plan, and as a result, the laboratory was finally disbanded. Porter (1963) provides a fairly complete bibliography of the relevant lit erature on centrography. Recently, the Israeli stat istician Bachi (1963) has attempted to revive cen trography, with the development of a variety of measures of dispersion and association of spatial distributions. Current interest within geography is slight, however, except as embraced by the social physicists (Stewart & Warntz 1958).

Social physics

The attempt to describe human phenomena in terms of physical laws has a long history in every social science [seeRank-size relations].

In geographical studies this has been expressed in two major ways: (1) by use of “gravity models” to describe spatial interaction; and (2) by use of “potential models” as general summaries of interdependency between all places in large areas. Such models are said by their advocates to summarize a wide variety of social and economic distributions in economically advanced societies. Gravity models were first used in a relatively formal way by E. G. Ravenstein, in his seminal study “The Laws of Migration” (1885; 1889). Thereafter, these models found wide application, for example, in marketing geography—Reilly’s “law of retail gravitation” (1931)—and in urban transportation studies describing interzonal travel. Carrothers (1956) reviews this work and the basic postulate that interactions or movements between places are proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to some exponent of distance: that is, Iij α Mi. Such gravity ana logs were generalized by the astronomer J. Q. Stewart (1947) to the case of the potential surface, which simultaneously describes the interactions of each place and every other. Thus, the potential at any point i is given by

The surface is interpolated from such measures for a sample set of points. There is still considerable interest within geography in social physics (Stewart & Warntz 1958), and new applications are continually being developed. Mackay (1959), for example, used gravity models to translate the depressing effects upon telephone communications of the French-English language boundary in Canada and of the United States-Canadian political boundary into their physical-distance equivalents, thus showing how social space can be transformed into the metric of physical space. Similar applications are to be found in all branches of cultural geography today.

Pioneering contributions from elsewhere

Workers in other fields provided several significant examples of the application of statistical methods to geographic problems, identified the major statisti cal problems of regional analysis, and prepared the first text on statistical geography, thereby doing much to set the pace and tone of statistical geography today. A statistician, M. G. Kendall (1939), for example, showed how principal-components analysis could be used to develop a multivariate index that would portray the geographical distribution of crop productivity in England. M. D. Hagood (1943), an agricultural statistician, used multiplefactor analysis to define multivariable uniform regions. An economist, C. Clark (1951), showed that the negative exponential distribution fitted population density patterns within cities. G. K. Zipf (1949), a philologist, developed the rank-size distribution of cities. A mathematical social scientist, H. A. Simon (1955), showed the bases of this distribution in simple stochastic processes, and sociologists found that a repetitive three-factor structure characterized the social geography of cities (Berry 1964fo; 1965). G. U. Yule and M. G. Kendall ([1911] 1939) identified the problem of modifiable units: if data are of areas rather than at points, results of any analysis will be in part de pendent upon the nature of the areal units of observation utilized. W. S. Robinson (1950) pro vided the relevant relationship between individual and ecological (areal, set-type) correlations, subsequently extended by Goodman (1959) in the context of ecological regression. A second problem, that of contiguity, or spatial autocorrelation, has been examined by Moran (1948) in the nominal case and by Geary (1954) more generally. Geary also applied his measures of contiguity to evaluating lack of independence of residuals from regression in studies of spatial association. These studies are reviewed in Statistical Geography (Duncan et al. 1961), the first general book in the field, written by sociologists. Further examination of autocorrelation in spatial series is to be found in “Spatial Variation” (Matern 1960), a major con tribution to areal sampling by a mathematician. Spatial analysis remains basic to quantitative plant ecology and to epidemiology, and from these fields have come many of the ideas used today in the study of pattern in point distributions and of spatial diffusion processes.

Statistical geography—1950 to 1965

Centrography, social physics, and external stim uli, facilitated by developments in computer technology that for the first time enabled the mass data of geographic problems to be handled conveniently, combined to stimulate workers in geography’s spa tial tradition to work quantitatively. The older forms of cartographic analysis provided firm bases for this development, and many of the early studies were simply quantitative extensions of analyses cartographically conceived and executed. Arthur H. Robinson (1962), a cartographer, for example, utilized correlation and regression analysis to im prove the ways by which he could map spatial associations. McCarty and his associates (1956) used similar procedures to replace older carto graphic means of comparison. Thomas (1960) showed the various ways in which residuals from regression could be treated cartographically so as to draw upon traditional geographical means of map analysis in model reformulation and refine ment. King (1962) applied the “nearest-neighbor” methods of the quantitative plant ecologist to the study of pattern in point distributions, with, like the 1932 Matui study, expectations derived from the Poisson distribution. These represent but a few examples of the spatial studies concerned with distribution fitting as a means of studying spatial pattern or with uses of correlation and regression in studies of spatial association. Many other exam ples are to be found in uses of regression to fit gravity models and obtain the distance exponents for different phenomena (Carrothers 1956) or to fit negative exponential distributions to urban population densities and the like (Berry 1965).

These kinds of studies represent the beginnings, from which statistical geography has grown rap idly. Dacey and Tung (1962) have made major advances in point-pattern analysis, for example, by transforming the distribution-fitting exercise into an explicit hypothesis-testing frame, with relevant expectations derived from settlement the ory. Curry (1964) views many urban phenomena as the outcome of known-probability mechanisms. The Swedish geographer Hägerstrand (1953) was the first to show that many spatial patterns might be considered as the outcome of diffusion processes that could be simulated, using Monte Carlo methods, and his work led to a burst of similar simulation studies in the United States (Morrill 1963).

New approaches to spatial analysis have also been developed. Most of the examples outlined above use scalar data. Garrison (1960) showed that the mathematical theory of graphs provided an excellent base from which to examine vector distributions, and Nystuen and Dacey (1961) extended his argument to the case of organizational regions, using graph-theoretic measures of accessi bility of places to communications networks to define relatively independent subsets of relatively interdependent places. Tobler (1963) showed how a generalization of map projections, traditionally studied by the mathematical geographer, could be used as the basis for mapping social, economic, cultural, or political space into physical space, as a further means for merging geographical applications of various statistical and mathematical meth ods with the more traditional means of geographical analysis. Finally, in addition to developments of the descriptive kind, statistical geography has extended its work to embrace investigations of a prescriptive nature. Garrison and Morrill (I960), for example, applied the techniques of spatial priceequilibrium analysis to determining what should be the patterns of interregional trade in wheat and flour in the United States. Other research workers are now much concerned with the procedures of spatial programming. Haggett (1965) has provided an excellent review of the substance of the first decade of quantitative work in the spatial tradition.

With the use of multivariate analysis, statistical geography has spread from the spatial tradition to that of area studies. A traditional geographic problem in this latter tradition is that of regionalization —the attempt to derive areas relatively uniform in terms of a complex of associated characteristics and also relatively different from other areas in terms of that complex. Such problems, involving mass-data analysis, were traditionally handled by overlaying maps. This earlier procedure has been replaced, however, by the use of the modern computer, applying such multivariate procedures as factor analysis to reduce many variables to a few factors representing “complexes” of associated characteristics, and the application of numerical taxonomy to get optimal classification (minimizing within-group variance) of observations into regions on the basis of the distances between observations in the factor space (Berry & Ray 1966). Output from the entire procedure of data analysis and reduction includes the complexes of characteristics that define “regional character,” measures of the similarity of the observations, and the regions [seeClustering].

Statistical work also characterizes the man-land tradition, largely by virtue of either simple correlation and regression studies that include physical variables, on one side, and cultural variables, on the other (for example, correlations of annual precipitation and population densities in the high plains), or through uses of probability theory. It is the latter, indeterministic type of study that repre sents new departures. Curry (1962a), for example, shows how livestock management in the intensive grassland-farming areas of New Zealand is related to probabilities of fodder availability, which in turn are derived from probabilities of requisite climatic conditions. Much of the basic research goes into establishment of the relevant probabilities, in this case, of the probabilities of repetitive events that play a central role in farm management. Kates (1962), on the other hand, examined relations of management of flood-plain property to flood haz ards, rare events. He found management practices to be conditioned, not by reasonably precise evaluations of the situation, as in the case of the New Zealand farmers, but by a widely varying set of preconceptions, at variance with the actual probability mechanisms.

Work in the earth-science tradition of geography has, also, become statistical and ranges from the attempt to reformulate the geography of landforms generated by fluvial mechanisms in the framework of general-systems theory (Chorley 1962) through studies of climatic change as a random series (Curry 1962b) to the analysis of precipitation climatology using harmonic methods (Sabbagh & Bryson 1962) or to the development of linear mod els predictive of some characteristic through priormultivariate analysis, so as to satisfy the assumptions of the model ultimately to be produced (Wong 1963). There is today perhaps more work of a statistical kind in the earth-science tradition than in either the area-studies or man-land tradition.

Statistical geography—analysis of both the statistical and the mathematical kind—is to be found in all branches of geography today. However, in the methods utilized, certain differences between geog raphy’s four main research traditions are to be noted. In the spatial tradition, distribution fitting, correlation and regression analysis, uses of such methods as the mathematical theory of graphs, and prescriptive uses of spatial programming dominate, along with uses of probability mechanisms to study diffusion processes. The area-studies tradition re lies upon multivariate analysis, particularly factor analysis, and upon numerical taxonomy, to facili tate mass-data analysis. In the man-land tradition, a neat contrast is to be noted between those of traditional deterministic outlook, who use regression methods, and those concerned with decision making in resources management, who focus upon probabilities of the a priori and a posteriori kinds. Finally, in the earth-science tradition those pro cedures that facilitate systems analysis have been those most rapidly adopted and used. At the end of World War II geography was nonquantitative. Statistical geography has played an integral, even critical, part in the transformation of geography into a modern social science in the postwar years.

Brian J. L. Berry

[See alsoCartography; Central Place; Regional Science. Other relevant material may be found inClustering; Factor analysis; Multivariate Analysis.]


Ackerman, Edward A. 1963 Where Is a Research Frontier? Association of American Geographers, Annals 53:429–440.

Bachi, Roberto 1963 Standard Distance Measures and Related Methods for Spatial Analysis. Regional Science Association, Papers 10:83–132.

Berry, Brian J. L. 1964a Approaches to Regional Anal ysis: A Synthesis. Association of American Geog raphers, Annals 54:2–11.

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Only relatively recently accepted as a subject of study by universities, geography has been characterized as a Cinderella among the disciplines. It was not one of the traditional liberal arts, and it appeared in its modern form in the curriculum of universities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it still remains a small component, and is sometimes not present at all, in institutions of higher learning. Part of the reason for this is that society, and even geographers themselves, are not sure of the nature of geography. Geographers are only rarely members of national academies of science, or of the humanities, falling between the stools with the social or so-called soft sciences.

The Nature of Geography

In his seminal studies on the methodology of the subject, Richard Hartshorne (18991992) proposed the following definition: "Geography is concerned to provide an accurate, orderly, and rational description of the variable character of the earth's surface" (Hartshorne, p. 21). Understandably this characterization has not been universally accepted, and others have suggested terms such as "areal differentiation," and "spatial interaction" as better expressing the core of geography. It has been seen as more akin to history than to the systematic sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology, etc.) in that it has no body of material peculiar to itself, but rather adopts a point of view. But subjects studied by some geographers, such as map projections, are highly "scientific."

In France the alliance between geography and history"geohistory"extends from Jean Bodin to Montesquieu to Jules Michelet to the Annales school, especially Lucien Febvre, A Geographical Introduction to History, and Fernand Braudel and their followers. In Germany geography was an auxiliary science in the encyclopedia of history, or Historik, as taught in the universities from the eighteenth century; and there are parallels in other national traditions.

If geography is Cinderella, its Prince Charming is cartography and, by extension, remote sensing of the environment. Maps and related images of the Earth have a wide appeal to collectors and others and are used professionally in several disciplines. But preeminently, they are the tools of geographers so that their study is often confused with the reality of the Earth itself, as expressed in the old tag "Geography is about maps."

Maps may help in an understanding of the "reality" of geography, but are not "reality" themselves, consisting, as they do, of conventional symbols. Humankind, since prehistoric times, has been concerned with the local environment, as evidenced in maps made before the written record. The subject came into focus in the later classical period as exemplified by the Geography of Strabo (63 b.c.e.c. 24 c.e.), a verbal description of the then-known world, and the similarly titled Geographia of Ptolemy (second century c.e.), containing instructions for map-making, of essentially the same area of Eurasia and North Africa described earlier by Strabo. The Greeks from the time of Plato (427348 or 247 b.c.e.) appear to have accepted the idea of the Earth as a perfect sphere, which, apparently, was not a part of early Babylonian, Egyptian, or Chinese cosmography. Although Buddhism spread from India to China and Japan (after 400 b.c.e.), and following the establishment of Buddhism there, priests returned to India to seek their religious roots and wrote about their travels, this geographical lore did not enter the mainstream of thought in translation until comparatively recent times. The same is largely true of Islam following the death of Muhammad (570632 c.e.), in spite of close contact between this religion and Christianity in the Mediterranean and elsewhere over many centuries. Thus the travels of "Sinbad the Sailor" and more scientific geographies were available only in translation as relatively late additions to European literature and in this sense are considered to be "nonhistorical" in the West. Even the accounts of Marco Polo (12541324) of his travels from Venice to Cathay (China) and return were at first disbelieved.

This article need not go into detail concerning the remarkably accurate measurement of the circumference of the Earth by Eratosthenes (third century b.c.e.), or its rejection by others (including Ptolemy), until the later Renaissance and the scientific revolution in Europe, of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. At that time Ptolemy's Geographia was "re-discovered" and translated from Greek into Latin and formed the basis of much of the study of geography in this era. It was in turn criticized, improved upon, and superseded during the period of European ascendancy in science and global discovery when half the coasts of the world were "discovered" and charted. The dichotomy represented by the conceptions of the GreeksStrabo on the one hand and Ptolemy on the othercontinued into the Enlightenment period through the writings of, for example, Bernhard Varen (Varenius, 16221650) in regional geography, or chorography, and in the ideas of Edmond Halley (16561742), who, in addition to his work in astronomy, laid the foundations of physical, thematic mapping, with representations of winds, tides, and Earth magnetism with isogones (lines of equal magnetic variation) delineated on published charts. More than a century later, the polymath Alexander von Humboldt (17691859), well trained in the natural and physical sciences, attempted to give unity to geography, while still considering the Earth in relation to the cosmos (Kosmos is the title of his greatest work). It was Humboldt's contemporary Carl Ritter (17791859) who, similarly, emphasized the unity of the field, but with a person-centered (even teleological) approach to human/land relationships, following Immanuel Kant (17241804) and others. But the division between physical and human geography continued and increased in the nineteenth and in the first half of the twentieth century in France, Britain, the United States, and areas influenced by these countries. That this is still the case is evidenced by recent multiauthored volumes titled, respectively, Horizons in Physical Geography (1987) and Human Geography: An Essential Anthology (1996). Accordingly, it is necessary to recognize recent trends in these major, separate divisions of geography; this article will later cite attempts at reconciliation between these two disparate streams, and others.

Geographical Determinism

A concept that retarded the acceptance of geography as a serious academic endeavor until quite recently was geographical determinism. Although stemming from earlier work by the German geographer and ethnographer Friedrich Ratzel (18441904), with adherents in other European countries, the high priestess of this cult in the United States was Ellen C. Semple (18631932); another American espouser of "determinism" was Ellsworth Huntington (18761947). In its extreme expression the theory asserts that the work of humans is controlled or "determined" by geographical conditions: climate, landforms, and the like. This idea was opposed by the scientifically trained English scholar Eva G. R. Taylor (18791966) and others in Britain, France, and elsewhere. The debate continued throughout the twentieth century, but has few adherents in the early 2000s. An alternative to determinism was proposed, namely possibilism, which suggests that humans have a number of possibilities from which to select. Possibilism apparently owed its origin to the French geographer Paul Vidal de la Blache (18451918), who, with his followers, never accepted the concept of determinism. At this time most of the world, including North America, was influenced by European ideas so that traditional, indigenous geographies became subsumed under colonial and other European ideology. Thus India, under British rule, became one of the best studied and surveyed areas in the world. China, Japan, and Korea resisted this cultural hegemony, but eventually accepted it.

Military and Public Geography

If geography has had a mixed reception in research universities, its ideas and practitioners have been embraced by both the military and the public sectors. Thus Napoléon Bonaparte (17691821) not only developed strategy based on knowledge of geography but also sponsored a translation of Strabo's Geography. Following the Napoleonic Wars there was a great interest in geographical exploration worldwide, especially the interiors of the continents (little known at the time), and geographical societies were founded in major cities. Furthermore, instruction in geography has been part of the training in service academies ever since. There is, understandably, an increased interest in geographical intelligence during times of war in all of the military servicesnavy, army, and air forceswhich engage in so-called defense studies and mapping. Thus during World War II the British Royal Navy, Naval Intelligence Division, commissioned a series of handbooks on the geography of various areas that were later declassified and made available to general libraries. This was also true of maps made by the U.S. Army Map Service and of charts, the work of various hydrographic services together with coastal studies in the form of navigational pilot books. The role of air forces is well-known in not only providing the means for aerial reconnaissance but also in sponsoring aeronautical chart series at "geographical" scales. Thus map coverage of the Earth on the scale of 1:1,000,000, begun through the efforts of Albrecht Penck (18581945) as the International Map of the World (IMW), was completed at this scale by the maps of the U.S. Aeronautical Chart and Information Service during World War II. Ironically the United States had not officially cooperated with the IMW, but the private American Geographical Society of New York mapped all of Latin America at this scale. Furthermore, as a result of wartime experience, many returning veterans in several countries during this period made careers in applied or theoretical geography, some founding or working in geography departments, which were established in many colleges and universities in the 1940s and 1950s. These personnel are now mostly retired, or deceased, and later wars did not produce a similar great expansion in academic geography. In fact some of the then newly created departments, especially in the United States, were merged with other instructional units, renamed, or terminated. This is attributable to a number of causes, not least the abandonment of the geography department at Harvard University during the presidency of the scientist James Conant (18931978). The Harvard precedent was followed by other, even public, institutions that formerly had strong departments of geography. These universities often have splendid map collections, which find little use among students and faculty not geographically "literate."

Just as geography is essential to the military establishment, so it is valued in the public, civilian sector. Thus, that most fundamental of human geographical distributions, population itself, is of the greatest interest to census bureaus of various countries and internationally, with the United Nations having a vital concern with demography. Similarly, topographic and land use data of various scales is essential to the effective administration of urban and rural areas in the form of maps and reports. Thomas Jefferson (17431826), who also sponsored geographical exploration and wrote an important geographical treatise, well understood this, and he initiated the United States Public Land Survey, passed into law as the Land Ordinance of 1785 and first applied in Ohio. Subsequently recti-linear surveys expanded over three-quarters of the United States, which became the public domain, thereby transforming the American landscape and producing a torrent of cadastral maps, plat books, and county atlases in the nineteenth century, and beyond. Also, between World War I and World War II, the detailed Land Utilisation Survey of Britain was conducted under the direction of L. Dudley Stamp (18891966), and it has had a profound effect on the economic life of that area (despite its title, Scotland was not covered). The idea was to make a record of existing land uses and to plan for the future. By 1940 the survey was essentially complete and proved of enormous value to Britain as it expanded its agricultural production during World War II. The concept was adopted by other, especially densely settled, countries and gave rise to the formation of the Commission of the International Geographical Union (IGU) on land use.

The remarkable expansion and improvement of highways of all kinds during this period led to the production of road data, published by government highway departments, automobile clubs, or oil and tire companies in many countries, becoming perhaps the most commonly available geographical source material worldwide. To a lesser or greater degree all government departments from foreign offices to small municipalities require geographical data, and more personnel are needed to process this information than are trained in existing educational institutions. However, the great success of geography in these applied fields has not been matched by similar success in theoretical realms in recent years, which will be the subject of most of the remainder of this essay.

Geographical Theories

Both Kant in Königsberg and Isaac Newton (16421727) at Cambridge University in England taught what might be called geography today, but they are not remembered for that activity. Newton also postulated that the Earth is an oblate (polar flattened) spheroid before it was proved by geophysical methods. This and other findings were to be of practical use in the development of detailed topographic maps in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and especially during the space age in the second half of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first century. Among the greatest contributions to science have been understanding of the shape, size, and motions of the planet Earth and of its place in the Universe. Although other societies and cultures such as the Chinese and Indian probably recognized the "curved" surface of the Earth, a full realization of the figure, mass, and movements of this planet is essentially a triumph of Western thought. This has become almost universally accepted so that Eurocentrism, as well as Sino-, Indo-, and other "centrisms" are dead, or dying.

This article has stressed the duality of the subject between physical and human, and theoretical and applied aspects, and needs now to detail a further division, that between systematic and regional geography. Some scholars will take a physical entity, such as vegetation or soils, or a cultural feature, such as urbanization or transportation, and discuss it with little or no reference to other topics. Contrasting with this is regional geography, in which the worker attempts to characterize an assemblage of features such as landforms, rivers, roads, soils, human population, and settlements to demonstrate how they are related, or "interact." Of course, the choice of what factors are most significant in a given area is of critical importance. Some assert that it is easier to analyze than to synthesize, and that regional geography is "the highest form of the geographer's craft."

The Limits in Geography

What are the limits of the focus in the study of geography? It is usually assumed that geography is concerned with the surface or "shell" of the Earth, but workers do not specify how deep or high this sphere of interest to geographers extends. With some prescience Hartshorne wrote before 1966, "Man has for the first time projected his world of action beyond the [Earth's] atmosphere and may soon be expected to extend that range to the moon" (Hartshorne, p. 24). This prediction was shortly realized when the United States, through its Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, landed two astronauts on the Earth's natural satellite, and images were taken of the Earth from the Moon. Further, rocks from the lunar surface were collected for the study of which the term geology was employed. Subsequently, many artificial satellites, both with humans aboard and unmanned, have been launched so that we now have a much greater understanding of the "blue planet" Earth, from above. Considering that the first aerial photographs of parts of the Earth were taken from a balloon in 1858, and that the science of photogrammetrymaking maps from overlapping vertical air photographswas developed in the first half of the twentieth century, progress has been remarkable. This was largely accomplished in European and North American countries, which assisted other areas that benefited from this technology.

Another realm of the Earth that has been seriously investigated is the ocean depths, made possible by modern technologysonar or echo sounding. The oceans, the greater part of the surface of the Earth, have, of course, long interested maritime nations but until recently this interest had been confined to the surface, coastal limits, and other shallow areasor to speculation. The most remarkable example of the latter is the postulation by the German meteorologist and physicist Alfred Wegener (18801930), who proposed that at an earlier period the continent(s) consisted of a single or, at most, two major land masses that had subsequently drifted apart. At the time of his death, not enough evidence was forthcoming to prove Wegener's theory of "continental displacement," or "continental drift" as it was later termed. Sonic sounding now permits continuous traces, or profiles, to be made across the ocean floor by ships in progress, which, in aggregate, provide a true three-dimensional image, making possible the charting of the ocean basins. This process has revealed an assemblage of "forms" as varied as those on land areas above sea level, including profound depths greater than the highest mountains on Earth. Most important, it has given validity to Wegener's theory, through identification of mid-ocean ridges, from which apparently the continents spread for the most part laterally. Other forms of evidence support this fundamental, and now widely accepted but hitherto controversial, theory.

The two examples given above illustrate how the Earth's surface or limits have been vastly enlarged in the past half century, and they also suggest that geographers who are concerned with the Earth as the "home" of humankind must come to terms with this increased realm. Geography, however, remains a very divided subject searching for a core. As indicated above, a few women geographers in the past have made signal contributions to the subject. However, as in many other studies, often women geographers became editors, school teachers, and librarians, in spite of the tradition of the intrepid Victorian lady traveler. Until quite recently women were often "excused" from field work in geography departments, considered a necessary part of the curriculum for males. Now that they constitute about one-half of the enrollment in colleges and universities, and owing to changing mores, women are now making an impact on the subject at the research level. This is expected to continue and expand, since previously, half of the human in human (and physical) geography had been excluded. The closeness of the female to Mother Nature, it is speculated, gives women an advantage in geography that is now being realized, understood, and, to a greater extent than previously, appreciated.

Just as women and their special points of view have not been an important part of geography in the past, so, it is argued, have the interests and aspirations of the proletariat not been included. An attempt to address this lacuna has been through what has been called in its extreme form (and comparable to feminist geography) Marxist or, more acceptably, socialist geography. Notable proponents of feminist geography are Cindi Katz and Janice Monk; and of Marxist and Socialist geography, Massimo Quaino and David Harvey. Marxist and socialist practitioners assert, with considerable justification, that geography has been a white male, Eurocentric (even imperialistic) study, with the protection of the "establishment" in mind. This conservative view is being challenged by new graduates of "red-brick" universities, particularly, recalling their working-class roots. This concern also extends to various, often ethnic, minorities who were not previously part of the geographical equation. How far this development will redress past inequities and affect the future direction of the discipline may depend on further recruitment of university students from the underclasses and those concerned with their welfare.

The wide range of topics investigated by geographers will not be elaborated here, but it is suggested by the indexes of textbooks in physical and human geography where they are later treated in varying degrees of detail. Methods mentioned earlier, including field work, interpretation of aerial photographs, and individual images from space are of course still available, but other methods have been added recently: continuous surveillance and imaging of the Earth, since 1972, through the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) and its successor, Landsat; and new computer programs, especially ARC/INFO, introduced in 1982.

Geographical Models

Before treating computer graphics and geographical information systems (GIS), which purists consider only tools, mention should be made of the criticism of academic geography as being mere description, with a lack of theories. Traditionalists would argue that all places on the Earth are different, that therefore description of these variations represents reality, and that geographers need only address themselves to the "real" world. These practitioners often reject models, two of the most successful of which in geography have been Central Place Theory in human geography, and the Köppen system of world climates in physical geography, which are examined, as examples, below.

Central Place Theory arose from studies of the distribution of settlements in the eighteenth century in Germany where it was postulated that places of varying size and function on a "uniform plain" would be arranged in hexagonal hierarchies. This has proved to be essentially the case, for example, on the delta of the Nile in Egypt, and elsewhere, as demonstrated by cartography and remote sensing. An elaboration of this is in the location of functional areas within cities, as exemplified by the case of Chicago. However, critics have observed that both concentric and sector patterns are evident in Chicago and that what obtains in a relatively modern city in the American Midwest does not necessarily apply to European and especially Asian cities. Chicago, with its location on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, is unique because of its special geographical setting and other factors.

More successful has been the Köppen system of climatic classification, which also had its origins in Europe, through the work of Wladimir Köppen (18461940) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When long-term information was available from weather stations worldwide, it was observed that patterns were repeated in separate, but expected locations around the globe. Thus, to take one example, between approximately 30° and 40° latitude on the west coasts of all the continents, a Mediterranean climate was recognized. This climatic type is characterized by having high-sun (summer) drought and almost all of its precipitation in the low-sun (winter) months, the opposite of what would be expected. Thus in addition to the type example in Europe and the Middle East, it was found that California in the northern hemisphere, and Central Chile, Southwest Africa, and Southwest Australia in the southern, have "Mediterranean" climates. On the basis of climatic similarities, scholars have attempted to refine the Köppen system so that six major, and a total of sixteen, sub-types are now recognized globally. Being based to some extent on "native" vegetation, and not altogether on climate, critics consider the Köppen system to be a technical grouping rather than a true classification. Nevertheless, the Köppen system has proved to be a powerful teaching device that has not been superseded by other classifications. Although largely similar, each of the geographically separated Mediterranean areas have differences owing to local factors but, in comparison with other areas, they are more alike than different. This is also true of the other subtypes of the Köppen climatic classification. Critics assert that all places on Earth have some, if only minor, differences and thus cannot be classified.

The two examples of theoretical geography given above, with their origins in the past, have been fine-tuned and have become part of the curricula of geography departments, more than most other theories in a field that has been characterized as more empirical than theoretical. Since the mid-1970s, two developments have revolutionized geographythe computer and space explorationas much as any previous advances.

Computers and Space Exploration

Before the computer, proto-quantitative geography was developed with the aid of various calculating machines, but it was only after Herman Hollerith (18601929) combined punched cards with the then-recent electromagnetic inventions that it became possible to count and classify in a much shorter time and with greater detail and precision than by any previous methods. But through the 1950s the machines required to perform these operations remained expensive, large, and clumsy. A turning point occurred in 1982 with the introduction of ARC/INFO, a geographical information software package that combines traditional automated systems with advanced spatial data-based handling capability. This is accomplished by combining a series of layers each with a different theme: relief, roads, political boundaries, settlements, and so onthe desideratum of the regional geographer. Specifically, ARC/INFO uses both vector (line) and raster (tabular) storage; transformations can be undertaken and questions asked concerning numbers, distance, addresses, and so forth. The utility of such a system to those who are concerned with geographical distributions is enormous, as is time saved by these procedures. Maps can be made using the system and simulated, three-dimensional representations produced. It can also be animated to show, for example, population change through time. The machines on which these procedures can be accomplished have been incredibly reduced in size, price, and availability.

Equally as remarkable as the widespread utility of the computer to geography have been the space programs of various countries and consortia. As in the case of the computer, space technology did not arrive fully developed without a period of gestation, partly alluded to above in the references to aerial photography. A breakthrough similar to that of the computer was made when German rocket scientists joined the incipient United States space program, and that of the Soviet Union, following World War II. Prior to this, around 1910, the Germans had used rockets fitted with cameras to image small areas of the Earth. The range of these missiles was increased in World War II when, as Vergeltungswaffe 2 (V-2) rockets, they were used for military purposes. From 1960, the Television and Infra-Red Observation Satellite (TIROS), a series of unmanned satellites, was launched in the United States, and demonstrated the ability to gather weather data from above Earth's cloud layers, the first important use of the new technology. Meanwhile the Soviets launched the Synchronously Programmed User Terminal and Network Interface (Sputnik) in 1957, imaged the previously unseen side of the Moon in 1959, and put a human in space in 1961. The next year marked the first manned space flight by the United States, which soon began a series of missions imaging the Earth from spaceGemini (19651966), and Apollo (19681969), with hand-held cameras loaded with color and, later, color infrared (CIR) film, which had been perfected during World War II. As mentioned above, it was the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 that landed humans on the Moon. Subsequently, nonphotographic systems were also used so that the term "Remote Sensing of the Environment" was coined to replace air photo interpretation, which was included in the definition.

The next development was continuous, extensive surveillance of the planet Earth, first accomplished by the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) in 1972. Another similar satellite was launched in 1975, and the program was renamed Land Remote Sensing Satellite (Landsat). Since that time, the surface of the Earth (except the polar regions that the system does not cover) has been scanned by Landsat every nine days. By international agreement Landsat imagery, which is telemetered to the Earth in at least four multispectral bands, is available to users in any part of the world. The French Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre (SPOT) and various Russian satellite programs produce very high quality images but, unlike Landsat, do not have continuous satellite coverage of the Earth. However, other countries and consortia (such as the European Space Center) make contributions to existing programs, as in the case of Britain and Australia. At the time of writing China has successfully launched an extraterrestrial satellite, recalling the early interest of the Chinese in gunpowder and rockets, and the United States has an operating imaging system on Mars.

Summary and Conclusion

An attempt to bring the subject together, after a long hiatus, is Geography: A Modern Synthesis by Peter Haggett. This is suggested by the titles of a selection of chapters of his book: "The Fertile Planet"; "Environment Risks and Uncertainties"; "Ecosystems and Environmental Regions"; "Resources and Conservation"; "Spatial Diffusion"; "Toward a Regional Convergence"; and "Outer Space, Inner Space." Analysis may give partial answers, but syntheses is essential to provide cohesion to the reality that is geography. The holistic view of the Earth as seen from space should be imperative for geography as a unified discipline, concerned with ecosystems on a fragile planet.

As indicated above, in recent decades the study of geography has suffered a decline in institutions of higher learning in the United States, and it is opined that there will only be improvement by the re-establishment of the subject in high schools. The abysmal ignorance of most Americans about the world, which may be a legacy of isolationism, contrasts with the situation in other (even so-called Third World) countries where geography is taught at all levels. In those colleges and universities in the United States where the subject continues to be taught it is often necessary to recruit faculty worldwide. If wars in the Middle East and elsewhere are not enough to goad Americans into giving more attention to the subject, then perhaps increasing dependence on resources from overseas will provide the impetus to achieve this end.

See also Demography ; Maps and the Ideas They Express .


Agnew, John, David N. Livingstone, and Alisdair Rogers, eds. Human Geography: An Essential Anthology. Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996. See especially: David Harvey, "On the Present Condition of Geography"; J. B. Harley, "Deconstructing the Map"; Yi Fu Tuan, "Space and Place"; Torsten Hager-strand, "Diorama, Path and Project"; and Stan Openshaw, "A View of the GIS Crisis in Geography."

Clark, Michael J., Kenneth J. Gregory, and Angela M. Gurnell, eds. Horizons in Physical Geography. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Education, 1987. See especially: Roger G. Barry, "Perspectives on the Atmosphere"; Keith M. Clayton, "Perspectives on the Geosphere"; and Richard J. Chorley, "Perspectives on the Hydrosphere."

Cosgrove, Denis. Apollo's Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton, 1999.

Entrikin, J. Nicholas, and Stanley D. Brunn, eds. Reflections on Richard Hartshorne's "The Nature of Geography." Washington, D.C.: Association of American Geographers, 1989.

Haggett, Peter. Geography: A Modern Synthesis. 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

Hartshorne, Richard. Perspective on the Nature of Geography. Chicago: Published by Rand McNally and Company as Monograph No. 1, 1959.

. The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past. Lancaster, Pa.: The Association, 1939. Reprint: Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.

Harvey, David. Spaces of the Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

Katz, Cindi, and Janis Monk, eds. Full Circles: Geographies of Women over the Life Course. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.

Lewis, Martin W., and Karen E. Wilgen. The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.

Livingston, David N., and Charles W. J. Withers, eds. Geography and Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Quaino, Massimo. Geography and Marxism. Translated by Alan Braley. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1982.

Romm, James S. The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration, and Fiction. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Spate, O. H. K. "Toynbee and Huntington: A Study in Determinism." Geographical Journal 118 (1952): 406428.

Thrower, Norman J. W. Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society. 2nd ed. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Norman J. W. Thrower

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GEOGRAPHY. As the study of the earth's surface, geography is among the most concrete and accessible of all the sciences. Yet the very definition of geographical knowledge has been highly contested throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Geographers have disagreed over whether theirs is an analytic or a synthetic study, whether it deals primarily with the realm of nature or culture, and the degree to which it should be concerned with spatial relationships. Geography has also contended with a persistent reputation as simply descriptive inventory of the earth's surface, which has exacerbated its relationship with neighboring disciplines.

Institutional and Intellectual Origins

Through most of the nineteenth century geography was a broadly defined and practical field of knowledge utilized by scholars, explorers, bureaucrats, and politicians. Organizations such as the National Geographic Society and the American Geographical Society flourished in the nineteenth century as meeting grounds for men of science and government. The American Geographical Society, chartered in 1851, was devoted to the nation's growth and progress westward, especially the development of a transcontinental rail route. The organization welcomed not just geographers but also leaders in government, business, education, and science who shared their outlook. Through the society these members were exposed to the nation's exploration, surveying, and mapping efforts, primarily in the American West. Similarly, the National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 as a forum of exchange of information for the community of scientists and bureaucrats in Washington, D. C., involved in geological work. The society continued to facilitate geologically oriented research until the Spanish-American War, when it began a vigorous defense of the nation's mission abroad. In both these organizations, geographical knowledge served the state both concretely, through the supply of scientific expertise, and abstractly, in striking a nationalist posture.

Intellectually, American geography reflected a heavy European influence in the nineteenth century. Among the most influential and popular contemporary geographers were transplanted Europeans such as Karl Ritter and Alexander von Humboldt. Both elevated geography from the realm of description to that of science by considering the landscape as a unified entity to be studied as a whole, a process for which geography was uniquely suited in its stress on synthesis. Louis Agassiz, appointed at Harvard in 1848, was trained in the natural sciences and noted for his development of theories of glaciation and landforms. Arnold Guyot, appointed at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1854, began to introduce a concept of geography not as a description of the earth's elements but rather as an observed interrelationship between land, oceans, atmosphere, and human life, all of which interacted harmoniously in a grand design. Though geography would gradually shed this teleological cast, Guyot had pushed geography from description to inter-pretation. George Perkins Marsh also explored this relationship in his Man and Nature (1864), though with a thoroughly theological bent. Into this basic framework of the relatively static view of the human and natural world, the work of Charles Darwin introduced the idea of evolution. As a result, geographers began to pay attention to the evolution of landforms over time, which eventually bolstered the study of physical geography.

By the late nineteenth century geography was no longer simply a tool of exploration, data gathering, and mapping. With the era of exploration waning, and with the coincident rise of American universities, geographers began to turn their attention toward reconceptualizing geography as an analytic, scientific body of knowledge. This was a difficult change for geographers, both intellectually and institutionally. Many worried that their field's reputation—as a broad field open to amateur armchair explorers as well as scientific experts—would taint its prospects in the newly professionalized university.

The unquestioned intellectual father of geography at this critical moment of late-century maturation was actually trained not in geography but geology, because doctoral programs in the former had yet to be developed. William Morris Davis was trained at Harvard as a geologist by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler and appointed professor of physical geography there in 1885. For Davis, the claims geographers made for their study as the "mother of all sciences" had to be halted if progress were to be made, for other scientists regarded this claim as the key indicator of geography's incoherence. Thus began a long tension within geography: What makes the field unique and worthy of its independence? How does a study that is essentially synthetic defend itself from the reach of neighboring sciences as diverse as geology, anthropology, and botany?

Together, Shaler and Davis initiated the first course of training in physical geography—the study of the surface features of the earth—and mentored the first generation of trained geographers in the United States. During the 1880s and 1890s Davis advanced an idea that applied Darwinian principles of evolution to the study of the physical landscape. The result was the science of geo-morphology, in which Davis argued that different elements of the environment worked to produce change on the landscape through dynamics such as soil erosion. This concept helped legitimate geography at the university level and in the process gave geographers a tremendous source of pride. At the same time, however, geomorphology reinforced geography's identity as a subfield of geology, thereby hampering its intellectual independence.

In the late 1870s modern geography began to appear as a field of study in American universities, usually found within departments of geology or "geology and geography." Only in 1898 was an independent department of geography established at the University of California. Davis was convinced that geography's weak reputation was in part attributable to organizations such as the American Geographical Society and the National Geographic Society—especially the latter, which became an increasingly popularized and middlebrow organization after the turn of the century. These groups were irritating to Davis because they reinforced in the mind of the academic and lay communities alike the sense that geography was the pastime of leisured travelers and curious amateurs. He actively dissociated himself from these organizations at the turn of the century, and at one point even attempted to take control of the National Geographic Society in order to return it to its serious, scientific roots. Thus Davis was enthusiastic about a new organization designed exclusively for professional geographers. The Association of American Geographers was founded in 1904, toward the end of the trend toward disciplinary organizations. While geologists were initially welcomed in order to solidify the new organization's membership base, within a few years their applications were deferred in the hope that disciplinary purity might be achieved.

The Advent of Human Geography

Davis was successful in training a number of young geographers at the turn of the century who began to return to the relationship between humans and their physical environment. More specifically, this generation found itself increasingly compelled to study the human response to the physical environment. This turn toward the "causal relationship" was in part a result of the imperative to strengthen geography's position among the disciplines. This new focus had the added benefit of distinguishing geography from geology. Physiography, which linked elements of the environment with one another, and ontography, which linked the environment with its human inhabitants, were the two main areas of disciplinary focus for geography just after the turn of the century. Most early geographers conceived of their discipline as having unique power to bridge the natural and human sciences. From the mid-1890s to World War I the prospect of uniting nature and culture through geography seemed both feasible and imminent at some of the most important centers of academic geography, including Pennsylvania, Chicago, Yale, and Harvard. But it was precisely this claim to breadth that neighboring sciences began to challenge, for in the new era of university science, disciplines were legitimated not by claims of breadth and inclusiveness but rather by narrowing their focus and delimiting their boundaries.

Because of their interest in the causal relationship, theories that united the realm of humans and their environment held special appeal for geographers. For instance, natural selection, though widely misinterpreted, was used to describe the relationship between the physical and the human environments as one of inorganic control and organic response. Evolutionary concepts became central to geography's effort to explain nature's influence upon human behavior, and geography focused increasingly on the question of why certain races, societies, or groups flourished while others languished. To be sure, geographers neglected the idea of random variation and exaggerated and accelerated the process of "struggle" in order to incorporate humans into the ecological world. Yet without this causal connection—the influence of environment on human behavior—the areas of study under geography could easily be divided up among other disciplines.

Even more important than Darwin's ideas were those of Jean-Baptiste de Monet de Lamarck, who suggested that characteristics acquired through the course of a lifetime could be passed biologically to off spring. Lamarck's ideas were well suited to the needs of the new social sciences at the turn of the century because they united the study of nature and humans by linking biology with environment. Though the rediscovery of Mendel's laws concerning genetic heredity in 1900 eroded the credibility of Lamarckian thought, geographers continued to invoke this model when describing the core of their study as the relationship between humans and their natural environment. In other words, Lamarck created for geographers a process to study, and this appeal was too strong to be easily dismissed. Furthermore, Lamarckian constructions meant that geographers were now studying the progress of civilization, which vastly expanded their field of inquiry. By focusing on one's adaptation to the physical environment, the random chance of Darwinian evolution could be replaced with the strength of an individual, a culture, a race, or a nation. These assumptions were not always conceived in deterministic ways. While some geographers invoked them as evidence of an intellectual and social hierarchy in order to justify American expansionism or European imperialism, others used them to open up possibilities for social change. This indeterminacy implicit in Lamarckism allowed it to shape geography long after it had been discredited in other behavioral sciences. In fact it was the range of interpretations possible in Lamarckian expositions that made it so attractive to geographers.

Geography and the State

One of the striking characteristics of geographical thought at the turn of the twentieth century was its implicit support of American expansionism, as demonstrated in the sharp turn that the fledgling National Geographic Society made toward an aggressive defense of America's position abroad during the Spanish-American War. Two Europeans, Halford Mackinder and Friedrich Ratzel, also exercised considerable influence over American geographical thought. Ratzel, trained as a zoologist, argued that a relationship existed between human history and physical geography, in some ways similar to Davis's idea of ontography. But while Davis was relatively tentative in his formulations, Ratzel painted in broad strokes by applying the idea of Darwinian struggle to human society in order to frame the state as an organism that was forced to expand in order to survive. Known by many as the father of geopolitical thought, Ratzel fit well with the contemporary expansionist posture of Josiah Strong, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Theodore Roosevelt, each of whom was encouraging American expansion into world affairs. Much like the work of Frederick Jackson Turner, Ratzel's ideas allowed geographers to link nature and culture. Ratzel's well-regarded The Sea as a Source of the Greatness of a People (1900) argued that sea power was central to national survival in the twentieth century.

Similarly, Halford Mackinder emphasized environmental influence as a key to the disciplinary identity of the new profession of geographers. His "Geographic Pivot of History" (1904) gave him an extraordinarily solid reputation in the United States; in it he laid out the geopolitical dimension of international politics. For Mackinder, the age of exploration had given way to a new era where the manipulation of information would be critical. In Mackinder's mind the human experience of geography and space had changed in fundamental ways in the late nineteenth century. As Stephen Kern has noted, the rise of geopolitics owed much to the cultural and technological changes taking place around the turn of the twentieth century, including the arrival of standardized time, the advent of flight, the expansion of the railroads, and advances in communication and radio, all of which transformed the everyday experience of space and time. Ratzel and Mackinder used geopolitical ideas in order to come to terms with this changed sense of distance resulting from these innovations. Both emphasized the relationship between geographical influence and human response.

Among the first generation of university-trained geographers who inherited these ideas of Ratzel, Mackinder, and Davis were Ellen Semple, Ellsworth Huntington, and Isaiah Bowman. Semple, a student of Ratzel's, was especially taken with environmentalist models as a way to explain American history. In works such as American Historyand Its Geographic Conditions (1903), Semple argued that living organisms evolve from simple to more complex forms through adaptation to physical environment. The larger the state, race, or people, the more certain its chance of survival relative to others competing for the same resources. Similarly, Huntington posited that the primary influence over human history was climate, and even suggested that these effects could be biologically passed on through generations. Books such as his Civilization and Climate (1915) were tremendously popular with the general public in the early twentieth century, though roundly criticized within geography and other social sciences.

World War I had a substantial impact on American academic geography. Most obviously, the war demonstrated the flexible nature of geographical borders in Europe and the ephemeral nature of colonial associations worldwide. The faith in European civilization was now tempered by its unparalleled capacity for destruction. In the United States, the war demonstrated the utility of geographic knowledge to the public and also advanced the careers of professional geographers called to work for the government. The geographer who benefited most from the war was Isaiah Bowman, then director of the American Geographical Society. One of Bowman's goals had been to make the society more relevant to social and political problems, and by placing its resources at the disposal of the federal government, the society's vast reserve of maps became pivotal to the construction of postwar Europe. The war also led many geographers, especially Bowman, to admit the limits of the environment over human behavior and to stress human influence over the environment. After World War I, geographers devoted tremendous energy to searching for a new relationship to unite the disparate areas under their field, prove its worth in the university, and conform to modern social scientific wisdom, which had deemed environmentalism a false and damaging approach to the study of human affairs.

Geography since Midcentury

One response to the rejection of environmentalist frameworks as the basis for research was to narrow geography's field of inquiry. The clearest indication of this was Richard Hartshorne's The Nature of Geography (1939), a massive statement of the field's direction written on the eve of World War II. For Hartshorne, what had historically made geography unique was its attention to systematic description of areal variation, not speculation about change over time or causal relationships between humans and their environment. The hope among earlier generations to discover laws of human behavior was dismissed by Hartshorne in favor of a focus on concrete, discrete studies.

Carl Sauer, one of the century's most influential geographers, rejected Hartshorne's treatise—and the approach of the interwar geographers generally—and characterized this period as "the great retreat" when geographers studiously avoided causal relationships between humans and their environment. Sauer thought this unacceptable: geography now conceded physiography to geology and shied away from the social sciences for fear of repeating past sins of environmental determinism. One of Sauer's alternatives was to emphasize the influence of humans over their environment rather than the reverse. In his wake, many students adopted Sauer's new approach in delving into the particularities of place and paying close attention to the development of landscape. Yet despite Sauer's attempt to discredit environmentalism, many geographers continued to grant the physical environment influence over human behavior during the interwar period, an indication of the fractured nature of the discipline at midcentury. In 1947, Harvard made the decision to dissolve its department of geography, the original locus of academic geography in the United States. In subsequent years, Stanford, Yale, Michigan, and innumerable smaller institutions closed their geography departments. Yet the overall number of geography programs rose sharply in the postwar years, a reflection of the general growth of higher education.

Geographers themselves found renewed energy in the 1950s and 1960s by turning toward quantitative analyses as the basis for a redefinition of geography. The "quantitative revolution" did not constitute a change in goals so much as in method: geographers were still searching for locational patterns, but they began to adopt mathematical models, which in some cases led a return to a more abstract, general orientation and away from the idiographic focus on discrete regions. This school of geography drew heavily from economics. But by the late 1960s the quantitative revolution left many concerned that geography was bereft of any purposive, reformist content. Some argued that the quantitative model of geography essentially operated conservatively, in defense of the status quo, and contained little critical potential. A reaction to this—in part inspired by Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)—brought a resurgence of political concerns to the study of geography, but this time with a radical rather than a conservative thrust.

Postmodern, or radical, geography involves first and foremost a critique of the traditional relationship between notions of space and time. For geographers such as Neil Smith and Edward Soja, for instance, Western culture has been preoccupied since the nineteenth century with a historicist focus, and this has come at the expense of an explicitly spatial orientation. They argue that this temporal bent has obscured our awareness of just how deeply the dynamics of power—especially those created by capitalism—are inscribed in spatial relations. For both Smith and Soja, to remedy this requires a critique of historicism and a turn toward spatial concerns. This goal of a more activist, self-critical form of the discipline has continued from the late 1970s forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century, and has brought special attention to the relationship between power and capitalism in the study of urban space. It has infused geography with both theoretical concerns and concrete purpose. In recent years considerable research has also been undertaken in the field of feminist geography, which explores the way gender relations are reinforced by spatial arrangements of societies. The wide influence of these new, conceptually rich areas of research extends well beyond the disciplinary bounds of geography, which suggests the trend toward a more ambitious and socially relevant scope for the subject.


Blouet, Brian, ed. The Origins of Academic Geography in the United States. Hamden, Conn. : Archon, 1981.

Driver, Felix. "Geography's Empire: Histories of Geographical Knowledge." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10 (1992): 23–40.

Godlewska, Anne, and Neil Smith, eds. Geography and Empire. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1983.

Kirby, Andrew. "The Great Desert of the American Mind: Concepts of Space and Time and Their Historiographic Implications." In The Estate of Social Knowledge. Edited by Jo Anne Brown and David K. van Keuren. Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Livingstone, David N. The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

Martin, Geoffrey J., and Preston E. James. All Possible Worlds: A History of Geographical Ideas. New York: Wiley and Sons, 1993.

Rose, Gillian. Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge. Cambridge, Mass. : Polity Press, 1993.

Schulten, Susan. The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880– 1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Smith, Neil. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984.

Soja, Edward W. Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London and New York: Verso, 1989.

Stoddart, D. R. On Geography and its History. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.


See alsoEvolutionism ; Geology ; Maps and Mapmaking .

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Geography is the study of the field of knowledge relating to the temporal and spatial dimensions of the processes that shape the Earths surface. Implicit within geography as a discipline is an emphasis on ways that diverse systems interact over time, producing particular landscapes in particular places. Geography is distinct from other disciplines (such as spatial economics and geology) in that it emphasizes the dual dimensions of time and space as causal, and because it highlights the importance of feedback between these different dimensions. A landscape can be understood as a place-specific configuration of interacting systems (at any scale), whose features influence the geographical processes operating in that particular case (this interaction produces feedback). The term landscape is often used to describe systems in which natural processes predominate, while place is used to describe systems dominated by human processes, though this distinction is not absolute. Indeed, in human geography the term landscape is used by many to describe anthropogenic systems, giving the effect that the phenomenon is distinct from the humans inhabiting it.

There are several ways of subdividing the discipline of geography. A common distinction is often made between physical geography as an environmental science and human geography as a social science. Human geography can further be divided according to the topic of study, creating subfields such as urban, political, economic, social, historical or cultural geography. More abstract dividing lines can also be drawn on the basis of methodologies, so that a distinction can be made between quantitative approaches, which have much in common with orthodox economics and cartography, and qualitative approaches, which can be similar to sociology, planning anthropology, and political science. Since the quantitative revolution of the 1960s, geographers have also distinguished themselves according to their epistemological perspectives on the nature of reality and the possibility of individuals adequately understanding and describing that reality.


Geography as a discipline emerged in Germany in the eighteenth century in the context of attempts associated with Alexander von Humboldt at the University of Berlin to systematically harness the benefits that universities provided to society by creating applied disciplines linked to social needs. The ancient civilizations were interested in geographical topics such as cartography and cultural geography in the context of operating their military and trading empires. These proto-geographical ways of thinking were primarily concerned with describing the form of the earth, often in an attempt to better control a particular activity rather than produce pure knowledge of geographical systems. It is important to note that these applied uses of geography have created a continual stream of wealthy patrons willing to fund exploration to producing spatial knowledges, which have often served those patrons own power interests.

According to Richard Hartshornes The Nature of Geography, geography as a discipline emerged from a growing body of practical studies after 1500, but it was from 1750 onward that serious attempts were made to establish the two preconditions for a discipline, namely a distinctive subject area and a rigorous analytic methodology. The renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant (17241804) saw a close and necessary connection between understanding the nature of the world, and developing a more general (abstract) philosophical method. Hartshorne relates that Kants physical geography course became a staple of his philosophy curriculum, being repeated forty-eight times from 1756 to 1796 at the University of Köningsberg (now Kaliningrad). Kant developed the idea of Länderkunde, of studying particular distinctive regions in detail to understand their emergence. This approach was extended throughout the early nineteenth century by other early geographers, such as Von Humboldt and Carl Ritter, who viewed the human and physical elements of places as inseparable elements of a unitary whole (die Ganzheit ), of a region or landscape. Humboldt, in particular, tried to ensure that the focus of study was on classes of places (classified, perhaps by climate, geology, social form) rather than classes of objects (such as species).

Humboldts efforts to create a science of geography were ultimately responsible for a postmortem split between systematic geographers, studying physical processes and landforms, and regional geographers, studying societies in particular climatic and geological regions. This cleavage deepened in the course of the nineteenth century, as geographers sought to specialize and establish themselves in the many new and growing universities. However, this tension was never fully resolved, and as geography began to institutionalize, the newly formed learned societies reflected both halves of the discipline: systematic (physical) geography and regional (human) geography.


The story of geography since 1900 is one of an established discipline advancing rapidly, driven by and responding to the huge social and physical changes accompanying the rise of industrial society, alongside increasing technological opportunities for new forms of research and knowledge production. During the twentieth century, a number of currents of thinking emerged that were driven by ideological considerations. Environmental determinism, for example, provided an intellectual underpinning for the imperialistic Race for Africa in the late nineteenth century by arguing that climatic considerations meant that African civilizations were incapable of developing stable social institutions. Likewise, desire for Lebensraum (living space) of the National Socialists in Germany drew on geopolitical thinking that originated with the English geographer Halford Mackinders concept of geopolitics to rationalize these ideological desires within the school of Geopolitik. The collapse of both underpinning ideologies carried a collateral cost for their parent disciplines as a whole. It was this tendency for supposedly neutral geographical analyses to favor particular powerful groups that was the stimulus behind the radical turn in human geography that emerged in the 1970s.

In parallel with these changes, two important geographical movements emerged to reshape the discipline in the period from 1900 to 1970. The first of these was the systematization of regional (human) geography, which attempted to move beyond ideographic descriptions of societal phenomenon in particular places to more analytic expressions of places in terms of underlying processes. However, it is important to stress that national geographies remained highly distinctive at this time, and these new regional geographies reflected these national distinctions. British regional geography, particularly in the works of Henry Daysh, H. C. Darby, and Hilda Ormsby reflected national traditions of empiricism and pragmatism while emphasizing the importance of historical development. French writers, led by Paul Vidal de la Blache, produced the Annales school, named after its journal, which developed notions of environmental possibilism, in which social configurations (genres de vie ) were influenced both by physical environment and social and political decisions. German writers, notably Walter Christaller and Alfred Weber, used mathematical modeling to understand the spatial allocation of human activity such as settlements and industry. This represented a more analytic attempt to understand human activity. Although these diverse national approaches differed in the extent to which they emphasized theory over practical observation, they clearly all represented an attempt to systematize the production of geographical knowledge.

This consensus emphasizing systematization enabled the second great geographical movement of the twentieth century, the quantitative revolution. Early systematic approaches, inspired by the natural sciences, suggested that everything in nature was knowable, given sufficient data and analytic capacity. The increasing scientization of society in general, and the rise of computer power after 1947 in particular, seemed to bring this dream of total geographical knowledge within reach. The basis for quantitative geography lay in creating mathematical spatial models to account for the distribution and evolution of particular phenomenon over space. The quantitative revolution became associated in the United States with the Regional Science movement, pioneered by Walter Isard, then a professor at University of Pennsylvania, and his supporters. By infusing geography with mathematical and statistical tools, Regional Science superficially avoided the charges of selectivity and ideological determination that afflicted more ideographic geographical approaches. In part, the popularity of these quantitative approaches derived from the apparent certainty of knowledge thereby produced, which gave policymakers a robust evidence base for making decisions about land use and economic planning.

However, quantitative approaches often suffered from failing to adequately capture the independent variables, the factors responsible for causing particular phenomena. Quantitative practitioners were making assumptions and using convenient proxy variables rather than capturing complex social and cultural phenomena. The increasing urban segregation and deprivation in the 1960s and 1970s in western Europe and America provided a direct challenge to quantitative geographys capacity to explain away the emergence of ghettos, dereliction, and, frequently, rioting. Faced with the inability to measure causal variables, a number of geographers instead began to form theories to try to understand how large-scale social structures created micro- and meso-scale problems.

Arguably the most celebrated of these geographers is David Harvey, whose empiricist manifesto Explanation in Geography (1969) was supplanted by a Marxian commitment to understanding spatial process in terms of class struggle, beginning with his 1973 treatise Social Justice and the City. Harvey exemplified a radical geography in which class theory allowed hidden power relationships to be exposed and unexpected causalities to be identified. This radical approach fitted neatly with, and has since become associated with, a more general postmodern or relativistic turn in the social sciences. Harveys neo-Marxian writings reached what many regard as an apex of a theoretical research project with the publication of The Limits to Capital in 1982. This volume set out a sweeping vision for an ever-deepening form of capitalism that would eventually penetrate into every corner of the world, and it has proven to be an important foundation for radical critiques of globalization and neoliberalism.

Radical geography subsequently proceeded through a number of further turns, which have critiqued their predecessors in an attempt to better understand what drives the development of human societies. The cultural turn emphasized the importance of noneconomic interaction and transactions; the institutional turn noted the importance of durable organizations and social norms; and the relational turn highlighted the fact that people are influenced by what is close to them, and that proximity is not just physical but can be organizational, cultural, or virtual in nature. These turns were all led by movements comprising both established geographers who recanted or redacted their established positions and emerging geographers who became a new generation of intellectual leaders for geography. The cultural turn was signaled in 1989 by the parallel publications of David Harveys The Condition of Postmodernity and Edward Sojas Postmodern Geographies. Both books asked fundamental questions about the economic focus of much Marxian geography, and they laid the foundations for more reflexive understandings of economic activity. These turns have been contested by other geographers, who have expressed concerns that the intellectual efforts involved in reflexivity have detached them from geographers central task of understanding real places and spaces.

At the same time, quantitative approaches have continued to develop. Geographical information systems (GISs) are massive computer databases into which huge quantities of locational data is entered, allowing the performance of additional fieldwork capable of identifying regularities that are not immediately obvious. Although they are academic tools, much of the investment in them came from customers seeking to make sense of unknown and uncertain environments, notably the military and oil exploration companies. The continual investments these tools produce have generated a wide range of applications, and GISs are now commonplace across the spatial sciences beyond geography.

Quantitative geographers have also used novel mathematical techniques and increasing computing power to address traditional geographical problems of understanding how spatial distribution and irregularities in distribution cause geographical processes to behave in different ways in different places. These approaches are exemplified by the geographically weighted regression (GWR) technique. There has also been an increasing dialogue between physical and human geographers trying to deal with the complex environmental problems that have emerged with the increasing industrialization of society. This neatly emphasizes the ongoing indivisibility of the natural and the anthropogenic elements of geographical systems, as well as the mutual understanding necessary to understand the development of spatial systems.

SEE ALSO Cities; Cultural Landscape; Determinism, Environmental; Kant, Immanuel; Metropolis; Peasantry; Planning; Regions; Regions, Metropolitan; Segregation, Residential; Spatial Theory; Suburbs; Topography; Urbanization


Hartshorne, Richard. 1939. The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past. Lancaster, PA: Association of American Geographers.

Harvey, David. 1969. Explanation in Geography. London: Edward Arnold.

Harvey, David. 1973. Social Justice and the City. London: Edward Arnold.

Isard, Walter. 1956. Location and Space Economy. New York: John Wiley.

Scott, Alan. 2000. Economic Geography: The Great Half-Century. In The Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography, eds. Gordon Clark, Maryann Feldman, and Meric Gertler, 1844. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Paul Benneworth

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Geography is the study of the physical and geopolitical aspects of the surface of Earth. Physical geography describes the different surface and climatic conditions around the world. Political geography is concerned with the division of the world into various levels of government, human activity, and production. Geography is not confined to merely describing Earth as it is now, but also understanding how it has evolved and how it may change in the future.

The problems that faced humankind at the dawn of history stimulated both geography and mathematics. In fact, much of early mathematics was concerned with making measurements of the land; so much so that a whole branch of mathematics became known as Earth-measurement, which in Greek is geometry. Geometry as a mathematical study is less concerned with its practical roots, but for geographers, geometry and trigonometry are invaluable tools.

Outside of the activities associated with mapmaking, geography was for many years mainly descriptive. The information collected about the physical and social characteristics of the world was reported in a narrative form with little attempt to analyze the data that had been collected. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a revolution took place in geography when the acceptance of any theory within the science became subject to mathematical analysis. As with other sciences, geography began to use mathematics as the language to describe relationships in the discipline.

The Geographic Matrix

An observation made by a geographer has two main attributesa location and a physical attribute associated with that location. Each place may have more than one characteristic and each characteristic may be found at more than one location. These data can be recorded in a matrix with rows representing characteristics and columns the places where the

observations have been taken. The organization of data into a matrix greatly aids geographers with the mathematical analysis of the information they gather.

Before geographers collect data, they must select the locations within the region where they will measure the characteristics of interest. This requires an understanding of the sampling techniques found in mathematical statistics. From statistical sampling theories the geographer calculates how many locations will be required, which will consequently reveal the number of columns in the matrix. In establishing the appropriate number of locations, it is necessary to ensure that there is sufficient data so that the samples are representative of the whole region.

Three main types of sampling systems are used in selecting locations. The first type is a totally random sample, in which each location in the study is selected at random from all possible points in the region. The second type of sample is a systematic sample, in which an initial point is chosen at random and all other points are determined by fixed intervals from the randomly chosen point. The third type of sample is a stratified sample, in which the region is subdivided into subregions. Within the subregions, points are chosen by either using a totally random sample, or a stratified sample, or by dividing into further subdivisions. This process can continue until the degree of accuracy required matches the number of sampling points. For example, in studying a country, a geographer may first break the country into regions. Then the regions may subdivide by using political divisions such as a state, and this may go further by using counties, and at this level there may be a random selection of sampling points.

Ultimately, the selection of sampling locations should permit a rapid, accurate, and economical amount of calculation in order to analyze the data. The selection process should also be such that final analysis is comparable to data collected in other regions so that regional comparisons may be made. In addition, consideration needs to be given to national and international standards, and to enabling comparisons with data collected over time.

Analysis of the Geographical Matrix

When the collected data have been placed in a geographic matrix, an analysis of a region can proceed in many ways. One common method of analysis is an examination of how a characteristic is distributed over a region by examining the row of the matrix for that characteristic. For example, attention may be focused on the way in which the rural population is distributed over an area such as the Great Plains of the United States.

Secondly, a geographer may try to get an understanding of the complexity of a location by identifying its characteristics. In other words, the column for that location may be analyzed. For instance, interest may be in the rainfall, soil type, or most successful crop production at a location in order to make recommendations for other places with similar characteristics. If the location is an urban area, a geographer might try to connect transportation access data, raw material availability, and expert labor supply, in order to explain why a particular industry is successful at that location.

A third way to make comparisons is between rows. This enables an understanding of which characteristics are found together or separately, or to what degree they might mix. For example, looking at common characteristics for two economically successful locations can show why they contribute to the locations' success.

A fourth option for a method of analysis is to make a comparison of columns. This allows the geographer to describe which locations are similar and which are very different. For instance, by analyzing locations where the weather data are the same, a geographer can classify climates that are similar. All of these analyses require the statistical techniques of correlation and regression (defining and characterizing relationships among data).

Optimization Problems Solved by Geographers

Although mathematics has become an essential tool of modern geography, it was also present in the geography of the nineteenth century. In 1826, Von Thünen collected data on land values in agricultural communities; he also collected data on how farmers used land. His data were centered on a town that was the main market for a region.

Von Thünen found that for each particular type of crop the costs of getting the produce to market was a product of the distance from town, r, the volume of the crop produced in a unit area of land, v, and the cost of transportation per unit of distance, c. If the crop sells at a price of p and the fixed costs of producing the crop are a, then the net profit is expressed as R = (p a )v rcv.

Von Thünen constructed graphs of profit R plotted against the distance from town, r for various crops. The figure above shows the graphs for three crops. Crop 1 produces the highest profit as long as it is inside a distance of r 1 of the market. Between a distance of r 1 and r 2 crop 2 is the most profitable, and between r 2 and r 3 crop 3 is the most profitable. At r 3 all three crops become unprofitable. Von Thünen suggested that the land around a market be used to reflect these rings, and that there should be no cultivation of these crops beyond r 3 at all, as there was no profit in farming at this distance (see below).

The modern equivalent of this geographical distribution model is the understanding of why the location of a shopping center or a factory affects each one's success or failure. From the geographical matrix the locations of various resources that are required by a manufacturing plant can be established. Given the locations of different raw materials, labor resources, and transportation of raw materials to the factory, the location for the optimum manufacturing plant can be calculated and compared to an existing plant.

A geographer's data can also be used to support or refute the location of a manufacturing plant at a particular location. However, this is only part of the solution, for once the goods have been manufactured they have to be distributed to market centers, and this has an associated cost that can affect the decision concerning a manufacturing plant's location. By weighting distances with regard to cost, an optimum location can be found by finding the equivalent of the center of gravity of the system.

In the location of a factory, one of the problems that has to be tackled is the distribution of the product to market. Here another branch of mathematics aids the analysis. Graphs and trees deal with the analysis of networks, and can be employed in finding solutions to this part of the problem. One of the classic problems of networks, the travelling salesman problem, is concerned with the most efficient route for a travelling salesman to take in order to cover all the customers. This is also the route that the supply trucks will be interested in following. The full understanding of this problem is still the object of mathematical research.

Calculus in Geography

A major problem of geography is the modeling of population change. Change in populations implies that geographers are interested in data that are time dependent. Therefore any data collection has to be repeated at various intervals, the most familiar way being the United States census that is required every 10 years by law.

The census gives data over long periods of time, but annual sampling is necessary in order to monitor more detailed changes. The data can then be matched to a mathematical model. The most common model for population growth results in the construction of a differential equation in which the change in population, with respect to time, varies directly with time and can be solved through calculus.

Calculus also helps model the way in which the profile of a hill develops. Another application of calculus gives a mathematical model of the freezing of water in a lake. If air above a lake maintains temperatures below the freezing point of water for a prolonged period of time, the thickness of the ice will continue to increase. The rate of advance of the ice depends on the rate at which heat can be carried away from the surface by convection currents in the water below the ice surface. The model leads to a differential equation .

Fractals and River Watersheds

The way in which rivers begin their life as a collection of small springs or gullies that collect rain and spill into brooks or streams has been better understood in recent times by the analysis offered by mathematics through fractals . In river systems, fractal scaling can be seen in the organization of the river network at various levels of observation; that is, they conform to the fractals first described by Benoit B. Mandelbrot. Research around 1990 described the scaling properties of the geometry of several river systems and a calculation was made of their fractal dimension.

Probability and the Layout of Villages

Probability leads to an understanding of the way villages develop over a long period of time, given that there has been no deliberate planning. The model requires the description of two objects, a closed cell with an entrance, and an open cell (see figure below).

These cells are joined together to form a doublet so that the entrance always faces onto an open cellcorresponding to a house opening out onto the public space. In the modeling process, the doublets are allowed to accumulate with the condition that each new doublet that joins the village does so with its open cell having at least one edge common with another open cell. Which open cell a new doublet joins is chosen at random. This modeling process has been successful in describing a number of old villages in which town planning did not influence the layout.

see also Cartographer; Fractals; Global Positioning System; Mandelbrot, Benoit B.; Maps and Mapmaking; Probability, Theoretical.

Phillip Nissen


Haining, Robert. Spatial Data Analysis in the Social and Environmental Sciences. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Hillier, B., and J. Hanson. The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1984

Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio, and Andrea Rinaldo. Fractal River Basins: Chance and Self-Organization. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Wilson, A.G., and M. J. Kirby. Mathematics for Geographers and Planners. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1975.

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The topography and geography of the Middle East are closely related to the geology and climate of the region.

A zone of mountainous terrain in the north in combination with higher latitudes, lower temperatures, and increased precipitation gives a distinctive character to Turkey, Iran, and parts of the Levantine (eastern Mediterranean) coast. To the south, in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, tilted fault-block mountains and volcanoes provide intermittent physical relief to an area largely consisting of plateaus and plains. Unremitting aridity and high temperatures typify the desert that dominates this southern part of the region.

The geology of the Middle East is determined by the movement of continental plates in a north-westerly direction. This movement, in turn, deforms masses of sedimentary strata deposited in Paleozoic times in the ancient Tethyan Sea, which once separated Eurasia and Africa. The African plate is the largest and consists of ancient igneous materials overlain, in part, by a relatively thin layer of more recent sedimentary rocks. With the exception of the folded strata that make up the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains in the west of the Maghrib (North Africa), the Ahaggar and Tibesti Mountains of Algeria and Libya, as well as the highlands of the Ethiopian plateau, are volcanic in nature. The Arabian plate to the east consists of tilted Mesozoic sedimentary strata dipping beneath the Persian/Arabian Gulf: These strata overlie pre-Cambrian igneous basement rock exposed by erosion in the Asir Mountains along the western shores of the peninsula. The Red Sea, which the uptilted edge of the Asir overlooks, is a continuation of the East African rift valley system and is formed by the moving apart of the African and Arabian blocks. This rift system continues north through the Gulf of Aqaba and forms the valley of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. It eventually disappears in the down-folded strata of the Biqa (Bekaa) Valley of Lebanon.

The heavily folded Zagros Mountains bordering the Gulf on its eastern side result from the collision and subduction of the Arabian plate under the Iranian plate. The Persian/Arabian Gulf, which is an inlet of the Indian Ocean along the axis of the subduction zone, has accumulated huge quantities of sediments from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Karun River, and numerous intermittent streams draining the lands on either side. Within these Tertiary sedimentary strata are found the largest petroleum fields in the world, with deposits in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman, in descending order of importance. To the northwest, the Turkish
plate is sliding westward along a transform fault and colliding with the Aegean plate. These areas of movement create major fault zones subject to severe earthquakes. In Turkey, the Erzincan earthquake of 1992 was typical. Faulting and recent volcanism terminate the northward extension of the rich petroleum fields of the Gulf beyond a few poor deposits near Batman, Turkey.

The northern part of the Middle East is a mountainous extension of the Alpine orogeny. The Pontic Mountains paralleling Turkey's Black Sea coast merge with the eastern highlands notable for volcanic Mount Ararat of biblical fame. The Taurus Mountains along Turkey's south shore extend eastward as the Anti-Taurus Mountains, joining the Zagros Mountains running southeast between Iran and Iraq. Another extension forms the Elburz Mountains bordering the Caspian Sea in Iran. Mount Damavand (18,934 ft [5775 m]), the highest peak in the Middle East and North Africa, is part of this range. Still farther east, the Kopet Mountains merge with those in Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush.

Great rivers have played their part in the history and development of the Middle East. The White Nile, which rises in equatorial Africa, is joined at Khartoum in Sudan by the Blue Nile, flowing from the highlands of Ethiopia. No precipitation sufficient for human survival occurs from that juncture north to the Mediterranean Sea, and all life in Egypt depends on the use of the combined waters of the two Niles. The Euphrates River and its companion the Tigris both rise in Turkey and join in southern Iraq to form the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The area between the two streams, ancient Mesopotamia, was the site of the earliest civilization, Sumer (3500 b.c.e.), and other ancient civilizations based on irrigation farming.

The Mediterranean Sea also has influenced many of the cultural and geographical characteristics of the Middle East. It has served as a major link between Europe, Africa, and southwest Asia since ancient times. The Turkish Straits, composed from north to south of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, are an important waterway joining the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. Bronze Age ships plied these straits and sailed along the coast of Turkey as well as among the Aegean Islands. Early Phoenician traders established sea routes leading to the Straits of Gibraltar and beyond. Ancient Greek ships traveled through the Bosporus to bring grain from the shores of the Black Sea, and Roman triremes linked Italy and Africa. During the Middle Ages, some Arab navigational skills were conveyed to Europeans as Islam was spread. In the nineteenth century, the Mediterranean route was enhanced when the French and Egyptians completed the Suez Canal, joining the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and thus reducing the trip from Europe to India (originally by way of the Cape of Good Hope) by thousands of miles.

The Middle East is composed of four environments, expressed by climate, vegetation, and traditional lifestyle. Well-watered humid and subhumid lands border the Black Sea in Turkey and extend along the Caspian shore of Iran. In these well-populated places, maize (corn), tea, hazelnuts, and rice are important crops.

Mountainous terrain, with remnant forests of pine, cedar, and juniper, rims the Anatolian plateau of Turkey and extends southward into coastal Syria and Lebanon. Similar but drier environments are found in the Zagros and Elburz Mountains of Iran. These areas once supported dense growths of mature trees, but with the exception of more remote places in the Taurus Mountains, the logger's ax and the charcoal burners' ovens have depleted the forests while nomads' goats have prevented regrowth through overgrazing. The result is either disturbed and impoverished woodlands (French, maquis ) or barren and rocky ground supporting low herbaceous shrubs (French, garrigue ).

The interior plateau of Turkey, the foothills of the Anti-Taurus and Zagros Mountains, and the northern portions of Jordan and Israel are semiarid, with grazing or grain production depending on the amount of each year's precipitation. The variance of rainfall on the drier margins of these areas makes permanent rain-fed agriculture difficult. As a result, ancient peoples developed pastoral nomadism as a lifestyle that met this challenge. Herds and flocks were moved seasonally to new pastures to avoid over-grazing of sparse vegetation as well as to seek out water sources. Once an important means of livelihood, nomadism has largely been abandoned.

The semiarid steppes merge gradually into true deserts, which dominate southern Israel, Jordan, and Iraq as well as the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa west to the Atlas Mountains. Saharan conditions extend to the Mediterranean shore of North Africa from Gaza to Sfax in Tunisia, the only exception being a small outlier of Mediterranean climate on the Jabal al-Akhdar (Green Mountain) of Libya. Under desert conditions, agriculture is possible only in scattered oases and along the banks of rivers like the Euphrates in Iraq and the Nile in Egypt.

The narrow rim of Mediterranean climate, which extends north from Gaza through Israel, along the coasts of Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, is the fourth environment. This same climate is also found from Tunis west to the Atlantic shores of Morocco. The Mediterranean environment is typified by winter rains and hot dry summers, which allow for the production of irrigated vegetables and citrus fruits, as well as various winter grains.

See also Aegean Sea; Aqaba, Gulf of; Arabian Peninsula; Ararat, Mount; Atlas Mountains; Biqa Valley; Black Sea; Climate; Dead Sea; Hindu Kush Mountains; Levantine; Maghrib; Mediterranean Sea; Nile River; Persian (Arabian) Gulf; Petroleum, Oil, and Natural Gas; Shatt al-Arab; Straits, Turkish; Suez Canal; Taurus Mountains; Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.


Beaumont, Peter; Blake, Gerald H.; and Wagstaff, J. Malcolm. The Middle East: A Geographical Study, 2d edition. New York: Halsted Press, 1988.

Blake, Gerald; Dewdney, John; and Mitchell, Jonathan. The Cambridge Atlas of the Middle East and North Africa. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Held, Colbert C. Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics, 3d edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.

Longrigg, Stephen H. The Middle East: A Social Geography, 2d edition. Chicago: Aldine, 1970.

John F. Kolars

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GEOGRAPHY. Food is grown in a one place, distributed to another place, and eaten in yet another place. Food is affected by culture, by economics, and by politics. Food affects our bodies, our relationships with other people, and our relationship with the land. This is the "food system," a system that encapsulates where and how food is produced, how it reaches our mouths, and why we eat what we do.

Anthropologists, nutritionists, historians, sociologists, and philosophers have long been concerned with different aspects of the food system. So tooand increasinglyare geographers.

Geography has a lot to say about food. A subject often misconceived as being concerned solely with maps and mapping, it is actually a philosophically and topically pluralistic discipline that is concerned with spatial processes in the human and physical environment. With a focus on both the spatial aspects of human existence and natural features, geographers are uniquely qualified to study a system that is, as Atkins and Bowler say in Food in Society (p. 13), "squeezed into a fault line between environment and society." Geographers seek to conceptualize the food system as a spatial construct that is driven in part by processes that operate from one physically definable and socially constructed space to another. Scale-dependent concepts such as regional, local, and global, location, place, and space, are the basis of questions geographers ask of the food system: Where is food grown and why? What are the processes controlling the movement of food from place to place? Why do we eat what we do? Why do we buy food where we do? How is food consumption related to production? Why is food consumption high in some parts of the world and low in others? Geographers think spatially. They also think systematically, theorizing about the relative roles of the environment and human beings as participants in the system under study and how they interact.

In the academy there are many different types of geographers, all of whom have a potential interest in food. Physical, economic, social, urban, rural, cultural, medical, and agricultural geographers all have their respective emphases on the analysis of the food system. All told, they study the production, consumption, provision, and distribution of food, from the local to the global, from feast to famine. And, as a tool, geographers can use relatively new computer-aided mapping techniques, especially geographical information systems (GIS) to map and analyze spatial data as it pertains to food systems.

Food production and how and why it varies over space is studied in physical and human geography. Physical geographers seek to explain the spatial arrangement of food crops throughout the world by analyzing the environmental factors that limit or promote food production, such as climate, soil, and topography. Human geographers look to the explanatory power of history, economics, and politics and place a greater emphasis on the role of agricultural (food production) systems in affecting how much food is produced and where. They seek to describe the systemswhether as subsistent, intensive, extensive, or industrialand ask how social, organizational, and technological changes within the system are affected by spatial processes and how they in turn affect spatial outcomes. Geographers have helped pioneer the understanding of food production as an "industrialized" system, a system bound up with processes of economic development that subsequently affects where and how much food is produced.

Food production also has an impact on the environment. One of the first disciplines to recognize the human impact on the environment, geography has long identified the environmental impact of modern agriculture. Hydrologists and soil scientists measure the impact of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation on water and soil quality. Desertification and deforestation are environmental issues identified by geographers as outcomes, in part, of food production. In turn, rural and developmental geographers take up the challenge of assessing the impact of environmental changes on local people and national economies.

In terms of food consumption, geographers argue that "place matters" in what people eat. Traditionally, geography has looked at regional patterns of diet, but over the past three decades focus has shifted to the symbolic meaning and cultural identity of foodto the way, in other words, that human beings use food to construct a place-related identity, either real or imaginary. Cuisines create a sense of identity; restaurant locations indicate spatially spreading food trends; the perception of what is "ethnic" and "local" food reveals the way we see ourselves fitting into society socially and geographically.

Food provision and retailing are another aspect of consumption studies within geography. Geographers seek to explain the spatial patterning of food retailers: Why, in many cases, do certain neighborhoods have very few food stores while others are supersaturated? Using the notion of "competitive spaces," geographers in the United Kingdom have been able to identify supermarket locating decisions as a response not only to state-imposed locational regulations, but to the market advantage of locating in a "competitive space."

Geography also asks how spaces of food consumption are linked with spaces of food production. An inherently geographical phenomenon, food is distributed in a variety of ways: national transportation systems, global trade, or local exchanges. Geographers have extended the study of these food distribution networks by seeking to uncover the relations between the site of raw food production and the site of consumption. Using the conceptual approach of "commodity chains," geographers trace food items from the point of consumption back through the chain of retail, wholesale, processing, and agricultural production, taking into account transportation, labor processes, technology, and politics. And in the related "food network" concept, institutional intermediaries such as state regulation and international agreements are added into the chain. Developments in this field have been spurred by increasing worldwide interest in the trend toward the replacement of national by international institutions, global sourcing of products, and the centralization of strategic assets, trends often conceptualized by the term "globalization." Geographers have highlighted, in particular, the local, regional, and national response to globalization, often finding that globalization in some way strengthens the local nature of food production.

Linking food production and consumption in terms of supply and demand is also very much part of the geographical tradition. Geographers ask why it is that in some regions and communities of the world people do not have enough to eat, whereas in others there is overnutrition. Some geographers analyze the spaces of hunger in terms of economics and social relations, others in terms of population growth and environmental limits on food production. Again, geographers are uniquely poised to ask questions about society and the environment. Space, it seems, unites them both.

See also Distribution of Food ; Environment ; Food Production, History of ; Population and Demographics .


Atkins, Peter, and Ian Bowler. Food in Society: Economy, Culture, Geography. London: Arnold, 2001.

Bell, David, and Gill Valentine. Consuming Geographies: We Are Where We Eat. London: Routledge, 1997.

Goodman, David, and Michael J. Watts, eds. Globalising Food: Agrarian Questions and Global Restructuring. London: Routledge, 1997.

Goudie, Andrew. The Human Impact on the Natural Environment. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000.

Grigg, David. An Introduction to Agricultural Geography. London: Routledge, 1995.

Marsden, Terry, Andrew Flynn, and Michelle Harrison. Consuming Interests: The Social Provision of Foods. London: UCL Press, 2000.

Shortridge, Barbara G., and James R. Shortridge, eds. The Taste of American Place. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.

Smil, Vaclav. Feeding the World: A Challenge for the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000.

Tansey, Geoff, and Tony Worsley. The Food System: A Guide. London: Earthscan, 1995.

Wrigley, Neil, and Michelle Lowe, eds. Retailing, Consumption and Capital: Towards the New Retail Geography. Harlow, Essex, U.K.: Longman, 1996.

Corinna Hawkes

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Russia is the world's largest country, 1.7 times larger than second-place Canada, ten times larger than Alaska, and twenty-five times larger than Texas. It stretches from 19° E Longitude in the west to 169° W Longitude in the east, spanning 5,700 miles (9,180 kilometers) and eleven time zones. If Russia were superimposed on North America with St. Petersburg in Anchorage, Alaska, the Chukchi Peninsula would touch Oslo, Norway, halfway around the globe. Thus, when Russians are eating supper on any given day in St. Petersburg, the Chukchi are breakfasting on the next. From its southernmost point (42° N) to its northernmost islands (82° N), the width of Russia exceeds the length of the contiguous United States.

Russia's size guarantees a generous endowment of natural features and raw materials. The country contains the world's broadest lowlands, swamps, grasslands, and forests. In the Greater Caucasus Mountains towers Europe's highest mountain, Mt. Elbrus. Flowing out of the Valday Hills northwest of Moscow and into the world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea, is Europe's longest river, the "Mother Volga." Almost three thousand miles to the east, in Eastern Siberia, is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake. The Russian raw material base is easily the world's most extensive. The country ranks first or second in the annual production of many of the world's strategic minerals. Historically, Russia's size has ensured defense in depth. Napoleon and Hitler learned this the hard way in 1812 and in the 1940s, respectively.

Because Russia is such a northerly country, however, much of the land is unsuitable for human habitation. Ninety percent of Russia is north of the 50th parallel, which means that Russian farmers can harvest only one crop per field per year. Three-fourths of Russia is more than 250 miles (400 km) away from the sea. Climates are continental rather than maritime. Great temperature ranges and low annual precipitation plague most of the country. Therefore, only 8 percent of Russia's enormous landmass is suitable for farming. The quest for food is a persistent theme in Russian history. Before 1950, famines were harsh realities.

The Russian people thus chose to settle in the temperate forests and steppes, avoiding the mountains, coniferous forests, and tundras. The primary zone of settlement stretches from St. Petersburg in the northwest to Novosibirsk in Western Siberia and back to the North Caucasus. A thin exclave of settlement continues along the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. Except for random mining and logging, major economic activities are carried out in the settled area.

Russia's size evidences great distances between and among geographic phenomena. Accordingly, it suffers the tyranny of geography. Many of its raw materials are not accessible, meaning they are not resources at all. The friction of distancelong rail and truck haulsaccounts for high transportation costs. Although in its entirety Russia displays great beauty and diversity of landforms, climate, and vegetation, close up it can be very dull because of the space and time required between topographical changes. Variety spread thinly over a massive land can be monotonous. Three-fourths of the country, for example, is a vast plain of less than 1,500 feet (450 meters) in elevation. The typical Russian landscape is flat-to-rolling countryside, the mountains relegated to the southern borders and the area east of the Yenisey River. The Ural Mountains, which divide Europe from Asia, are no higher than 6,200 feet (1,890 meters) and form a mere inconvenience to passing air masses and human interaction. Russia's average elevation is barely more than 1,000 feet (333 meters).

Russia is a fusion of two geologic platforms: the European and the Asiatic. When these massive plates collided 250 million years ago, they raised a mighty mountain range, the low vestiges of which are the Urals. West of the Urals is the North European Plain, a rolling lowland occasioned by hills left by Pleistocene glaciers. One set of hills stretches between Moscow and Warsaw: The Smolensk-Moscow Ridge is the only high ground between the Russian capital and Eastern Europe and was the route used by Napoleon's and Hitler's doomed armies. Further north between Moscow and St. Petersburg are the Valday Hills, which represent the source of Russia's major river systems: Volga, Dnieper, Western Dvina, and so forth. Where it has not been cleared for agriculture, the plain nurtures a temperate forest of broadleaf trees, which dominate in the south, and conifers, which prevail in the north. The slightly leached gray and brown soils of this region were first cultivated by the early eastern Slavs.

In the south, the North European Lowland merges with the Stavropol Upland of the North Caucasus Foreland between the Black and Caspian seas. Here the forests disappear, leaving only grassland,

or steppe, the soils of which are Russia's fertile chernozems. Along the western and northern shores of the Caspian Sea, desert replaces the grasslands. Farther south, North Caucasia merges with the Greater Caucasus Mountains, the highest peak of which is Mt. Elbrus (18,481 feet [5,633 meters]).

The northern part of the European Lowland supports a northern coniferous forest, known as taiga. The largest continuous stand of conifers in the world, the taiga stretches from the Finnish border across Siberia and the Russian Far East to the Pacific Ocean. Even farther north, flanking the Arctic Ocean is the Russian tundra. Permafrost plagues both the taiga and tundra, limiting their use for anything other than logging and mineral development. Soils are highly infertile podzols. Virtually all of Siberia and the Russian Far East consist of either taiga or tundra, except in the extreme southeast, where temperate forest appears again.

East of the Urals is the West Siberian Lowland, the world's largest plain. The slow-moving Ob and Irtysh rivers drain the lowland from south to north. This orientation means that the lower courses of the rivers are still frozen as the upper portions thaw. The ice dam causes annual floods that create the world's largest swamp, the Vasyugan. The Ob region contains Russia's largest oil and gas reservoirs. In southeastern Western Siberia is Russia's greatest coal field, the Kuzbas. South of the Kuzbas are the mineral-rich Altai Mountains, which together with the Sayan, and the Yablonovy ranges, form the border between Russia, China, and Mongolia.

East of the Yenisey River is the forested Central Siberian Plateau, a broad, sparsely populated tableland that merges farther east with the mountain ranges of the Russian Far East. In the southeastern corner of the plateau is a great rift valley in which lies Lake Baikal, "Russia's Grand Canyon." Equal to Belgium in size, the world's deepest lake gets deeper with every earthquake.

See also: climate


Lydolph, Paul E. (1990). Geography of the USSR. Elkhart Lake, WI: Misty Valley Publishing.

Mote, Victor L. (1994). An Industrial Atlas of the Soviet Successor States. Houston, TX: Industrial Information Resources.

Mote, Victor L. (1998). Siberia Worlds Apart. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Shaw, Denis J. B. (1999). Russia in the Modern World: A New Geography. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Victor L. Mote

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geography, the science of place, i.e., the study of the surface of the earth, the location and distribution of its physical and cultural features, the areal patterns or places that they form, and the interrelation of these features as they affect humans.

Methods and Branches

Geography is a synoptic science that uses the same elements as the other sciences but in a different context. It integrates data spatially, making elaborate use of maps as its special tool. Geography may be studied by way of several interrelated approaches, i.e., systematically, regionally, descriptively, and analytically. The systematic approach organizes geographical knowledge into individual categories that are studied on a worldwide basis; the regional approach integrates the results of the systematic method and studies the interrelationships of the different categories while focusing on a particular area of the earth; the descriptive approach depicts where geographical features and populations are located; the analytical approach seeks to find out why those features are located where they are.

In the study of geography two main branches may be distinguished, physical geography and human (or cultural) geography, originally anthropogeography. The first, based on the physical sciences, studies the world's surface, the distribution, delineation, and nature of its land and water areas. Climate, landforms (see geomorphology), and soil are examined as to origin and are classified as to distribution. Drawing on the biological sciences, fauna and flora (biogeography) are brought into an areal pattern. Through the mathematical sciences the motion of the earth and its relationship to the sun (seasons), the moon (tides), and the planets are studied, as well as mapmaking and navigation.

Human geography places humans in their physical setting; it studies their relationship with that environment as well as their conscious activities and continuous progress in adapting themselves to it (and to other humans) and in transforming their environment to their needs. Human geography may in turn be subdivided into a number of fields, such as economic geography, political geography (with its 20th-century offshoot, geopolitics), social geography (including urban geography, another 20th-century ramification), environmental perception and management, geographical cartography, geographic information systems, and military geography. Historical geography (which reconstructs geographies of the past and attempts to trace the evolution of physical and cultural features) and urban and regional planning are sometimes considered branches of geography.

History of Geographic Study


Geography was first systematically studied by the ancient Greeks, who also developed a philosophy of geography; Thales of Miletus, Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Strabo, and Ptolemy made major contributions to geography. The Roman contribution to geography was in the exploration and mapping of previously unknown lands. Greek geographic learning was maintained and enhanced by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. Arab geographers, among whom Idrisi, Ibn Battutah, and Ibn Khaldun are prominent, traveled extensively for the purpose of increasing their knowledge of the world. The journeys of Marco Polo in the latter part of the Middle Ages began the revival of geographic interest outside the Muslim world.

With the Renaissance in Europe came the desire to explore unknown parts of the world that led to the voyages of exploration and to the great discoveries. However, it was mercantile interest rather than a genuine search for knowledge that spurred these endeavors. The 16th and 17th cent. reintroduced sound theoretical geography in the form of textbooks (the Geographia generalis of Bernhardus Varenius) and maps (Gerardus Mercator's world map). In the 18th cent. geography began to achieve recognition as a discipline and was taught for the first time at the university level.

Modern Geography

The modern period of geography began toward the end of the 18th cent. with the works of Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Ritter. Thenceforth two principal methods of approach to geography can be distinguished: the systematic, following Humboldt, and the regional, following Ritter. Of the national schools of geography that developed, the German and the French schools were the most influential. The German school, which dealt mainly with physical geography, developed a scientific and analytical style of writing. The French school became known for its descriptive regional monographs presented in a lucid and flowing manner; human and historical geography were its forte. Although emphasis has shifted several times between the approaches and viewpoints, their interdependence is recognized by all geographers.

Since the end of World War II, geography, like other disciplines, has experienced the explosion of knowledge brought on by the new tools of modern technology for the acquisition and manipulation of data; these include aerial photography, remote sensors (including infrared and satellite photography), and the computer (for quantitative analysis and mapping). The quantitative method of geographical research has gained much ground since the 1950s, Edward Ullman and William Garrison of the United States and Peter Haggett of Great Britain being leading exponents.

Important contributions to the advancement of geography and to the development of geographic concepts have been made by Ferdinand von Richthofen, Albrecht Penck, Friedrich Ratzel, Alfred Hettner, Karl Haushofer, and Walter Christaller in Germany; Paul Vidal de la Blache, Jean Brunhes, Conrad Malte-Brun, Elisée Reclus, and Emmanuel de Martonne in France; and William Morris Davis, Isaiah Bowman, Ellen Churchill Semple, Carl O. Sauer, Albert Brigham, and Richard Hartshorne in the United States. Today geography is studied by governmental agencies and in many of the world's universities. Research is stimulated by such noted geographic institutions as the Royal Geographical Society (1830, Great Britain), the American Geographical Society (1852, United States), and the Société de Geographie (1821, France).


See N. Ahmad, Muslim Contribution to Geography (rev. and enl. ed. 1965); J. O. Thomson, History of Ancient Geography (1965); J. O. Broeck, Compass of Geography (1966); G. H. Kimble, Geography in the Middle Ages (1938, repr. 1968); E. Fischer et al., A Question of Place (2d ed. 1969); R. Murphy, The Scope of Geography (1969); R. Hartshorne, Perspectives on the Nature of Geography (1987); J. H. Bird, The Changing Worlds of Geography (1989).

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178. Geography

See also 133. EARTH ; 143. EQUATOR ; 235. LAND ; 257. MAPS .

the scientific study of mans geographical distribution and his relationship with his environment.
the complement of latitude; the difference between any given latitude and 90°.
1 . a book of place names, sometimes with additional information, arranged alphabetically.
2 . an index to an atlas.
1 . the science that studies and describes the surface of the earth and its physical, biological, political, economie, and demographic characteristics and the complex interrelations among them.
2 . the topographical features of a specific area.
3 . a book on this subject. geographer, n. geographic, geographical, adj.
the study of the characteristics, origins, and development of land forms. geomorphologist, n. geomorphologic, geomorphological, adj.
1 . the study or application of the effect of political or economic geography on the political structure, programs, or philosophy of a state.
2 . a policy or policies based on such factors.
3 . the complex of geographical and political factors affecting or determining the nature of a state or region.
4 . the study of the relationship between geography and politics, applied especially to the study of the doctrines and actions of Nazi Germany in the context of world domination. geopolitician, n. geopolitical, adj.
the branch of geography that studies land areas above sea level to measure and map them. hypsographic, hypsographical, adj.
the science or study of islands. islandologist, n.
a rhumb line or curve on the surface of a sphere intersecting all meridians at the same angle; hence, the course of a ship or aircraft following a constant compass direction. loxodromic, adj.
an instrument for determining longitude by observation of the stars.
1 . a great circle that passes through the earths poles and any other given point on the earths surface.
2 . half of such a circle.
3 . any line of longitude running north and south on a map. See also 25. ASTRONOMY . meridian, meridional, adj.
the branch of physical geography that studies mountains and mountain systems. orographic, orographical, adj.
paleogeography, palaeogeography
the branch of geography that studies the features of the earth of past geologie times. paleogeographer, palaeogeographer, n. paleogeographic, palaeogeographic, paleogeographical, palaeogeographical, adj.
1 . physical geography.
2 . geomorphology. See also 83. CLASSIFICATION . physiographer, n. physiographic, physiographical, adj.
a branch of physical geography that studies wet lands, as marshes or swamps.
the study of geographical variation and distribution of temperature. thermogeographical, adj.
1 . the art or technique of preparing charts or maps of a specified area.
2 . the physical features of an area. topographic, topographical, adj.
the study of the physical features of a specific place or area, usually accompanied by maps or charts showing relationships and elevations. topologist, n. topologic, topological, adj.

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ge·og·ra·phy / jēˈägrəfē/ • n. the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries. ∎  [usu. in sing.] the nature and relative arrangement of places and physical features: knowing the geography and topology of the battlefield. DERIVATIVES: ge·og·ra·pher / -fər/ n.

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geography XVI. — (partly through F.) L. geōgraphia — Gr. geōgraphíā; see GEO-, -GRAPHY
, So geographer XVI, geographic XVII, geographical XVI.

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geography Science studying the physical nature of the Earth and people's relationship to it. It includes land masses and features, seas, resources, climate and population.

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geography See HUMAN GEOGRAPHY.

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Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.


geographydaffy, taffy •Amalfi •Cavafy, Gaddafi •Effie •beefy, Fifi, leafy •cliffy, iffy, jiffy, Liffey, niffy, sniffy, spiffy, squiffy, stiffy, whiffy •salsify •coffee, toffee •wharfie •Sophie, strophe, trophy •Dufy, goofy, Sufi •fluffy, huffy, puffy, roughie, roughy, scruffy, snuffy, stuffy, toughie •comfy • atrophy •anastrophe, catastrophe •calligraphy, epigraphy, tachygraphy •dystrophy, epistrophe •autobiography, bibliography, biography, cardiography, cartography, chirography, choreography, chromatography, cinematography, cosmography, cryptography, demography, discography, filmography, geography, hagiography, historiography, hydrography, iconography, lexicography, lithography, oceanography, orthography, palaeography (US paleography), photography, pornography, radiography, reprography, stenography, topography, typography •apostrophe •gymnosophy, philosophy, theosophy •furphy, murphy, scurfy, surfy, turfy

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"geography." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 10 Jul. 2018 <>.

"geography." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (July 10, 2018).

"geography." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 10, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.