Fleure, H. J.

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Fleure, H. J.


Herbert John Fleure, British geographer and anthropologist, has done much to further the view that the study of man and his societies should not be divorced from the study of their environments and that an evolutionary approach to the condition of man and his cultures in the various regions of the world is essential to the discipline of human geography. He vigorously championed this subject at a time when it was not generally recognized as a university discipline in Britain.

Fleure grew up in Guernsey. In 1897, when he was 20, a scholarship to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, enabled him to take courses in the natural sciences; he specialized in marine zoology. He spent the year 1903-1904 studying at the University of Zurich, where Rudolf Martin stimulated his interest in anthropology. The following year he returned to Wales and received the degree of D.SC. He then began to teach courses in zoology, geology, and botany at Aberystwyth and in 1907 was elected to a newly established lectureship in geography. His intellectual development was influenced by Darwinism and by the works of such German earth scientists as Eduard Suess and Ferdinand von Richthofen.

Fleure became professor of zoology in 1910 but continued to teach geography, and in 1917 his persistent advocacy of this subject was rewarded by his appointment to the endowed (Gregynog) chair of geography and anthropology. In the same year he became honorary secretary of the Geographical Association and editor of its journal (now Geography ), and through these agencies he worked strenuously to advance the cause of human geography in education. From 1930 until his retirement in 1944, Fleure was professor of geography in the University of Manchester. He has been president of three sections of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and of many learned societies. In 1936 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society.

Fleure quickly established his reputation as an anthropologist with an anthropometric survey of Wales conducted in 1916 (Fleure & James 1916). He first outlined a scheme of world regions, defined by the quality of life within them, in an article published in 1917. Suspicious of the concept of “natural regions,” he saw, long before prehistoric archeology and paleoecology had established the antiquity and extent of man’s alteration of his surroundings, that human societies can fashion their own environments and that “environment” is a term of cultural appraisal. In his Human Geography in Western Europe (1918) he first presented his conception of that discipline. The first of the ten volumes of The Corridors of Time, written in collaboration with Harold Peake, appeared in 1927, and the last volume appeared in 1956. From the first volume (Apes and Men) to the last (Times and Places), this series presents Fleure’s mature views on the development of human societies in the major regions of the world since prehistoric times. A balanced judgment on such issues as diffusion and independent development springs from a broad training in the sciences of man.

Fleure has stressed the significance of culture contacts in all periods of human history as leading to the questioning of routine, the cross-fertilization of ideas, objective thought, and the release of innovative effort. Always guarded in his conclusions, Fleure has been chary of general laws in human geography, where the likelihood prevails that different responses will arise in different regions at different times.

In addition to the works mentioned, Fleure has contributed extensively to encyclopedias and also to journals of geography, anthropology, sociology, folklore, and archeology.




1916 FLEURE, H. J.; and JAMES, T. C. Geographical Distribution of Anthropological Types in Wales. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 46:35-153.

(1917) 1919 Human Regions. Scottish Geographical Magazine 35:94—105. ⇒ A revision of the paper “Régions humaines” published in May 1917 in Annales de geographic.

1918 Human Geography in Western Europe: A Study in Appreciation. London: Williams & Norgate.

1922 The Peoples of Europe. Oxford Univ. Press.

1923 The Races of England and Wales: A Survey of Recent Research. London: Benn.

(1927) 1929 The Races of Mankind. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

1927-1956 PEAKE, HAROLD; and FLEURE, H. J. The Corridors of Time. 10 vols. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. ⇒ Volume 1: Apes and Men, 1927. Volume 2: Hunters and Artists, 1927. Volume 3: Peasants and Potters, 1927. Volume 4: Priests and Kings, 1927. Volume 5: The Steppe and the Sown, 1928. Volume 6: The Way of the Sea, 1929. Volume 7: Merchant Venturers in Bronze, 1931. Volume 8: The Horse and the Sword, 1933. Volume 9: The Law and the Prophets, 1936. Volume 10: Times and Places, 1956.

1951 A Natural History of Man in Britain: Conceived as a Study of Changing Relations Between Men and Environments. London: Collins.