Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at
Fri Mar 9 10:20:57 MST 2001

by Richard Lee (Fernand Braudel Center)

GEOGRAPHY: Gr., for example in Strabo.; in English, 1542, "geographie, that
is to saie, of the descripcion of the yearth".

The eighteenth century was rich in geographical works,constructed, Stoddart
suggests, around new conceptions of time (its immensity--calendars, clocks,
and the abandonment of any limitation on the age of the earth), space and
scale (microscope, telescope, barometer, and developments in surveying and
standardization of measurement), and the effects of man (drainage and
engineering works, forest ordinances, and concerns over air pollution) which
differentiate this intellectual tradition from its ancient and medieval
predecessors. He situates a transformation, however, with Cook's voyage,
1769. Truth, science, through direct observation, relying on the techniques
of classification and comparative method, entered the picture in contrast
with the theological and philosophical questions engendered by the voyages
of exploration of the preceding three centuries (1986, 30-32, 34).

In Germany, numerous journals were published from the late eighteenth
century. At the beginning of the nineteenth, two masters, Alexander von
Humboldt and Carl Ritter, brought to an end an age in which ideas of
universal synthesis could be articulated in the work of individuals and at
the same time contributed to the founding of modern geography.
Institutionalization dates from Ritter's appointment to the first German
chair in geography, at Berlin, in 1820; the Geographische Jahrbücher
appeared in 1866.

In France, Annales de géographie dates from 1891, although Annales des
voyages, de la géographie et de l'histoire had already appeared in 1807, and
there were many in between. Annales de géographie was founded by Vidal de la
Blache, the first geographer appointed (1898-1918) to the Sorbonne chair of
geography established in 1809.

Geographical societies were established in Paris in 1821 and Berlin in 1828
but in England the establishment of the Royal Geographical Society was
opposed by the Royal Society's Sir Joseph Banks (against growing
specialization and guarding the R.S.'s monopoly, he had also opposed the
establishment of the Geological Society of London in 1807). The R.G.S.
incorporated the London Association for Promoting the Discovery of the
Interior Parts of Africa (1788) and the Palestine Association and published
its Journal from its foundation in 1830. Its role in establishing the
legitimacy of the discipline is paramount: from the beginning its
composition reflected a social (not necessarily professional) elite of
peers, and military and naval men. The acknowledgment accorded explorers and
surveyors reflects the primacy of (travel) description and military
cartography. The Ordnance Surveys of England, Ireland, and finally Scotland
date from the 1830's and forties, in retard of those of Austria, Bavaria,
Prussia, and France--accurate triangulation was invaluable not only for
mining and military concerns but to expanding railroad interests as well.
Systematic surveys were of particular importance in the United States early
on, e.g., Lewis and Clark, 1803-1806.

But in fact, it "was not until 1858 that the president of the R.G.S. was
unfailingly a scientific man, and not until 1860 that scientists actually
formed a majority of its fellows" (Stoddart, 1986, 21). In light of their
secondary status, academic geographers formed their own Geographic
Association in 1892 and the Institute of British Geographers in 1933. In
1887 the first chair in England was created at Oxford; even though its
establishment was opposed by geologists. Geology was already highly
professionalized and when the Geological Survey cut its staff by half in the
1880's geologists were shaken; at the same time geographers were pressing
claims within the universities (especially geography as a science of
landforms) which geologists saw as a  further assault on an already
beleaguered position. ... [T]he position in Britain differed radically from
that in North America, where university departments of geography were
largely created by geologists ... and frequently originated as
sub-departments within departments of geology (Stoddart, 1986, 43).

The American Geographical and Statistical Society of New York published its
Bulletin from 1852 and as the American Geographical Society, from 1859 but
few others appeared until the 1880's and 1890's (see Harris and Fellmann

The "New Geography" began in Germany and spread to Great Britain, France,
Russia and eventually the United States. At the beginning of the nineteenth
century, the work of Alexander von Humboldt, the consummate traveler,
observer and innovator, and Carl Ritter, the teacher and communicator,
epitomized both the culmination of the classical, encyclopedic approach of
universal scholarship and opened the way to the specialization,
generalization, and the large-scale institutionalization realized in the
Prussian decision to establish a chair of geography in each of its
universities in 1874 (stimulated by the needs perceived in the wake of the
Franco-Prussian War and incipient German colonial efforts). Major
advancements were made in mid-century: German cartographers led the field in
which progress was dependent on improved printing techniques. August
Petermann, in the cartographer-geographer tradition, founded Petermanns
Geographische Mitteilungen in 1855. Its maps set new standards in
cartography. German academic geography became influential in France and the
U.S. especially through the work of Friedrich Ratzel. In his
Anthropogeographie, he first focused on the impact of the physical earth on
human affairs (1882) then gave his attention to the "culture of human
groups" (1891); in Political Geography (1897) he "compares the state to an
organism ... 'attached to the land'" (Martin and James, 1993, 169-70).

In 1934 the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, divided Geography into
Cultural, Human, and Economic sub-disciplines. Ritter's Die Erkunde... had
stressed the relation of man and natural environment, that is, human
activity as physically conditioned--man's adaptation. This human geography
contrasted with a cultural geography which accented cultural factors which
give character to an area. Around the turn of the century, in the wake of
the work of Ratzel, human geography moved toward a narrow environmentalism,
which, by ignoring social relations, "legitimated the persistence of
European and American imperialism" by basing geographically varied physical
and mental attributes on "differences in the natural environment" (Pred,
1993, 266). In England Halford Mackinder's thrust to both scientize and
institutionalize geography furthered overt imperial ends. In France,
however, determinism was tempered by Vidal de la Blache's
possibilisme--nature "set limits and offered possibilities for human
settlement, but the way man reacts or adjusts to these given conditions
depends on his own traditional way of living" (Martin and James, 1993, 192).
Indeed, in the English speaking world, geography came to be identified with
human ecology to an extent that by the 1930's there was little
cross-fertilization between continental and English speaking geographers.

Cultural geography continued a line (back to the observational field
tradition of physical geography) which considered man as a geomorphologic
agent (concerned with the works of man inscribed into the earth's surface)
and the comparative classification of regions--thus fundamentally
historical. According to Carl Sauer (Berkeley, 1923-1957), it "asserts no
social philosophy
such as environmentalist geography does" (1934, 624); however, Pred notes
that it also avoided the social by "adopting the superorganic view of
CULTURE ... by assigning culture an independent ontological and
determinative status, by removing it from the realm of human agency and
conflict and by allowing it magically to generate its own
planted-on-the-ground forms"
(1993, 266). Concordantly, Sauer denounced European commercial imperialism
and his moral "concern" favoring cultural diversity (particularism) resulted
in an anti-modernism and an essentialist reification of non-European
"cultures". By and large geographers did not come to realize until after
1945 that "culture, not nature, determined the significance of environment,
and natural resources, in spite of the critique of environmentalism advanced
by ethnologists since before 1900" (Martin and James, 1993, 341). But Sauer
had been influenced by Boasian anthropological historicism; it "encouraged
him to promote the Germanic 'transformation of the natural landscape into
the cultural landscape' as 'a satisfactory working program' for geography"
(Livingstone, 1992, 297) against any mono-causal environmentalism and
simplistic regionalism.

Economic geography (name first employed by Götz in 1882) was more important
in Germany than France and assigned "the scientific task of dealing with the
nature of world areas in their direct influence upon the production of
commodities and the movement of goods" (Sapper, 1934, 627).

The geography program at Harvard was terminated in 1948--as not sufficiently
scientific--and "American geography 'never completely recovered.'" Although
factious curricular interests between geology and geography, uneven
production within the department and even personal and political differences
contributed, the incident was indicative of the idiographic/nomothetic
debate, personified in the Hartshorne/Schaefer exchanges of the early
1950's. Schaefer attacked Hartshorne's geography as essentially idiographic.
Even though his article included erroneous data and, contrary to Schaefer,
Hartshorne had not ruled out a nomothetic approach, the assault encouraged a
search for "law-like statements that could explain spatial patterns" over
the historical, and social, approach which had characterized the Harvard
department under Whittlesey (Livingstone, 1992, 311, 312, 313).

The move to quantification after 1945 resulted in concerns with the
statistically measurable rather than the simply observable. Statistical
geography, an approach to the field rather than a subdivision, stressed
quantitative methods deemed appropriate to the spatial, area-studies,
man-land and earth-science traditions. It was included as a separate
sub-entry under "Geography"
along with the sub-disciplines of Political Geography, Economic Geography,
Cultural Geography, and Social Geography in the 1968 International
Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. The first, the areal context of
political phenomena, springs from the basic concept of a territorial base of
communities organized by power relations. This work has contributed to the
use of graphic techniques in the study of political phenomena. Economic
geography emphasized the livelihood aspect from either a topical or regional
perspective and from the 1950's concerned qualitative interpretation,
quantitative classification, and hypothesis testing. Cultural geography
(especially U.S.) dealt "with those elements of material culture that give
character to area through being inscribed into the earth's surface" (Sauer
quoted in Price, 1968, 129). Social geography--that is the social dimension
in areal differentiation (from the perspective of human geography) or
similarities and contrasts in places due to social dynamics (physical
perspective) and their articulation--is characterized as holistic in nature.

In the 1970's some geographers began to integrate studies of spatial
organization and differentiation with political-economic and social justice
issues. Earth Day, 1970, gave new stimulus to physical geography linked to
growing ecological concerns. In contrast to the positivism of the 1950's,
during the 1960's a humanistic thrust began to embrace emotional
dispositions and
experiences in human geography. In the cultural and historical tradition,
behavioral geography diverged from the quantification of the 1950's in the
direction of incorporating human imagination and meaning into geographical
analysis--"interviewing people and comprehending the meaning of questions
and answers ... to use information on location decision-making" (Martin and
James, 1993, 381). The past two decades have also seen a significant
movement to trace the geography of capitalism, e.g., Richard Peet, who
founded Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography in the late 1960's, and
David Harvey. Dissent was also apparent in the founding of Socially and
Ecologically Responsible Geographers (SERGE), and the belief that "a
different foundation of values was a necessary prerequisite for erecting the
alternative geography" resulted in the founding of the Union of Socialist
Geographers (Martin and James, 1993, 458,

Nor has geography been immune to assaults on "totalizing discourses", "grand
narratives". The collapse of foundationalism and the epistemological
certainty it guaranteed seems to have opened the way to postmodern
inflections of ambiguity and relativism, focusing on the local and specific
through self-referential and historical lenses (see Soya, 1989).

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Ph.D Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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