The Spirit and Purpose of Geography

By S. W. Wooldridge; W. Gordon East | Go to book overview

PREFACE

"I WOULD have her instructed in Geography, " said Mrs. Malaprop, "that she may know something of the contagious countries." This precept has now an added force--in a world which is fast becoming one neighbourhood. But what kind of geography? For, as R. H. Tawney once put it: "there are as many ways of writing geography as of writing history."

The study and writing of geography began long ago: veins of geography thread even the fabulous Odyssey of Homer. But as a coherent and autonomous discipline worthy to rank with old established university studies, it is relatively a newcomer, especially in this country. It came late as a modern science because its re-birth awaited the remarkable advances in the nineteenth century of the natural and social sciences, which alone could provide that background knowledge of the earth, without which geography would have remained very much a matter of wondrous speculation. It has now come of age in this country, and its shape and purpose grow increasingly clear. But it is still at an early stage of its development and its practitioners are following many paths which might appear, at first sight, divergent. For such reasons the time has seemed opportune to try and see geography whole, to lay bare its foundations, to indicate its special aspects, to make clear its objectives and at least to suggest its many applications.

Our small book is offered as an introduction to the scope and spirit of geography. This undertakes a no less ambitious task than that of discovering the spatial relationships of the manifold features, physical and human, which diversify the earth's surface. We have tried here to signpost a path which

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