An Historical Geography of Europe

An Historical Geography of Europe

An Historical Geography of Europe

An Historical Geography of Europe

Synopsis

An Historical Geography of Europe represents the first multi-authored comprehensive study on the subject. It provides the reader with an analytical and explanatory account of European historical geography from classical times to the modern period, including the vast changes to landscape, settlements, population, and in political and cultural structures and character that have taken place since 1500. The book takes account of the vast volume of relevant research and literature that has been published over the past two or three decades, in order to achieve a unique coverage and synthesis of this very broad range of evidence and opinion, and has tried to engage with many of the main themes and debates to give a clear indication of changing ideas and interpretations of the subject. This book brings together British and European authors from a number of disciplines who have considerable distinction in the various fields of historical geography and related fields, including a significant number who have already written on the wider problem of European historical geography. It is amply illustrated with maps and diagrams to present many of the issues in a visual form.

Excerpt

For over a century the historical geography of Europe has been a focus of attention for historians and geographers seeking to understand the broad and detailed configurations through time of the complex interactions between humans and their environments. Thus in 1881 E. A. Freeman, professor of Modern History at Oxford, produced his book The Historical Geography of Europe, whose purpose was to review the changing political and territorial boundaries of the states and territories of Europe through time in relation to their geographical background, a work mirrored in a more limited perspective in J. M. Thompson's Historical Geography of Europe, 1800–1889, published in 1929 (Freeman, 1881; Thompson, 1929).

These works were produced by historians, but with the development of Geography in the universities of Europe, especially from the late nineteenth century, more overtly geographical accounts of the historical geography of Europe were produced (Butlin, 1993: 12–16). One early overview of this kind was W. G. East's An Historical Geography of Europe (East, 1935), which took a strongly thematic approach, though this type of erudite synthesis was still dependent on interpretation of work by historians and archaeologists, as there was little primary work by historical geographers at this time. Increasingly, though, there were similar studies which offered pan-European syntheses of more select themes of the historical geographies of Europe, such as A. Meitze's study of rural settlements (Meitzen, 1895), and represented towards the midtwentieth century by such studies as N. J. G. Pounds' An Historical and Political Geography of Europe (Pounds, 1947), and H. C. Darby's study of European woodland and its clearance (Darby, 1956).

By the 1960s, however, the nature of the approach to the understanding of the historical geography of Europe was beginning to change, with increasing emphasis on region- or country-based studies, using primary research in historical geography. Examples include E. A. Wrigley's study of the Belgian coalfield (Wrigley, 1962) and A. Lambert's study of the making of the Dutch landscape (Lambert, 1957). This original work now gave scope for broader syntheses, evident in C. T. Smith's richly woven text An Historical Geography of Western Europe before 1800 (Smith, 1967). There were further notable developments in the late 1950s and the 1960s. A group of historians and geographers with interests in the historical development of the rural landscapes of Europe, who had first met at Nancy in 1957, convened a meeting at Vadstena in Sweden in 1961. The Vadstena meeting brought together a range of European scholars interested in the morphologies of European rural landscapes, and out of these developments was born the Permanent European Conference for the Study of Rural Landscape, a bi-annual conference which discusses the long-term . . .

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