The History of Geography

The History of Geography

The History of Geography

The History of Geography

Excerpt

[Presidential address to the Geographical Section of the British Association at Bristol, September 1955. Reprinted from Advancement of Science , 12 (1955).]

THE long history of our section, so admirably summarised and so elegantly expressed by Dr. O. J. R. Howarth at Edinburgh in 1951, reveals that no President has yet ventured to address it on the subject which I have chosen. Some have introduced bits of it as introductory material for a wider theme, and one, Ravenstein, in 1891, gave a masterly account of the development of cartography. I therefore approach it with some hesitation. Nor could I do so without relying heavily on the work of others. If I mention only a few of these I am not unmindful of, or ungrateful to, other and earlier scholars. The work of Dr. Hartshorne, Mr. Crone, Dr. Williamson, Howarth, Mill, Keltie, Heawood and Beazley, will occur to everyone. And I am in private duty bound to pay particular tribute to Howarth whose untimely death has deprived us all of a wise and benevolent counsellor, and me of a collaborator in the history of geography in Britain in the nineteenth century: no other can take his place. But among British geographers Professor Eva G. R. Taylor must have pre-eminence. No scholar has done as much as she has to recount the past history of our subject, and it has been my privilege to profit from her advice, her written works, and her vast store of unpublished material, over a long period of years. All who are in the least interested in the history of geography must record the debt that they owe to her. It is one of the most melancholy of reflections that her works have been published either at considerable cost to herself or with the aid of subsidies. This indicates either a lack of public interest in the subject, which is unfortunate, or the failure of geographers to give adequate attention to it in schools and universities. If what I have to say produces even a small increase in the interest taken in the history of our predecessors, it will have been justified.

I cannot hope to deal with the whole history of geography. I shall say little about the nineteenth century, and nothing about geography before the year 1500. Even within these limits I must be selective. The subject itself is, however, not inappropriate . . .

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