The term "Historical Geography" has been applied to a variety of subjects--to the story of geographical exploration and of geographical science, to the history of changing political frontiers, and to the study of the influences of geographical factors upon historical events. All these are most illuminating themes, and this is not the place to embark upon a discussion of terminology. Yet the fact remains that historical geography has been increasingly identified with another line of thought whose data are, of necessity, historical, but whose outlook is geographical. This study --to use Professor E. G. R. Taylor's words--"strictly speaking merely carries the geographer's studies into the past: his subject-matter remains the same." And this subject-matter is concerned with the reconstruction of past geographies, and aims to provide a sequence of cross-sections taken at successive periods in the development of a region. These surveys could hardly be the work of one individual, and this is the reason for a volume of co-operative studies.
The chapters have been written quite independently, and are not all upon the same pattern. Their differences reflect both the varying contents of their periods and the inequalities in the available materials. But although each chapter is quite separate, the arrangement of the book is designed to secure some continuity, and there are numerous cross-references. With one exception, the contributors are members of Departments of Geography in British Universities. We value very much the co-operation of so distinguished a place-name scholar as Professor Ekwall of the University of Lund.
It is not for me, or for us, to claim anything for this volume. Everyone who looks through its pages may find much to criticise. But I must point out that despite the increasing use of the term "historical geography" and despite the increasing importance of the subject in University studies, no substantial Historical Geography of England has yet appeared. This book therefore is, in a sense, experimental. As our text we might well take the words of Jean Brunhes, one of the many French geographers whose contributions are so outstanding:
L'homme entre en rapport avec le cadre naturel par les faits de travail, par la maison qu'il construit, par la route qu'il parcourt, par le champ qu'il cultive, par la carrière qu'il creuse, etc., . . . C'est, en effet, l'intermédiaire du travail et des conséquences directes de ce travail qui établit la vraie connexion entre la géographie et l'histoire.