What is human geography? What are some of the basic concepts which human geographers employ in looking at the world around them? How do these concerns relate to the structure of this book? These are the three major questions to which we address ourselves in this chapter. Toward these ends the first section of the chapter discusses the foci of human geography from the viewpoint of both the problems that interest human geographers and the more abstract definitions of their objectives. The second section of the chapter attempts, by describing two case studies, to identify some of the basic concepts of description, explanation, and application that are employed by the geographer. Finally, we shall look at the problem of how this definition of objectives and these concepts relate to the remainder of the book.
THE FOCI OF GEOGRAPHY
The idea of location has always been central to the subject of geography. In the ancient world, for example, it was the task of the geographers to fix the boundaries of land divisions and to draw maps of emerging empires. In the late Middle Ages and beyond, exploration -- that is, the discovery of locations and the recording of their characteristics -- was regarded as a major function of the geographer. This type of geography, although concerned with location, was very descriptive: simply the recording of the locations of places in terms of longitude and latitude and some of the characteristics of the place in terms of, for example, population size. Some of the Victorian geography textbooks, in fact, were, little more than detailed gazetteers listing the major towns of Britain, the rivers on which they were situated, their populations and major manufactures, and the railroads running through them.
Just as history was a list of dates, so geography was a list of places or ocations. As society's problem of adapting to the physical and social environment became more complex, however, it was realized that each of the subjects of the standard educational curriculum could be addressed to a set of real world problems; and if it decided to respond to the challenge, a subject could develop analytically so that it would be capable of solving problems. Geography has recently decided to respond with rigor to this challenge.
In brief, geography is interested 1 a the locations of different items at different places on the earth's surface and in explaining why things are located where . . .