A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity

By Stephen A. Royle | Go to book overview

1

Islands

Dreams and realities

Introduction

There are hundreds of thousands of islands. They are found in every sea and ocean and display considerable ranges of scale, resource availability, economic opportunities and levels of development (Figures 1.1-1.6). Yet it is this book’s intention to show that, despite such wide distribution and variations, islands everywhere are subject to the impact of a common range of constraints imposed because of their very insularity. Such constraints—remoteness, smallness (absolute and/or relative), isolation, peripherality, etc.—can also affect, singly or together, certain mainland areas, but they are more notable in their effect on the bounded landmasses that are islands. The impact of insularity is, of course, usually more significant on small islands. Thus this book does not deal with islands of the scale of Great Britain, Honshu or Java. Instead, it focuses on smaller places, hence its subtitle: ‘small island insularity’.

The effects of insularity are universal and, thus, this book has a global scope. However, it makes no attempt to be a catalogue of the world’s islands. Instead it adopts a thematic approach. This opening chapter serves as a general introduction to the study of islands, dealing first with the pragmatic issues of where they may be found and how many there are, and what counts as an island anyway. It then considers the concept of islands and how this has entrained popular and artistic imagination, leading into a discussion of the ‘island of dreams’ conception. The chapter then returns to the real world by considering the use of islands and the concept of islandness in science, before concluding with a section on islands and reality—small island life is often at some remove from any expression of the island of dreams.

Most of the book is concerned with issues that fall within the scope of human geography, but it is vital that some consideration is given to the physical basis on which this human geography operates. Therefore Chapter 2 deals with the physical geography of islands. Their ranges of location and scale suggest that islands result from a great variety of processes of formation. Islands display a considerable range of habitats, too, although there are some commonalities brought about by insularity, such as a restricted variety of species. It is the author’s contention that islands often share certain characteristics in social,

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A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vi
  • Tables viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Islands 1
  • References 23
  • 2 - Islands 25
  • References 40
  • 3 - Insularity 42
  • 4 - Islands in the Past 68
  • 5 - Islands 87
  • 6 - Islands 110
  • 7 - Politics and Small Islands 134
  • 8 - Making a Living 166
  • References 186
  • 9 - Islands of Dreams 188
  • References 208
  • 10 - Conclusion 210
  • Index 227
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