A Geographical Introduction to History

By Lionel Bataillon; Lucien Febvre et al. | Go to book overview

FOREWORD
THE EFFECT OF ENVIRONMENT ON MAN AND MAN'S EXPLOITATION OF THE EARTH

MAN comes before us on the stage of evolution as the flower of that urge of being which constitutes life itself. He has appeared to us as the logical agent, the creator of tools and words, endowed with a surprising initiative which, as the centuries Roll on, is constantly increasing his power, sometimes slowly, sometimes by brilliant inventions.

What, then, is the rôle which has been played by the two factors, environment and race, both contingent no doubt, but both of wide compass? How far have they affected the progress of technique and thought? How much are we to retain of those philosophies of history, of those universal histories, which made of environment and race, or both, the arbiters of human evolution?1 The volumes of M. Febvre and M. Eug. Pittard2 in this series--the first of which we have here--are designed to narrow this problem within the closest limits possible.

*

* *

The problem of the influence of environment is not within the domain of a geographer pure and simple. The purely "geographical geographer" does not trouble himself about history, or is even disposed to absorb it in geography. The treatment of this complex problem needs a geographical historian, or a historical geographer, who is also more or less of a sociologist. The present volume will undoubtedly prove that an historian who has a wide and, at the same time, a profound conception of his work, who seeks to disentangle all the threads, external and internal, of human conduct, who, whilst specializing his studies, refuses to neglect anything which will contribute to their effectiveness--that such an historian, and there are very few such, is

____________________
1
See La Synthèse en Histoire, p. 77 ff.
2
M. Eug. Pittard has kindly consented to undertake the task of the late M. Deniker, who was to have treated the subject.

-v-

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