A Geographical Introduction to History

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

CHAPTER III
NATURAL MAN--AN INDIVIDUAL OR A MEMBER OF SOCIETY?

WE must not lose sight of the terms of our problem. If we get far enough away to see things in their proper perspective there are only two; the natural regions and man in relation to them. The whole question is, what reciprocal relations link the one with the other?

The regions we know. We have defined them and characterized them shortly as so many vast climatico-botanical unities. But as to men, ought we not to define them also, not certainly in the mass, but in relation to the bounds of those great climatico-botanical areas, whose distinctive features we have just studied and classified? Within these areas we have to place men. The question is--what men?

Let us say at once that we have rejected the abstract, confused, and unanalysed idea of "the Earth", and in the same way we should reject the abstract, confused, and unanalysed idea of "Man". Man as an abstract idea has no interest for the geographer. It seems worse than useless, really dangerous, to raise a belated brother to that homo economicus whom economists have had so much difficulty in banishing altogether from their speculations. Of human societies we may speak, but not of "man", not even that absurd species the homo geographicus created complete. This is true for to-day, doubtless, but it is also true retrospectively, as we shall endeavour to establish at the outset.


I
The Old Conception: From the Human Pair to the Nation

Man is a political animal. Such is the formula of Aristotle which has been repeated for many a long day. But it is perhaps not so long ago that a precise signification, a real bearing--in Geography at any rate--was attached to it.

-147-

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