A Geographical Introduction to History

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

CHAPTER III
TOWNS

I
Exaggerated Interpretations

SOME excellent treatises on towns, written by geographers, have appeared in France during the last few years. We shall have to return shortly to the conclusions arrived at in these treatises. But there have also appeared--generally outside France, and particularly in Germany--studies of groups, whose authors propose to class and catalogue towns, to divide them up into genera and species, and to group them according to their geographical types. Some of these authors, like Ratzel, whom they all follow,1 based their work on the situation, others on the plan, others again on the aspect, the materials, the shape, and the external appearance of the houses and buildings of the place.2 Lists have been made, divided into families, arranged in categories and types. It is a great work, amusing at times in its results--at any rate, in its manner; its utility is unquestionable, provided its authors recognize that it is provisional and that they avoid certain rash generalizations.

Here are four towns-- Zurich, Lucerne, Thun, Geneva.3 All four are situated at the end of a lake, astride the river which drains the lake; do they not form a natural group? May we not, in connexion with them, legitimately utter that fascinating word "type", which gives such play to the imagination? Certainly, if we please. But what interest is there in the comparison? What relation, what analogy between the insignificant Thun and the powerful Zurich, the industrial capital of Switzerland--between Lucerne, the little town of hotels and foreigners, and Geneva? Does the situation of these towns, so entirely different from one another, or rather

____________________
1
Ratzel, CLXII.
2
Hassert, CLIV.
3
Brunhes, LXVI, p. 245.

-338-

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