Human geography

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Original map by John Snow showing the clusters of cholera cases in the London epidemic of 1854, which is a classical case of using human geography Snow-cholera-map-1.jpg
Original map by John Snow showing the clusters of cholera cases in the London epidemic of 1854, which is a classical case of using human geography

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. [1] Human geography attends to human patterns of social interaction, as well as spatial level interdependencies, and how they influence or affect the earth's environment. [2] [3] As an intellectual discipline, geography is divided into the sub-fields of physical geography and human geography, the latter concentrating upon the study of human activities, by the application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Geography The science that studies the terrestrial surface, the societies that inhabit it and the territories, landscapes, places or regions that form it

Geography is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes. Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Physical geography The study of processes and patterns in the natural environment

Physical geography is one of the two major fields of geography. Physical geography is the branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the domain of human geography.

Qualitative research scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data

Qualitative research is a scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data. This type of research "refers to the meanings, concepts, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and description of things" and not to their "counts or measures". This research answers why and how a certain phenomenon may occur rather than how often. Qualitative research approaches are employed across many academic disciplines, focusing particularly on the human elements of the social and natural sciences; In less academic contexts, areas of application include qualitative market research, business, service demonstrations by non-profits, and journalism.



Geography was not recognized as a formal academic discipline until the 18th century, although many scholars had undertaken geographical scholarship for much longer, particularly through cartography.

Cartography The study and practice of making maps

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.

The Royal Geographical Society was founded in England in 1830, [4] although the United Kingdom did not get its first full Chair of geography until 1917. The first real geographical intellect to emerge in United Kingdom's geographical minds was Halford John Mackinder, appointed reader at Oxford University in 1887.

Royal Geographical Society British learned society

The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is the United Kingdom's learned society and professional body for geography, founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences. Today, it is the leading centre for geographers and geographical learning. The Society has over 16,500 members and its work reaches millions of people each year through publications, research groups and lectures.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The National Geographic Society was founded in the United States in 1888 and began publication of the National Geographic magazine which became, and continues to be, a great popularizer of geographic information. The society has long supported geographic research and education on geographical topics.

National Geographic Society American non-profit scientific and educational institution

The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational organizations in the world. Founded in 1888, its interests include geography, archaeology, and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. The National Geographic Society's logo is a yellow portrait frame—rectangular in shape—which appears on the margins surrounding the front covers of its magazines and as its television channel logo. Through National Geographic Partners, the Society operates the magazine, TV channels, a website, worldwide events, and other media operations.

The Association of American Geographers was founded in 1904 and was renamed the American Association of Geographers in 2016 to better reflect the increasingly international character of its membership.

American Association of Geographers organization

The American Association of Geographers (AAG) is a non-profit scientific and educational society aimed at advancing the understanding, study, and importance of geography and related fields. Its headquarters are located at 1710 16th St NW, Washington, D.C. The organization was founded on 29 December 1904 in Philadelphia as the Association of American Geographers, with the American Society of Professional Geographers later amalgamating into it in December 1948 in Madison, 1025 Currently, the association has more than 10,000 members from over 60 countries. AAG members are geographers and related professionals who work in the public, private, and academic sectors.

One of the first examples of geographic methods being used for purposes other than to describe and theorize the physical properties of the earth is John Snow's map of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak. Though Snow was primarily a physician and a pioneer of epidemiology rather than a geographer, his map is probably one of the earliest examples of health geography.

1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak Severe outbreak of cholera that occurred in 1854 during the 1846–1860 cholera pandemic happening worldwide

The Broad Street cholera outbreak was a severe outbreak of cholera that occurred in 1854 near Broad Street in the Soho district of the City of Westminster, London, England, and occurred during the 1846–1860 cholera pandemic happening worldwide. This outbreak, which killed 616 people, is best known for the physician John Snow's study of its causes and his hypothesis that germ-contaminated water was the source of cholera, rather than particles in the air. This discovery came to influence public health and the construction of improved sanitation facilities beginning in the mid-19th century. Later, the term "focus of infection" started to be used to describe sites, such as the Broad Street pump, in which conditions are good for transmission of an infection. Snow's endeavour to find the cause of the transmission of cholera caused him to unknowingly create a double-blind experiment.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

The now fairly distinct differences between the subfields of physical and human geography have developed at a later date. This connection between both physical and human properties of geography is most apparent in the theory of environmental determinism, made popular in the 19th century by Carl Ritter and others, and has close links to the field of evolutionary biology of the time. Environmental determinism is the theory, that people's physical, mental and moral habits are directly due to the influence of their natural environment. However, by the mid-19th century, environmental determinism was under attack for lacking methodological rigor associated with modern science, and later as a means to justify racism and imperialism.

A similar concern with both human and physical aspects is apparent during the later 19th and first half of the 20th centuries focused on regional geography. The goal of regional geography, through something known as regionalisation, was to delineate space into regions and then understand and describe the unique characteristics of each region through both human and physical aspects. With links to (possibilism) (geography) and cultural ecology some of the same notions of causal effect of the environment on society and culture remain with environmental determinism.

By the 1960s, however, the quantitative revolution led to strong criticism of regional geography. Due to a perceived lack of scientific rigor in an overly descriptive nature of the discipline, and a continued separation of geography from its two subfields of physical and human geography and from geology, geographers in the mid-20th century began to apply statistical and mathematical models in order to solve spatial problems. [1] Much of the development during the quantitative revolution is now apparent in the use of geographic information systems; the use of statistics, spatial modeling, and positivist approaches are still important to many branches of human geography. Well-known geographers from this period are Fred K. Schaefer, Waldo Tobler, William Garrison, Peter Haggett, Richard J. Chorley, William Bunge, and Torsten Hägerstrand.

From the 1970s, a number of critiques of the positivism now associated with geography emerged. Known under the term 'critical geography,' these critiques signaled another turning point in the discipline. Behavioral geography emerged for some time as a means to understand how people made perceived spaces and places, and made locational decisions. The more influential 'radical geography' emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. It draws heavily on Marxist's theory and techniques, and is associated with geographers such as David Harvey and Richard Peet. Radical geographers seek to say meaningful things about problems recognized through quantitative methods, [5] provide explanations rather than descriptions, put forward alternatives and solutions, and be politically engaged, [6] rather than using the detachment associated with positivists. (The detachment and objectivity of the quantitative revolution was itself critiqued by radical geographers as being a tool of capital). Radical geography and the links to Marxism and related theories remain an important part of contemporary human geography (See: Antipode ). Critical geography also saw the introduction of 'humanistic geography', associated with the work of Yi-Fu Tuan, which pushed for a much more qualitative approach in methodology.

The changes under critical geography have led to contemporary approaches in the discipline such as feminist geography, new cultural geography, "demonic" geographies, and the engagement with postmodern and post-structural theories and philosophies.


The primary fields of study in human geography focus around the core fields of:


Cultural geography is the study of cultural products and norms - their variation across spaces and places, as well as their relations. It focuses on describing and analyzing the ways language, religion, economy, government, and other cultural phenomena vary or remain constant from one place to another and on explaining how humans function spatially. [7]

This picture shows terraced rice agriculture in Asia. Agriculture in Asia.jpg
This picture shows terraced rice agriculture in Asia.


Development geography is the study of the Earth's geography with reference to the standard of living and the quality of life of its human inhabitants, study of the location, distribution and spatial organization of economic activities, across the Earth. The subject matter investigated is strongly influenced by the researcher's methodological approach.


Economic Geography: Shan Street bazaar, market in Myanmar Shan Street Bazaar.JPG
Economic Geography: Shan Street bazaar, market in Myanmar

Economic geography examines relationships between human economic systems, states, and other factors, and the biophysical environment.


Medical or health geography is the application of geographical information, perspectives, and methods to the study of health, disease, and health care. Health geography deals with the spatial relations and patterns between people and the environment. This is a sub-discipline of human geography, researching how and why diseases are spread. [8]


Historical geography is the study of the human, physical, fictional, theoretical, and "real" geographies of the past. Historical geography studies a wide variety of issues and topics. A common theme is the study of the geographies of the past and how a place or region changes through time. Many historical geographers study geographical patterns through time, including how people have interacted with their environment, and created the cultural landscape.


Political geography is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures.


Population geography is the study of ways in which spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration, and growth of populations are related to their environment or location.


Settlement geography, including urban geography, is the study of urban and rural areas with specific regards to spatial, relational and theoretical aspects of settlement. That is the study of areas which have a concentration of buildings and infrastructure. These are areas where the majority of economic activities are in the secondary sector and tertiary sectors. In case of urban settlement, they probably have a high population density. [ citation needed ]


Urban geography is the study of cities, towns, and other areas of relatively dense settlement. Two main interests are site (how a settlement is positioned relative to the physical environment) and situation (how a settlement is positioned relative to other settlements). Another area of interest is the internal organization of urban areas with regard to different demographic groups and the layout of infrastructure. This subdiscipline also draws on ideas from other branches of Human Geography to see their involvement in the processes and patterns evident in an urban area. [9] [10]

Philosophical and theoretical approaches

Within each of the subfields, various philosophical approaches can be used in research; therefore, an urban geographer could be a Feminist or Marxist geographer, etc.

Such approaches are:

List of notable human geographers


As with all social sciences, human geographers publish research and other written work in a variety of academic journals. Whilst human geography is interdisciplinary, there are a number of journals that focus on human geography.

These include:

See also


Related Research Articles

Economic geography has been defined by the geographers as the study of human's economic activities under varying sets of conditions which is associated with production, location, distribution, consumption, exchange of resources, and spatial organization of economic activities across the world. It represents a traditional subfield of the discipline of geography. However, many economists have also approached the field in ways more typical of the discipline of economics.

Urban geography subdiscipline of geography concentrating on urban areas

Urban geography is the subdiscipline of geography that derives from a study of cities and urban processes. Urban geographers and urbanists examine various aspects of urban life and the built environment. Scholars, activists, and the public have participated in, studied, and critiqued flows of economic and natural resources, human and non-human bodies, patterns of development and infrastructure, political and institutional activities, governance, decay and renewal, and notions of socio-spatial inclusions, exclusions, and everyday life.

Feminist geography is a sub-discipline of human geography that applies the theories, methods, and critiques of feminism to the study of the human environment, society, and geographical space. Feminist geography emerged in the 1970s, when members of the women's movement called on academia to include women as both producers and subjects of academic work. Feminist geographers aim to incorporate positions of race, class, ability, and sexuality into the study of geography. The discipline has been subject to several controversies.

Political geography is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures. Conventionally, for the purposes of analysis, political geography adopts a three-scale structure with the study of the state at the centre, the study of international relations above it, and the study of localities below it. The primary concerns of the subdiscipline can be summarized as the inter-relationships between people, state, and territory.

Ellen Churchill Semple American geographer

Ellen Churchill Semple was an American geographer and the first female president of the Association of American Geographers. She contributed significantly to the early development of the discipline of geography in the United States, particularly studies of human geography. She is most closely associated with work in anthropogeography and environmentalism, and the debate about "environmental determinism".

Quantitative revolution

The quantitative revolution (QR)[n] was a paradigm shift that sought to develop a more rigorous and systematic methodology for the discipline of geography. It came as a response to the inadequacy of regional geography to explain general spatial dynamics. The main claim for the quantitative revolution is that it led to a shift from a descriptive (idiographic) geography to an empirical law-making (nomothetic) geography. The quantitative revolution occurred during the 1950s and 1960s and marked a rapid change in the method behind geographical research, from regional geography into a spatial science.

Cultural geography study of cultural products and norms and their variations across and relations to spaces and places.

Cultural geography is a subfield within human geography. Though the first traces of the study of different nations and cultures on Earth can be dated back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy or Strabo, cultural geography as academic study firstly emerged as an alternative to the environmental determinist theories of the early Twentieth century, which had believed that people and societies are controlled by the environment in which they develop. Rather than studying pre-determined regions based upon environmental classifications, cultural geography became interested in cultural landscapes. This was led by Carl O. Sauer, at the University of California, Berkeley. As a result, cultural geography was long dominated by American writers.

Critical geography Variant of social science that seeks to interpret and change the world

Critical geography is theoretically informed geographical scholarship that seeks for social justice, liberation, and leftist politics. Critical geography is also used as an umbrella term for Marxist, feminist, postmodern, poststructural, queer, left-wing, and activist geography.

Edward Soja American urban planner

Edward William Soja was a self-described "urbanist," a noted postmodern political geographer and urban theorist on the planning faculty at UCLA, where he was Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning, and the London School of Economics. He had a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. His early research focused on planning in Kenya, but Soja came to be known as the world's leading spatial theorist with a distinguished career writing on spatial formations and social justice.

Neil Robert Smith was a Scottish geographer and academic. He was Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and winner of numerous awards, including the Globe Book Award of the Association of American Geographers.

William Wheeler Bunge Jr. was an American geographer active mainly as a quantitative geographer and spatial theorist. He also became a radical geographer and anti-war activist in the USA and Canada.

<i>Antipode</i> (journal) journal

Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published five times per year by Wiley-Blackwell and produced by The Antipode Foundation. Its coverage centers on critical human geography and it seeks to encourage radical spatial theorizations based on Marxist, socialist, anarchist, anti-racist, anticolonial, feminist, queer, trans*, green, and postcolonial thought. Originally inspired by the social justice movements of the 1960s, the journal supports progressive causes through the work of the Antipode Foundation, a UK registered charity. Antipode is also known for its online “Interventions”, its book series, and its diverse workshops and lectures. The chief co-editors are Sharad Chari, Tariq Jazeel, Katherine McKittrick, Jenny Pickerill and Nik Theodore.

Cindi Katz, a geographer, is Professor in Environmental Psychology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, American Studies, and Women's Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her work concerns social reproduction and the production of space, place and nature; children and the environment; the consequences of global economic restructuring for everyday life; the privatization of the public environment, the intertwining of memory and history in the geographical imagination, and the intertwined spatialities of homeland and home-based security. She is known for her work on social reproduction and everyday life, research on children's geographies, her intervention on "minor theory", and the notion of counter-topography, which is a means of recognizing the historical and geographical specificities of particular places while inferring their analytic connections to specific material social practices.

Noel Castree FAcSS is a British geographer whose research interests are in capitalism-environment relationships. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Progress in Human Geography.

Outline of geography Hierarchical outline list of articles related to geography

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to geography:

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to social science:

J. Richard Peet is emeritus professor of human geography at the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University in Worcester MA, USA. Peet received a BSc (Economics) from the London School of Economics, an M.A. from the University of British Columbia, and moved to the USA in the mid-1960s to complete a PhD in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley. He began teaching at Clark University shortly after completing his PhD from Berkeley, and has remained there with secondments in Australia, Sweden and New Zealand. He is married to geographer Elaine Hartwick and lives in central Massachusetts.

Geography of media and communication

Geography of media and communication is an interdisciplinary research area bringing together human geography with media studies and communication theory. Research addressing the geography of media and communication seeks to understand how acts of communication and the systems they depend on both shape and are shaped by geographical patterns and processes.


  1. 1 2 Johnston, Ron (2000). "Human Geography". In Johnston, Ron; Gregory, Derek; Pratt, Geraldine; et al. (eds.). The Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 353–60.
  2. Russel, Polly. "Human Geography". British Library. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  3. Reinhold, Dennie (7 February 2017). "Human Geography". Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  4. Royal Geographical Society. "History" . Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  5. Harvey, David (1973). Social Justice and the City. London: Edward Arnold. pp. 128–9.
  6. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography (2009). "Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography: Celebrating Over 40 years of Radical Geography 1969-2009". Archived from the original on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  7. Jordan-Bychkov, Terry G.; Domosh, Mona; Rowntree, Lester (1994). The human mosaic: a thematic introduction to cultural geography. New York: HarperCollinsCollegePublishers. ISBN   978-0-06-500731-2.
  8. Dummer, Trevor J.B. (22 April 2008). "Health geography: supporting public health policy and planning". CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. 178 (9): 1177–1180. doi:10.1503/cmaj.071783. ISSN   0820-3946. PMC   2292766 . PMID   18427094.
  9. 1 2 Palm, Risa (5 September 2016). "Urban geography: city structures". Progress in Geography. 6: 89–95. doi:10.1177/030913258200600104.
  10. Kaplan, Dave H.; Holloway, Steven; Wheeler, James O. (2014). Urban Geography, 3rd. Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN   978-1-118-57385-3.
  11. ACME journal homepage. Archived 6 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine Accessed: May 18, 2015.
  12. Accessed: July 26, 2017.
  13. Global Environmental Change homepage
  14. Accessed: July 26, 2017.
  15. In only 200 years, the world's urban population has grown from 2 percent to nearly 50 percent of all people.

Further reading