Geography 545A: Seminar in the History of Geographical Thought

Instructor: Trevor Barnes
Section: 001
Term: 1
Meets: Mondays 2:00-5:00pm

This seminar is about the history Anglo-American academic geography for the one hundred year period, 1880-1980. Most of the writings we will read come from secondary literature, but occasionally we will dip into the primary literature to gain a flavour of the specific geographers discussed and their context.

1880 is chosen as the beginning date because it is roughly when geography is first institutionalized as a university discipline both in Europe and in the United States (note that the first formal Geography Department in Canada isn’t until 1935). 1880 is also at the height of the second main round of European imperialism (the “Scramble for Africa” and all of that), and to which early academic geography became ineluctably joined. 1980 is the closing date because there is very little written about what comes after that year as upper case H, History. By 1980, however, radical geography is well underway, and there are now some historical treatments including of the movement’s perhaps most important figure, David Harvey (and who at age 80 is still going strong, and definitely not yet history). In between Imperialism and Marxism lies much of twentieth-century’s geography. In this course, we will focus especially on the disciplinary impact of various wars, both hot and cold. In most disciplinary histories, wars are treated as blank spaces, as periods when nothing much happens. In contrast, I will suggest that wars frequently induce large-scale transformations, where everything can change, and sometimes does. The readings I’ve chosen suggest that geography and geographical knowledge are often integral elements in those wider transformations.

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