Here is a list of ten most popular geographers of Great Britain.
Geographers of Great Britain
- Hugh Robert Mill
- Andrew J. Herbertson
- Marion I. Newbigin
- H. Fleure
- John F. Unstead
- Charles B. Fawcett
- H. C. Darby
- W. Kirk
- H. C. Brookfield
- George G. Chisholm
Geographer # 1. Hugh Robert Mill:
He is a contemporary of Mackinder, seemed to have been largely influenced by the Darwinian tradition of environmental determinism. He stressed the environmental emphasis on land-man relationships and extended his ideas of physiography to include the geography of man, though limiting the latter to what was consistently related to the physical environment and derivative from it.
Mill conceived of Richthofen’s system of geography of spatially distributed phenomena as a pyramid, with a physical base and an economic rubble heap at the top. Although he was trained into the Darwinian environmental approach, but Otto Schluter’s morphological approach also appeared to have deeply affected his thought.
He conceived of water as an important environmental element governing the terrestrial phenomena. The study of water was the major part of interest and research. However, he could not undertake empirical study on water because of his ill-health.
Wrigley sums up Mill’s view on the study of water- ‘the study of the part played by water in the economy of the world through the action of solar heat and terrestrial gravitation raising vapor from the sea and carrying the condensed moisture back over the land, sustaining all forms of life and furnishing hydroelectric power, the only inexhaustible supply of energy’.
The study of water as part of the ‘realm of nature’ had fascinated him as early as 1891, but his interest increased when he became the joint director of the British Rainfall Organisation in 1900 and director the following year. He directed the preparation of rainfall maps of Great Britain and the maps were prepared on the basis of fifty- year averages. It was a monumental work that enriched the contemporary heritage of British School of Geography.
In 1896, Mill suggested using the sheets of the Ordnance Survey (I inch to the mile) as basis on which to plot categories of land, quality arid landuse for all of the British Isles, and four years later provided an example of how such mapping of relevant information could be done and could be used. Though the idea was initially not approved, but it was furthered by L. Dudley Stamp during the 1930s.
Undoubtedly, Mill’s suggestion reflected the dominance of some form of positivism or naturalistic pragmatic trend which was current in the contemporary social thinking, and at the same time that called for the solution of practical problems.
His first book, The Realm of Nature was published in 1891, in which he emphasized the study of water. He wrote biographies of polar explorers which contained accurate recordings of events. His major works on polar explorations were The Siege of the South Pole (1905) and The Life of Ernest Shackleton (1923), which attempted to focus on ‘man’s effort of maneuvering with nature.’
Geographer # 2. Andrew J. Herbertson (1865-1915):
He is believed to have carried forward the tradition of Sir Patrick Geddes. He was an assistant to Geddes – in Dundee, and later became an assistant to Mackinder at Oxford. He succeeded Mackinder in 1905. He was a determinist in true sense of the term.
He attempted to combine the Geddesian tradition of regionalisation with that of the Darwinian heritage of deterministic approach. He introduced the term ‘natural regions’ in England. He suggested that the natural region should be identified in terms of associations of surface features, climate and vegetation. Herbertson considered his regions as specimens of types, thus associating widely separated areas in the same type.
His system was therefore a classification of region regardless of location and association in space, in contrast with an aerial division of the world into major parts, each sub-divided into sub-divisions which are contiguous and together form an associated whole. For his major division of climate, Herbertson heavily relied on Supan.
He divided the world into 15 major natural regions, and his natural regions revealed the regularities of the climate because the same regions appeared in similar positions on each of the continents. However, in his later work Herbertson attempted to extend the term to include human activity. His concept of major natural regions on a world basis also appeared to have been influenced by Hettner.
Grigg observes that Herbertson’s regional system appears to have been obtained by beginning with the world, and dividing it into sub-classes on the basis of a number of principles. This is a quite different process from synthetic regionalisation and has been called analytical regionalization.
Stoddart (1965, 248-49) identifies the explicit influence of the Darwinian theme of ‘organization and ecology’ in Herbertson’s regional system. Herbertson (1905) used the term macro-organism for the ‘complex unity’ of physical and organic elements of the Earth’s surface.
To him, ‘natural regions are definite associations of inorganic and living matter with definite structures and functions, with as real a form and possessing as regular and orderly change as those of a plant or an animal. He further pointed out that ‘if the Earth be regarded as an individual, and the geographical region, districts, and localities, as representing organs, tissues and cells, then we perhaps get nearest to a useful comparison’.
His theory of natural region appeared to have revived what may be called’ reine geographie’ or pure geography in the contemporary school of British geography. Watson sums up that Herbertson seems to have used ‘natural’ to distinguish those regions which, because of a certain natural homogeneity of physical and human relationships, were more or less self-evident from regions, such as political ones, drawn by man. Yet, using vegetation as a basis for his scheme of major natural regions, he appeared to stress the material rather than the social factor, and left himself open to misinterpretation that a natural region is primarily physical.
Herbertson’s idea was taken up by his own students in England and by various followers in England as well as by Gradmann and Passarge in Germany. Herbertson’s works appear to be the precursor of the ‘ecosystem concept’, which in later periods of the twentieth century became an important paradigm.
Geographer # 3. Marion I. Newbigin:
Like their French counterparts, the British geographers also developed keen interest in regional studies and devised different ways of classifying regions. One of the earlier geographers was Marion I. Newbigin who in her little book on Man and His Conquest of Nature (1912) suggested an approach to the definition of regions that was a clear reflection of “La tradition Vidalienne”. The focus of the book was on the relations between groups of men and their surroundings.
The central geographical question, according to her, was why it is easier for men to make their living at some places than at others. She insisted that the answer could be found by examining the relationship between the genre de vie and the productivity of the land. She pointed out- ‘It is no pan of the work of geography to lay down rules as to the best solutions of particular problems of land utilization, but it is her work to set forth as clearly as may be the conditions which reign at different parts of the Earth’s surface, for a consideration of these furnishes the new raw material upon which all political and social adjustments must be made’.
The book, in fact, is a presentation of Vidal’s idea of the mode of lite (genre de vie) and is a direct descendant of Le Play’s classification and treatment of the world’s societies. The presentation embodies an approach that was much more mature than the theoretical statements of her contemporaries. The classification of region, therefore, should be based on the bonds of relationships observed between human communities and their natural surroundings.
Geographer # 4. H. Fleure:
The idea of modes of livelihood (genre de vie) in relation to the environmental setting was being developed at this time by Roxby and Fleure, the professional leaders of geography in Britain, and both of them seemed to have been deeply influenced by the tradition of Blache, Geddes and Le Play.
Fleure offered a regional classification of the world and the basis of the classification was the problems and difficulties posed by the condition of the physical environment. He assumed that all human activities were primarily directed towards the accomplishment of three functions viz., nutrition, reproduction and the increase of well-being.
In seeking criteria for the delimitation of human regions, he eliminated the first two because without them ‘a race would perish’. He classified human regions according to the measure of the Earth’s response to man’s effort in the pursuit of well-being.
Thus, Fleure offered a classification of seven types of regions—regions of hunger; regions of debilitation; regions of increment; regions of effort; regions of difficulty; regions of wandering; and industrialised regions. Fleure’s regional classification seems to reflect a combination of the deterministic standpoint with the most critical possibility precision.
He emphasised on the human factors rather than on the physical factors. He recognised that the new technology and finance of industrialised regions had so modified the relation of man to his environment that such regions could replace any of the others.
The experiments by Newbigin and Fleure were imaginative efforts to formulate illuminating empirical generalisations; they were offered at a time when there were neither the statistical data nor the electronic equipment with which to store and process such data. However, the regional classification of Fleure does not refer to the description of unique features of particular region, and the trend therefore does not appear to be idiographic in the true sense of the term.
Geographer # 5. John F. Unstead:
He proposed a classification of geographic region in which the physical and human factors were to be given equal weight. He argued that the smallest unit area of the Earth’s surface is the ‘feature’, and that features (individuals) can be grouped on resemblance to give first order region called ‘stows’. Such classes can be successively grouped into higher order categories called ‘tracts’, ‘sub-regions’, ‘minor regions’ and ‘major regions’ in a hierarchy with five orders or categories.
Unstead recognised the problem and called the individual (the feature), but gave little attention to the recognition or definition of such individuals. Nevertheless, he recommended that the conditions of the past periods should be drawn upon only where necessary to interpret present features that represent relict forms of the past.
Unstead wrote of regions as organisms, comparable with biological organisms (Darwinian heritage). He spoke of the evolution of regions, in the sense of increasing complexity and of their pathology, in the sense of conditions harmful to man.
He admitted that regions, unlike organisms, cannot be said to die, but he compared continuity of existence in a region with that of the “germ plasm” of organisms through the successive generations, thus endowing regions at one time with the properties of individuals and at other times of populations’. Similar organismic views were developed by Bluntschli, Stevens and Swinnerton.
Unstead defined the term ‘geographical region’ to describe regions where there was a high degree of homogeneity in both physical environment and human activity. The belief that an area can be logically divided into a system of such geographical regions is one that did not gain currency in England until recently.
It is analogous to the belief in the biological sciences that all aspects of the objects studied can be incorporated into one natural classification. Unstead is believed to have introduced ‘synthetic regionalization, a procedure which was frequently used by him. This was in contrast to Herbertson’s analytical approach to regionalisation.
There were two difficulties with Unstead’s (1916) scheme of geographic regionalisation that tended to weaken the scheme. ‘The first difficulty was associated with the concept of a uniform unit of area, a stow, that could be used as the basic building block in erecting a structure of world regional division. The idea of a unit so homogeneous that it could not be further subdivided.
It is clear that the stow is only indivisible because it is so conceived by the observer, and actually it is necessary to start with the observable fact that no two microscopic points on the face of the Earth are identical and that any area enclosed by a line and described as homogeneous is only homogeneous.
With respect to selected features the difficulty arises when the region is identified as a unit area, an indivisible segment of space. The second difficulty with the scheme was Unstead’s announced intention to recognise homogeneous associations of physical and human factors. The French geographers recognised these difficulties, and following Vidal, defined regions in terms of the way people live’.
Geographer # 6. Charles B. Fawcett:
The revival of Geddesian tradition again occurred in the works of Fawcett who attempted to avoid regional schemes that involved the association of too many diverse factors. In his book The Provinces of England (1919), he proposed a federal structure of the 12 autonomous provinces for England. All six principles of the division were clearly inspired by Geddesian regionalism, particularly so in the organisation of each province round a ‘definite capital which should be the real focus of regional life’, that provincial boundaries should be ‘drawn near watersheds rather than across valleys’, and that ‘the grouping of areas must pay regard to local patriotism and tradition’. Fawcett translated the somewhat obscure ideas into a workable form, and made one of the first identifications of ‘functional regions’.
It is also interesting to note that the use of the catchment area of a stream, as a basis for regional divisions, is still regarded as rather versatile by modern geographers. Fawcett mapped the continuously built-up urban areas of Britain (conurbations, as Patrick Geddes had called them). Fawcett’s regionalisation tended to strengthen the idiographic tradition in British geography.
Geographer # 7. H. C. Darby:
Darby has made significant contributions to British school of historical geography. The historical approach which was closely associated with the work of Darby involved the detailed study of past geographies. This was done in a series of cross- sections, whose location in time were almost always determined by the available source material, such as the Domesday Book of C. 1086 which was analysed in great depth by Darby and associates.
These cross-sectional analyses, complete with their regionalisations in many cases, were linked together by a narrative outlining the changes between the periods studied, most emphasis was placed on the cross-sections for which data allowed analysis rather than interpretation. The positivist method in historical geography implies objectivity, but the geographer in describing a landscape is subjective.
Geographer # 8. W. Kirk:
Kirk and Brookfield appeared to have proposed alternative philosophies to that of positivism, philosophies which were humanistic in their orientation, and which could be applied in historical geography. Kirk emphasised that the environment is not simply a thing, but rather a whole with shape, cohesiveness and meaning added by the act of human perception.
He recognised two separate, but not independent, environments: a phenomenal environment which is the totality of the Earth’s surface, and a behavioural enviroment which is the perceived and interpreted portion of the phenomenal environment.
He urged that sequence of historic events or re-creation of past geographies must be studied within these frameworks though appreciation of the behavioural environment should be central to the study of historical geography.
Geographer # 9. H. C. Brookfield:
With a field experience of South Africa, Mauritius, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, Brookfield also took up the concepts of behavioural or perceived environments. He pointed out that the concept of the perceived environment has a considerable pedigree in historical geographical scholarship.
Historical geographers must study a trilogy of worlds—the real world, as recorded in documents, and in the landscape; the abstract world, as depicted by general models of spatial orders in the past, and the perceived world; past world seen through the eyes of contemporaries, perceived according to their culturally acquired preferences and prejudices, shaped in the images of their assumed works.
Brookfield also surveyed the literature which showed that decision-makers operating on an environment based their decision on the environment as they perceive it, not as it is. Though Kirk and Brookfield pioneered the historical behavioural geography in Great Britain, but still the reconstruction of past environments seems to be extremely difficult.
Geographer # 10. George G. Chisholm:
He was a contemporary of Mackinder. He also contributed to the development of British geography. He pioneered the field of commercial geography in Great Britain. Chisholm seemed to have maintained the colonial trend in his geographical writings that appeared in the closing years of the nineteenth century.
Organisation of the commercial world required a great deal of information about the various countries concerned, the provision of which became a major task of geographical research whilst its propagation was the keystone of geographical education. Much of the material put together was about commercial activities and infrastructure as in Chisholm’s Handbook of Commercial Geography. He attempted to introduce Hettner’s concept of chorology in Great Britain.