Geography is the study of the locational and spatial variation in both physical and human phenomena on Earth. The word derives from the Greek words gê ("the Earth") and graphein ("to write", as in "to describe").
Geography is much more than cartography, the study of maps. It not only investigates what is where on the Earth, but also why it's there and not somewhere else, sometimes referred to as "location in space". It studies this whether the cause is natural or human. It also studies the consequences of those differences.
By the 18th century, geography had become recognized as a discrete discipline and became part of a typical university curriculum. Over the past two centuries the quantity of knowledge and the number of tools has exploded. There are strong links between geography and the sciences of geology and botany.
Environmental determinism is the theory that characteristics of people and cultures are due to the influence of the natural environment. Prominent environmental determinists included Carl Ritter, Ellen Churchill Semple, and Ellsworth Huntington. Popular hypotheses included "heat makes inhabitants of the tropics lazy" and "frequent changes in barometric pressure make inhabitants of temperate latitudes more intellectually agile." Environmental determinist geographers attempted to make the study of such influences scientific. Around the 1930s, this school of thought was widely repudiated as lacking any basis and being prone to (often bigoted) generalizations. Environmental determinism remains an embarrassment to many contemporary geographers, and leads to skepticism among many of them of claims of environmental influence on culture (such as the theories of Jared Diamond).
Regional geography represented a reaffirmation that the proper topic of geography was space and place. Regional geographers focused on the collection of descriptive information about places, as well as the proper methods for dividing the earth up into regions. The philosophical basis of this field was laid out by Richard Hartshorne.
The quantitative revolution was geography's attempt to redefine itself as a science, in the wake of the revival of interest in science following the launch of Sputnik. Quantitative revolutionaries, often referred to as "space cadets," declared that the purpose of geography was to test general laws about the spatial arrangement of phenomena. They adopted the philosophy of positivism from the natural sciences and turned to mathematics— especially statistics—as a way of proving hypotheses. The quantitative revolution laid the groundwork for the development of geographic information systems.
Though positivist and post-positivist approaches remain important in geography, critical geography arose as a critique of positivism. The first strain of critical geography to emerge was humanist geography. Drawing on the philosophies of existentialism and phenomenology, humanist geographers (such as Yi-Fu Tuan) focused on people's sense of, and relationship with, places. More influential was Marxist geography, which applied the social theories of Karl Marx and his followers to geographic phenomena. David Harvey and Richard Peet are well-known Marxist geographers. Feminist geography is, as the name suggests, the use of ideas from feminism in geographic contexts. The most recent strain of critical geography is postmodernist geography, which employs the ideas of postmodernist and poststructuralist theorists to explore the social construction of spatial relations.
The human, or political/cultural, branch of geography - also called anthropogeography focuses on the social science, non-physical aspects of the way the world is arranged. It examines how humans adapt themselves to the land and to other people, and in macroscopic transformations they enact on the world. It can be divided into the following broad categories: economic geography, political geography (including geopolitics), social geography (including urban geography), feminist geography, and military geography.
To Sauer, a landscape and the cultures in it could only be understood if all of its influences through history were taken into account: Physical, cultural, economic, political, environmental. Sauer stressed regional specialization as the only means of gaining expertise on regions of the world.
Sauer's philosophy was the principal shaper of American geographic thought in the mid-20th century. Regional specialists remain in academic geography departments to this day. But many geographers feel that it harmed the discipline in the long run: Too much effort was spent on data collection and classification, and too little on analysis and explanation. Studies became more and more area specific as later geographers struggled to find places to make names for themselves. This probably led in turn to the 1950's crisis in Geography which nearly destroyed it as an academic discipline.
Cartography studies the representation of the Earth's surface with abstract symbols. It can be said, without much controversy, that cartography is the seed from which the larger field of Geography grew. Most geographers will cite a childhood fascination with maps as an early sign they would end up in the field. Although other subdisciplines of geography rely on maps for presenting their analyses, the actual making of maps is abstract enough to be regarded separately. Cartography has grown from a collection of drafting techniques into an actual science. Cartographers must learn cognitive psychology and ergonomics to understand which symbols convey information about the Earth most effectively, and [behavioral psychology] to induce the readers of their maps to act on the information. They must learn geodesy and fairly advanced mathematics to understand how the shape of the Earth affects the distortion of map symbols projected onto a flat surface for viewing.
Geographic Information Systems deals with the storage of information about the Earth for automatic retrieval by a computer, in an accurate manner appropriate to the information's purpose. In addition to all of the other subdisciplines of geography, GIS specialists must understand computer science and database systems. GIS has so revolutionized the field of cartography that nearly all mapmaking is now done with the assistance of some form of GIS software.
Geographic quantitative methods deal with numerical methods peculiar to (or at least most commonly found in) geography. In addition to spatial analyses, you are likely to find things like cluster analysis, discriminant analysis, and non-parametric statistical tests in geographic studies.
Urban planning and regional planning use the science of geography to assist in determining how to develop (or not develop) the land to meet particular criteria, such as safety, beauty, economic opportunities, the preservation of the built or natural heritage, etcetera. The planning of towns, cities and rural areas may be seen as applied geography although it also draws heavily upon the arts, the sciences and lessons of history. Some of the issues facing planning are considered briefly under the headings of rural exodus, urban exodus and Smart Growth.
In the 1950s the regional science movement arose, led by Walter Isard to provide a more quantitative and analytical base to geographical questions, in contrast to the more qualitative tendencies of traditional geography programs. Regional Science comprises the body of knowledge in which the spatial dimension plays a fundamental role, such as regional economics, resource management, location theory, urban and regional planning, transportation and communication, human geography, population distribution, landscape ecology and environmental quality
Human Geography Directory An annotated directory of human geography resources hosted by the University of Leicester. http://www.geog.le.ac.uk/cti/hum.html
Economic Geography Research Group Promotes research in economic geography by organising meetings, developing contact and cooperation among geographers and other social scientists, and encouraging the publication of research. http://www.soton.ac.uk/~egrg/
International Boundaries Research Unit Home page of the International Boundaries Research Unit, (IBRU) located at the University of Durham. A source of information on boundary and territorial issues around the world. http://www-ibru.dur.ac.uk/
Climate and Health Research Program A research group concerned with climate and health, urban health and wellness and environmental epidemiology. Features descriptions of research projects, links to related resources, and contact information. http://www.ualberta.ca/~ksmoyer/chrphome.htm
Human Geography Department at Macquarie University Features information for current and prospective students, staff profiles, current research, publications, and contact details. Also offers links to related resources, career opportunities and calendar of events. http://www.es.mq.edu.au/humgeog/
Mable/Geocorr A web application that generates report files documenting a wide array of U.S. Geographic entities. http://www.oseda.missouri.edu/plue/geocorr/
The Canadian Communities Atlas Offers links and resources for exploring the cultural geography of Canada. Features statistical profiles of communities, resources for educators, and general and contact information for the project. http://cgdi.gc.ca/ccatlas/atlas.htm
National Geography Standards An outline with excerpts from the publication of the same title produced by the National Geographic Research and Exploration. An educational guide that discusses the spatial integration of human and physical phenomena distributed over the Earth's surface. http://www.runet.edu/~geog-web/standard.html
History of the U.S Cultural Environment A research and bibliographic guide to UC Berkeley print and web resources for the study of the cultural geography of the United States. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/ENVI/cult.html
The Society for Human Ecology An international and interdisciplinary professional society that promotes the use of an ecological perspective in both research and application. http://www.SocietyforHumanEcology.org/
Urbanizing GIS A discussion of how Philadelphia is trying to apply GIS (Geographic Information Systems) effectively to the complex circumstances that surround neighborhood planning in a troubled urban environment. http://pasture.ecn.purdue.edu/~aggrass/esri95/to150/p107.html
BBC Learning: Human Geography Websites Category page features news stories and links to related resources. Offers a section devoted to Medical Geography. http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/library/human_geography.shtml
Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety Discussion and examples of crime mapping. Features an overview of current research, publications, bibliography, and links to related sites. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/maps/welcome.html
Borderbase Portal features reference materials related to international borders and tripoints. Includes photos, links and news. http://www.nicolette.dk/borderbase
Cultural Landscapes Lecture notes providing a discussion of the social landscapes of North America. http://www.uwec.edu/Geography/Ivogeler/w188/2outline.htm
Rachel Slocum Information on her research into climate politics, feminist science studies, food security and racism. Features abstracts of publications and curriculum vitae. http://home.earthlink.net/~rslocum/
Economics and Geography Features course description and objectives. Focus on the interaction between transportation science, economics and logistics. In PDF format. http://www.utdallas.edu/syllabus/ecosyll/eco4396curtin.pdf
Cultural & Human Geography A description of employment opportunities provided by the Association of American Geographers. http://www.aag.org/Careers/Cultural_Human_Geography.html
Program for the Human Environment A research center at Rockefeller University that explores how long-run technical change relates to productivity and efficiency of energy, materials, land, and other resources, and the consequences for human populations. http://phe.rockefeller.edu/
Sex Differences in Geographic Knowledge A Sex Roles journal article describing gender differences in acquisition of environmental knowledge related to wayfinding behavior, spatial anxiety and self-estimated environmental competencies. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2294/1_41/57590493/print.jhtml
Human Navigation An article from the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science by Herbert Pick that discusses cross-cultural research into environmental knowledge and wayfinding behavior. http://cognet.mit.edu/MITECS/Entry/pick.html
Sociology of the Environment Research Group A group that carries out social research on environmental topics with the aim of providing inputs to the formation of policy and practice. http://www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/research/research_groups/environment.htm
Transport Geography on the Web A project developed to promote access to transport geography information. Includes material to support undergraduate courses, including articles, exercises, GIS-T datasets, and PowerPoint presentations. http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/
The Spatial Economy Article by Masahisa Fujita, Paul Krugman and Anthrony Venables that describes the dramatic increase in research on economic geography. Includes a discussion of spatial aspects of the Dixit-Stiglitz model of monopolistic competition. http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/fkvintro.html
CSISS Search Portal The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science offers discussion forums and extensive search resources for locating Human Geography information. http://csiss.ncgia.ucsb.edu/search/internet.html
H-HistGeog: Historical Geography H-Net discussion group dedicated to examining the intricate relationship between space and time. Features subject overview, archive and subscription information. http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~histgeog/
Lansdowne Geographic Research Essays in historical and sports geography by Philip McEachern. http://personal.www.umich.edu/~pdmce/lansdowne_geographic_research001.htm
The Maritime Cultural Landscape An essay describing the concept of traditional maritime zones of transport in terms of human geography. http://www.abc.se/~m10354/publ/cult-land.htm
Project Gigalopolis A research project working to extend and refine the Clarke Urban Growth Model for making predictions at regional, continental and eventually global scales. http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/projects/gig/
Project Vital A laboratory for the study of geographic information technologies as they relate to transportation. Features project overview, links to related resources, job opportunities, and contact details. http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/vital/
Decision Support, GIS, and Urban Planning An article by Michael Batty and Paul J. Densham that discusses the role of Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) in community planning. http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/~pdensham/SDSS/s_t_paper.html
Community Development in the 1990s A report describing how the National Community Development Initiative (NCDI) has successfully helped underwrite the efforts of community development corporations (CDCs) around the United States. http://www.urban.org/pubs/comdev90/index.htm
Prisoners of Geography An article that explains why landlocked nations may never enjoy access to the markets and new technologies they need to flourish in the global economy. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1181/2001_Jan/71562744/print.jhtml
Cultural Landscapes A catalog of US maps showing the cultural modification of the landscape as settlers established farmsteads and villages, and named their surroundings. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/setlhome.html
Residential Energy Consumption Survey A report on geographic information about U.S. households and their energy usage from 1978 to 1997. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs97/contents.html
Regional Inversion Essays by Luis Suarez-Villa, of the University of California, Irvine. Features sections devoted to the role of innovative capacity, tangible and intangible infrastructure, and a description of inversion at the metropolitan level http://www.regionalinversion.com
Goss, Jon Contains photo essays and academic papers on subjects such as consumption, shopping malls, tourism landscapes, geodemographics and artisanal fisheries. Department of Geography, University of Hawaii. http://jongoss.info
Help build the largest human-edited directory on the web.