Calendar‎ > ‎Unit 1‎ > ‎

Chapter 1: 7th Edition De Blij





Humans are geographers by nature. They can think territorially or spatially and have an awareness of, and curiosity about the distinctive nature of places. Even children possess qualities of geographers, creating carefully mapped realms in tiny places. Places possess an emotional quality, and we all must belong somewhere. Humans' insatiable curiosity and the place-centered element within us gave birth to geography as an academic discipline. Conquest and commerce generated a need to know about the world and pragmatism was added long ago by traders and explorers. Geography literally means "to describe the Earth," and the practical aspects of geography first arose among the Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians, and Phoenicians.



Physical and human geography are two great branches of the discipline, and their origins can be traced to the Greeks and later the Romans. Greek scholars were curious about the world, particularly the physical aspects, and collected information from traders and travelers. The Romans, un-like the Greeks, were empire builders and brought many different cultures under their control. They added to the Greek knowledge of the physical Earth and added information about different cultures they encountered or conquered. By the end of the Roman era, theories about a spherical Earth, latitudinal climatic zones, environmental influences on humans, and humans' role in modifying the Earth were established. The latter two are quite significant because today environmental geography is emerging as a link between human and physical geography.



During the twentieth century, geography was marked by four durable traditions: earth-science (physical geography); cultural-environmental (encompasses a wide range of topics with a difficult, even controversial history); locational theory (the spatial focus of the discipline), which has be-come a modern element of human geography; and area-analysis (primarily involving the description of areas and regions), giving rise to what is today called  regional science. These Four Traditions of Geography were first identified in an article by University of Chicago geographer W.D. Pattison in 1964. He argued that these were the four areas where geographic teaching, research, and other activity were concentrated.


New Themes

In the 1980s, rising concerns about geographic illiteracy in America prompted the National Geo-graphy Society, and several other organizations, to begin campaigns to reintroduce geography into school curricula. In a 1986 publication, the NGS proposed a useful five-theme framework for geography as developed by the Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP). Three of the themes correspond to traditions identified earlier: location, human-environment inter-action, and regions. As the fourth tradition, the NGS proposed a single word, place, because all places on the surface of the Earth have distinguishing human and physical characteristics. A fifth theme, movement, refers to the mobility of goods, ideas, and people, an appropriate theme in light of the mobile world we live in today.



Maps—graphic representations of all or part of the Earth's surface drawn to scale—are the most important tool of geographers. Maps and geography are practically synonymous, and mapmaking (cartography) is as old as geography itself. The spatial perspective is geography's unifying bond and there is no better way to demonstrate insights gained through spatial analysis than through the use of maps. Maps are our "window on the world."

         Maps are used to portray the distinctive character of places; their relationship to environmental issues; the movements of people, goods, and ideas; and regions of various types. Maps are used to wage war, make political propaganda, solve medical problems, locate shopping centers, bring relief to refugees, warn of natural hazards—in short, for countless purposes.

         Maps are not always printed. Everyone has a mental map—a map in their mind—that has developed over years of looking at wall maps, atlas maps, and maps in books, magazines, and newspapers. People’s perception of places and regions is influenced by their individual mental maps as well as printed maps. Since one's perception of different places is a combination of general information, personal experiences, and what is called "hearsay" in the legal profession, that perception is not always accurate. Look carefully at text Figure 1-9 in your text and you will begin to get some idea of the influence that mental maps and perception of places have on people.