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Human Geography: Defining Human Geography

This guide highlights the resources for Human Geography, the study of human settlements in their places.

A short definition for Human Geography

The study of the interrelationships between people, place, and environment, and how these vary spatially and temporally across and between locations. Whereas physical geography concentrates on spatial and environmental processes that shape the natural world and tends to draw on the natural and physical sciences for its scientific underpinnings and methods of investigation, human geography concentrates on the spatial organization and processes shaping the lives and activities of people, and their interactions with places and nature. Human geography is more allied with the social sciences and humanities, sharing their philosophical approaches and methods (see physical geography for a discussion on the relationship between human and physical geography; environmental geography).

Human geography consists of a number of sub-disciplinary fields that focus on different elements of human activity and organization, for example, cultural geography, economic geography, health geography, historical geography, political geography, population geography, rural geography, social geography, transport geography, and urban geography. What distinguishes human geography from other related disciplines, such as development, economics, politics, and sociology, are the application of a set of core geographical concepts to the phenomena under investigation, including space, place, scale, landscape, mobility, and nature. These concepts foreground the notion that the world operates spatially and temporally, and that social relations do not operate independently of place and environment, but are thoroughly grounded in and through them.

With respect to methods, human geography uses the full sweep of quantitative and qualitative methods from across the social sciences and humanities, mindful of using them to provide a thorough geographic analysis. It also places emphasis on fieldwork and mapping (see cartography), and has made a number of contributions to developing new methods and techniques, notably in the areas of spatial analysis, spatial statistics, and GIScience.

The long-term development of human geography has progressed in tandem with that of the discipline more generally (see geography). Since the Quantitative Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s, the philosophy underpinning human geography research has diversified enormously. The 1970s saw the introduction of behavioural geography, radical geography, and humanistic geography. These were followed in the 1980s by a turn to political economy, the development of feminist geography, and the introduction of critical social theory underpinning the cultural turn. Together these approaches formed the basis for the growth of critical geography, and the introduction of postmodern and post-structural thinking into the discipline in the 1990s. These various developments did not fully replace the theoretical approaches developed in earlier periods, but rather led to further diversification of geographic thought. For example, quantitative geography continues to be a vibrant area of geographical scholarship, especially through the growth of GIScience. The result is that geographical thinking is presently highly pluralist in nature, with no one approach dominating.

Castree, N., Kitchin, R., & Rogers, A. (2013). "Human geography." In A Dictionary of Human Geography. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 Mar. 2017

Pages under the Human Geography guide include: Cultural geography; Economic geography; Feminist geography; Geopolitics; Migration studies; Political geography; Population studies; Travel & Tourism; and Urban geography.

In the Library's collection

Although Human Geography is scattered throughout the collections, there is a main section or call number range for the subject. That is GF. You can browse in that section of the stacks, Berry Level 4, to see what's there.

Below is the subject search in the online catalog. Also, see the related subject headings there.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

For more books about human geography, click here.

Journal titles & articles

Articles and other writings about Human Geography can be found in many publications. Our collection includes several journals which look at Human Geography. To find them, do the following subject search in the online catalog : "human geography periodicals." However, to see how many more titles there are, you can search in Worldcat. Use a subject search with the terms "human geography" and "periodicals." Below is a short list of some of the journal titles we have in our Library's collection.

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Internet resource(s)

Keeping up with the journal literature

Want an easy way to keep up with the journal literature for all facets of Geography? And you use a mobile device? You can install the BrowZine app and create a custom Bookshelf of your favorite journal titles. Then you will get the Table of Contents (ToCs) of your favorite journals automatically delivered to you when they become available. Once you have the ToC's you can download and read the articles you want.

You can get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Don't own or use a mobile device? You can still use BrowZine! It's now available in a web version. You can get to it here. The web version works the same way as the app version. Find the journals you like, create a custom Bookshelf, get ToCs and read the articles you want.