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Twelve Working Approaches to Historical Geography Robert M. Newcomb* The real problem of geography is how to combine the subjective view, which is the essence of the art of description, with explanation in which the subjective view has no place. History in its broadest sense helps to bridge the gap. -H. C. Prince1 At a period of sharp and acrimonious transition, geographers are JL\ busy checking professional roadmaps and testing the directions and strengths of conceptual breezes. It is incumbent upon the historical geographer, nominally safe from fashion's fancies amid the archives or deserted villages, to test the winds of change to see if novel methodologies or techniques are now in circulation. The historical geographer need not be the most au courant member of his disciplinary clan, but on the other hand he cannot allow himself to become technologically redundant. The Time Element in Geography The following observations on twelve methods for doing work in historical geography have been assembled as an exercise in stocktaking . Of the dozen approaches presented here, six seem to merit the title of traditional persuasions whereas the balance are considered to be relatively new departures. Illustrative examples from the literature have been cited to establish a recognizable vitality for * Dr. Newcomb is Amanuensis Lektor, Geographical Institute, Aarhus, Denmark. This article is based in part on field work in the United Kingdom in 1963 and 1964 and in Denmark in 1966. 1H. C. Prince, "The Geographical Imagination," Landscape, Vol. 11, (Winter 1961-62), pp. 22-25. 27 28ASSOCIATION OF PACIFIC COAST GEOGRAPHERS what might otherwise be abstract labels. The sequence in which the working methods are presented does not indicate their conceptual merit or value. In fact, comparisons of value have been avoided in this paper which is designed to be an introductory compendium on method rather than a handbook for the mastercraftsman. The apotheosis of the temporal element within the Englishspeaking realm of geography is indicated in Hartshorne's two volumes , his weighty prolegomenon and his compressed retrospective.2 Latterly the temporal element was elevated to a position of importance as a contribution to geographical description and explanation. So much is firmly footed and secure and awaits only the scholar who will fit the temporal realizations of geographers into the broader framework of the history of ideas as Collingwood has done for his discipline and as other authors approach in theirs.3 If one no longer need apologize for his "love of the mouldy,"4 it is still a challenge to develop and perfect working methods which incorporate the temporal element as a major constituent. Darby attacked in a straightforward manner the task of sorting the existing definitions of historical geography which blanketed the ways and means of introducing time into geographic studies in large doses. A 1953 paper set forth four categories of historical geography which encompass the British strengths in classics and history.5 His 1962 essay, although putting aside three minor subject areas with temporal overtones, reworked the major category of the historical element in geography to bring it more broadly up to date in terms of the increasing popularity of man's role in landscape change and the 2 Richard Hartshorne, The Nature of Geography (Lancaster, Pa.: Association of American Geographers, 1946), 482 pp. and Perspective on the Nature of Geography (London: John Murray, 1960), 200 pp. 3 R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History ( New York: Oxford University Press, Galaxy Book, 1956), 339 pp.; Glyn Daniel, The Idea of Prehistory (London: C. A. Watts and Co., 1962), 171 pp.; Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, The Discovery of Time (London: Hutchinson, 1965), 280 pp. The last two items treat the development of viewpoints regarding time and its implications, respectively, for achaeology and science as a whole. 4 John Earle, Microcosmographie or a Piece of the World Discovered in Essays and Characters. Edited by Ed. Blount, 1628, pp. 10-11 in: Ronald Jessup, Curiosities of British Archaeology (London: Butterworths, 1961), 215 pp. 5 H. C. Darby, "On the Relations of Geography and History," Transactions and Papers, Institute of British Geographers, Publication No. 19, (1953), pp. 1-11. VOLUME 31 / YEARBOOK / 196929 theme of geographic change through time.6 With no intent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1551-3211
Print ISSN
0066-9628
Pages
pp. 27-50
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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