Historical Geography

  Historical geography includes the study both of the geographies of the past and of changes in geographical patterns through time; historical geographers study some aspect or aspects of the GEOGRAPHY of a region, such as population or land use, at a selected period in the past (the cross-section or horizontal approach), or some element or aspect of the evolution of a region (the vertical approach). The horizontal approach reveals the interrelationship of numerous elements of a place at a particular period and also studies the life of an area at a particular time. The vertical approach emphasizes processes and the human thought and activities underlying changes in geographical patterns.

Distinct Field

Historical geography was not recognized as a distinct field of university teaching and research in Canada until the 1950s. However, the term geographical history was used in 1749 in a British pamphlet describing NS, although the first major historical geographical study of Canada was by J.D. Rogers, A Historical Geography of the British Colonies - Canada - Part III Geographical (1911) - a description and analysis of the settling of Canada, published in England. In 1936 Carl Schott, a German geographer, analysed agricultural settlement in southern Ontario.

Specialization Develops

In the 1950s and 1960s geography departments in Canadian universities expanded as young historical geographers established courses and published research. A distinct area of specialization developed, stimulated by the work of Canadian historians and economic historians, eg, H.A. INNIS. However, the emphasis that geographers place on the spatial patterns of the Earth and how they evolve distinguishes their work from that of historians. A considerable number of historical geographers received graduate training in the US. Andrew H. CLARK (born in Canada and influenced by Innis) of the University of Wisconsin was particularly important. Others trained in British universities.

Canadian Historical Geographers

Canadian historical geographers concentrate on their country, but a few specialize on other parts of the world and have published research on China, Europe, Latin America, the former USSR, South Africa and the US. Within Canada a few scholars have adopted the cross-section approach and have reconstructed the geography of a region at a particular time, but most research is concerned with geographical change through time. Topics include the cultural historical geography of native peoples and their relationship to the FUR TRADE economy; spatial patterns of IMMIGRATION and the transfer of culture from the Old World to the New; rural settlement; land-use and settlement patterns as they relate to primary-resource development; the founding of urban settlements and their functional development and evolution in relationship to staples and corridors of movement; and the origins and evolution of distinctive rural and urban landscapes, including buildings.

Important Factors

Although culture is increasingly recognized as an important factor in determining geographical development, research has just begun on attitudes to and influences on the environment, and the historical geography of manufacturing is barely developed. The history of the mapping of Canada is studied, and facsimile atlases have been prepared showing how maps can be used to interpret the evolving geography of an area. In the 1980s and early 1990s, a team of cartographers and scholars undertook the largest cartographic project ever attempted in Canada. The Historical Atlas of Canada traces the development of Canada from prehistoric times to the middle of the 20th century. Volume I appeared in 1987, Volume III in 1990 and Volume II in 1993.

Specialists are not responsible for all research in historical geography. Geographers who normally work on contemporary geographical problems may adopt an historical geographical approach for a particular research topic. Historical geographers in their turn may occasionally work on contemporary problems, but they usually concentrate on the past and are thoroughly familiar with the archival and field sources and the scholarly literature related to a particular area and period.