Nature of Geography as a Discipline – Chapter 1 (Part 2)

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Basic Concepts

The discipline of Geography has been defined differently throughout its development. Geographical work in ancient Greece had followed the mathematical tradition in which the major focus was on fixing the location of places on the surface of the earth. The other tradition was to gather geographic information through travels and field works.

According to them, the main purpose of geography was to provide a description of the physical features of the earth in different parts of the world. The emergence of regional approach in geography was also emphasized on the descriptive character of geography. Another important school of thought defined geography as the study of man-environment relationships.


  1. Ancient Period: The Greeks are given the credit of being the earliest geographers. The prominent geographers among them are Homer, Herodotus, Thales, Aristotle, and Eratosthenes. The earliest records illustrate the interests of the scholars in understanding the physical domain of the earth by making maps and astronomical measurements.

  2. Pre-Modern Period: This period starting from middle of the 15th century and continue up to the early 18th century, provides enormous information about the physical and cultural nature of the world by travels and explorations of the early geographers. Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and Thomas Cook were important explorers and travellers of that time.

  3. Modern Period: Ritter and Humboldt are often referred to as the founders of the modern geography. Generally, later half of the 19th century is considered as the period of modern geography. Ratzel was the first modern geographer in true sense who built the structure of modern geography on the foundations laid down by the classical geographers.

  4. Recent Period: The development of geography during the post-World War II period has been very rapid. The most prominent American geographers such as, Hartshorne described geography as the science dealing with areal differentiation. The present-day geographers look upon the regional and systematic approach as complimentary rather than contradictory.


  • The discipline of Geography has now acquired the status of a science that explains the arrangements of various natural and cultural features on the surface of the earth. Geography is a holistic and interdisciplinary field of study engaged in the understanding of the changing spatial structures.

  • Therefore, the scope of geography is in various disciplines, such as armed services, environment management, water resources, disaster management, meteorology and planning and various social sciences. Besides, the study of geography can contribute in day to day life like tourism, commuting, housing, and health related activities.


Presently, geography is the only discipline that brings all the natural and human sciences on a common platform to understand the dynamics of the spatial configuration of the surface of the earth. The two main approaches in geography are:

  1. Systematic Approach: Systematic approach is the study of the specific natural or human phenomenon that gives rise to certain spatial patterns and structures on the earth surface. Systematic geography is divided into four main branches of:

    1. Physical Geography: It deals with the earth systems including the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere, and biosphere, which encompasses all the earth’s living organisms.

    2. Biogeography and Environmental Geography: It focusses on various kinds of forests and grasslands, distribution of flora and fauna, man-nature relationships, the quality of the living environment, and its implications for human welfare.

    3. Human Geography: It deals with different cultures, populations, and the dynamics of social, economic, and political aspects of space.

    4. Geographical Methods and Techniques: It deals with the methods and techniques of field studies, qualitative and quantitative cartographic analysis, Geographic Information System, Global Positioning System, and remote sensing.

  2. Regional Geography: Regional geography deals with the spatial imprints of one or all the systematic geographic processes discernible as regions of different sizes. Regions could be based on a single factor like relief, rainfall, vegetation, or per capita income. They could also be multifactor regions formed by the association of two or more factors. The main sub-branches of regional geography are:

  3. Regional Studies

  4. Regional Analysis

  5. Regional Development

  6. Regional Planning including Area and Community Planning

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