Confirmed contributors at this stage include: Daniel Cattell, Alison Chapman, Andrew Hadfield, Bernhard Klein, Sjoerd Levelt, Andrew McRae, Sara Trevisan, and Angus Vine. In advance of the volume’s completion, contributors will be invited to participate in a conference to be held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in September 2015.
Header and background created from images of the courtesy of Martin and Jean Norgate, Geography Department, Portsmouth University and the courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library (). All other images courtesy of .
In inter-war France, the so-called produced a mass of interdisciplinary research that might reasonably be described as gographie historique but is more usually regarded as a distinctively French style of history. Likewise in Germany, historical research on rural settlement change was generally seen as continuing an existing tradition of research on the cultural landscape rather than blazing a new trail in Historische Geografie.
The situation was different in the UK. Here, the term historical geography was deployed more frequently under the charismatic influence of H. C. Darby. Darby's historical geography exhibited many similarities with research carried out simultaneously on the history of the English landscape by and historians such as and .
The study of regional landscape change varied in different national contexts and was by no means always described by the term 'historical geography'. Continental European research on regional – and especially rural – landscape change continued without embracing a new disciplinary terminology.
Darby's version of historical geography spread to other parts of the English-speaking world, particularly the former British colonies, but the study of regional landscape change in the USA developed along distinctive lines under the influence of Carl Sauer, doyen of the Berkeley school of cultural geography. Sauer wrote enthusiastically about historical geography but his own work is more commonly described as cultural geography in accordance with his interest in anthropological and archaeological evidence as emphasised by the German tradition of landschaft research.
Darby's cross-sectional method was exemplified by his seven-volume reconstruction of the human geography of medieval England, published with collaborators between the early 1950s and the mid 1970s, based on evidence from the Domesday Book.() Darby's longitudinal method is encapsulated in his work on the changing fenland landscapes of eastern England.()
In Sauer's view, this was a more appropriate model for the study of long-term landscape change in a 'New World' context where the scale of analysis was necessarily larger and where written historical evidence was non-existent before European settlement. It is important to emphasise, however, that some of the most successful 'big-picture' accounts of US history since Columbus have been written by American historical geographers working outside the Sauerian tradition.()
The diffusion in the 1960s and 1970s of spatial science, the quantitative, analytical and law-seeking version of geography, challenged some of the assumptions and practices of traditional historical geography, particularly the source-defined, cross-sectional studies that had little direct influence on present or future geographical patterns. A lively debate ensued, some of it conducted in the pages of the , established in 1975 to enhance the sub-discipline's status. Several different kinds of historical inquiry emerged within geography as a consequence of this period of uncertainty.
The first was advocated by historical geographers who were themselves impatient with traditional source-bound empiricism and who therefore welcomed a statistical methodology that allowed a wide range of historical evidence to be incorporated into more complex models of geographical change.() The result was a more quantitative historical geography that has taken several forms, beginning with the pioneering investigations by Torsten Hgerstrand into 'time geography' which have left an enduring legacy.()
Statistically minded historical geographers also became centrally involved in the field of , particularly in Britain where has been a dominant influence.() In Wrigley's case, this involved an institutional move from geography into economic and social history, a well-trodden and by no means unidirectional career path. These interdisciplinary exchanges of personnel explain why some of the most important research on Britain's agricultural history has been published by scholars originally trained as historical geographers.()
It was distinguished, however, by a particular methodology whereby historical data sources were carefully analysed to construct visually impressive thematic cartography. According to Darby, historical geography was a fundamentally geographical endeavour, one of the 'twin pillars' of the larger discipline, alongside geomorphology.() Historical geography and geomorphology were both concerned with landscape formation and evolution, insisted Darby, the latter based primarily on field evidence derived from the natural environment itself, the former on historical evidence gleaned from archival sources, particularly those that allowed geographical patterns to be recreated as cartographic cross-sections that could be connected into longitudinal (vertical) historical sequences.
The continuing significance of quantitative historical research within geography is also revealed by the highly sophisticated studies of epidemiology and disease diffusion, work consistently defined by its authors as historical geography.() The emerging field of historical geographical information science attests to the strength of the enumerative tendency within historical geography.()