GEO 466/566: The Profession of Geography

Germany, France, and Great Britain


As scholars became increasingly specialized in the years after the death of von Humboldt and Ritter, the academic disciplines we know so well today began to appear.

Probably the first country where academic geography appeared was Germany, in the 1870s.

Of the newly appointed professors of geography—most of whom were not really trained as geographers—Ferdinand von Richthofen was one of the most influencial.

Another important scholar during this period in German geography was a man named Friedrich Ratzel.

One other very important German geographer was Alfred Hettner.

A final German geographer we might mention was Otto Schlüter.


One of the countries to follow the German lead was France, generally in the 1880s and 90s.

Perhaps the single most important individual in the development of French geography was Paul Vidal de la Blache.

Of all these students, however, one proved to be the most important--Jean Brunhes.

Another very important student of Vidal was Emmanuel de Martonne, Vidal's own son-in-law.

Great Britain

Lagging behind Germany and even France in the establishment of academic geography in Europe was Great Britain.

Geography was established in Great Britain in 1886.

The first important academic geographer in Britain was Halford J. Mackinder.

Mackinder's view of geography, which over time became that of many British geographers, demanded initial work in physical geography.

Most of the other British geographers, however, did not share Mackinder's world view.

After World War I, we can identify 5 major characteristics or areas of development in British geography.

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Created by JTK; last revised on 2 October 1996.