International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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88 Geography and enlightenment
Chair(s) Felix Driver (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 09 July 2015, Timeslot 1 (09:15 - 11:00)
Room Royal School of Mines Room G.41
Session abstract This session brings together current research on the role of publishing, print culture, intellectual networks and disciplinary formation in the making of Enlightenment geography. It focusses especially on the emergence of distinct cultures of geography in early nineteenth-century Europe, the relationships between geography and other disciplinary formations, and the wider intellectual and political networks sustaining geographical practice into the twentieth century.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
Alexander Kincaid (c. 1752 – c. 1823): Geographer of Enlightenment Edinburgh
Philip Dodds (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Alexander Kincaid was a keen geographer and historian, author of an impressive 1784 Plan of Edinburgh, compiler of various Geographical Grammars, and editor of a number of works of history “embellished with maps”. Yet he never achieved lasting success in the literary world he aspired to be a part of, in which his father, a prominent Edinburgh bookseller of the same name, had been a popular figure. Instead, his published works, where they found any commercial success, catered to a small and relatively poor audience, and by the first decade of the nineteenth century his business interests lay solely in the wax and ink manufactories of Edinburgh’s proto-industrial outskirts. This paper explores the personal and professional networks which Kincaid was part of, and his relationship to those Enlightenment networks that he was ultimately excluded from. It considers, also, various methodological challenges faced in the study of mysterious and unheralded individuals such as Kincaid, as well as some theoretical considerations about the value of focusing on such individuals in the history of science.
Moments of foundation: the differentiated institutionalisation of geography in France, Great Britain and Prussia at the beginning of the nineteenth century
Laura Peaud (University of Grenoble Alpes, France)
Between 1800 et 1850, geography emerged as a full scientific field in Europe, thanks to both institutional reorganisation and intellectual renewal. The foundation of the geographical societies of Paris, Berlin and London during the 1820s constitutes the major symbol of the creation of an independent and consistent discipline. In France, Prussia and Great-Britain, geographers anticipated that their field would be considered as a proper science, compared for instance to history or mathematics. In order to achieve this goal, they gradually organised geographical knowledge according to scientific patterns. This paper intends to question the epistemological and institutional foundations that structured the discipline, in order to highlight the shared approaches and the differences between the three countries. Beyond common purposes, such as collecting and publishing any new information provided by travellers, French, Prussian and British geographers developed distinctive perspectives on their own scientific field. For example, while the Prussians paid particular attention to theory, French and British geographers insisted more on the importance of the facts. The political context played an important role in this process of national differentiation. Highlighting the national contexts of the promotion of geography, the paper also draws attention to the spatial turn in the history of geography.
The Naples geographic forge: issues and key figures, c. 1770-1860
Emilia Sarno (Università Telematica Pegaso, Italy)
The paper presents the results of ongoing research on geographical studies in Naples, capital of the kingdom of Southern Italy prior to Italian Unification, from 1770 to 1860. I want to show both how Neapolitan culture developed a strong interest in geography during the Enlightenment and how it was able to relate to wider trends in European geography. This incentive was given by Antonio Genovesi who pointed out the value of spatial analyzes and cartographic productions in governing the Kingdom of Naples. He was also committed to the institutionalisation of geography at Naples University. His followers, Giuseppe Galanti, Francesco Longano and Vincenzo Cuoco, were equally influential, while Ferdinando Galiani established the Royal Topographic Office. Together they created a cultural network that remained viable until the early nineteenth century. Thanks to this network, many geographic manuals were published and Luigi Galanti introduced political geography in Naples. By means of detailed archival research in the texts and papers of the key figures, the paper reconstructs the Naples geographic forge during the period from 1770 to 1860, a period in which a new geography emerged.
Geography into anthropology: Robert Schomburgk, the Royal Geographical Society and the birth of a British social science
Ian Dudley (University of Essex, UK)
This paper examines the ethnographical component of Robert Schomburgk’s geographical researches in Guayana as exemplifying how colonial geography precipitated anthropology’s emergence as a distinct scientific discipline in Britain during the 1830s-40s. Sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and the British government, Schomburgk's 1835-1844 surveys of British Guiana and surrounding areas encompassed extensive recording of the region’s Amerindian peoples. The inclusion of such an ethnographic component reflected the RGS’s instructions to record Guayana’s “inhabitants”, following a founding principle that geography contain a human aspect, but also the influence of Alexander von Humboldt, in whose geographical vision human and natural history were inalienable. Emulating Humboldt’s ethical rhetoric, Schomburgk’s ethnography combined philanthropic alongside scientific concerns. Indeed, his desire to expose abuse of Amerindians led him to contact the Aborigines’ Protection Society, and through them founding members of the Ethnological Society of London, who would instigate the public presentation of ethnographic research separate from geographical description by organising the landmark “Ethnology Sub-section” at the 1844 British Association for the Advancement of Science conference. Schomburgk’s ‘On the Aborigines of Guiana’ was a key contribution to this panel, which marked the first time a dedicated body of anthropological papers was presented to Britain’s scientific community.
Anarchy (and Geography) in the UK: the British networks of Elisée Reclus and Pëtr Kropotkin (1852-1917)
Federico Ferretti (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Elisée Reclus (1830-1905) and Pëtr Kropotkin (1841-1921) were at the same time founders of the international anarchist movement and two of the most famous European geographers of the period. For various periods between 1852 and 1917, they often frequented British scientific milieux, securing English translations of their geographical works and finding protection as political refugees. They also attended several meetings of the Royal Geographical Society, which endorsed Reclus’ projects such as the Great Globe proposed for the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition, and had relevant exchanges and collaboration with figures (in some cases far from sympathetic to their political visions) such as Halford Mackinder, John Scott Keltie and Patrick Geddes. Considering the importance of ‘putting science in its place’ and of studying the process of cultural exchange internationally, my aim is to clarify in which ways the Reclus’ and Kropotkin ideas circulated and were in turn transformed in the British world. The present paper is a first attempt to answer this question through an analysis of Reclus’ and Kropotkin’s scientific networks in the UK, focusing on the analysis of two corpuses of primary sources, namely the correspondencs between Kropotkin and Scott Keltie and between Geddes and the Reclus family, with the aid of existing literature.