Essay about World Historical Geography

Submitted By Annalise-Weisenburge
Words: 6126
Pages: 25

Towards a World Historical Geography

Vincent J. Del Casino Jr.
Departments of Geography and Liberal Studies
California State University, Long Beach and Tim Keirn
Departments of History and Liberal Studies
California State University, Long Beach

Draft Paper
(Please do not cite without permission of the authors)

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This paper serves as an introduction to the theoretical approaches and methodologies of an integrated world historical geography. It is organized around two major sections. The first section outlines the disciplines of History and Geography as well as offering an introduction to the subfield of Historical Geography. The goals here are to suggest ways to conceptualize the disciplinary context for the study of historical geography as well as the ways in which historians, geographers, and historical geographers go about collecting and interpreting historical and geographical data. The second section provides further context for the growth of world history, regional geography, and what we are now calling a world historical geography. Moving beyond the basic disciplinary definitions, this section highlights the challenges to thinking about world historical geography in a way that intellectually complicates the traditional stereotypes of how we think about the world. Furthermore, this section opens up the key concepts used to guide a world historical geography. As a conclusion, we offer a few substantively and theoretically informed research questions that might guide world historical geographers as they trace out the myriad ways in which global processes operate at the intersections of various points in time and space. Disciplinary Conventions
What is History?
It is important to understand from the beginning that History is a specifically human activity and a conscious attempt to recollect, conceptualize and preserve the ‘past’ based on the examination of evidence. Indeed, too often history is understood to be an activity that seeks simply to preserve all the human events of the past and to secure these occurrences in a sequential and proper chronological order. In this sense, history is too often taught as one fact after the other.
Yet history is not a reiteration or transcription of every instance and event that has taken place over the course of time. While most of the instances and events of the human past have left no record of their existence, nonetheless, a massive volume of potential evidence of the human past remains extant, especially as regards more modern eras. Indeed, the magnitude of this colossal volume of facts of the past makes it impossible to manage, preserve and transcribe a record of human activity. Instead the historian must make decisions concerning the selection and significance of a topic of inquiry, a choice of evidence, and the means of interpreting the evidence examined. All these decisions are in turn informed by the contemporary circumstances and contexts in which the historian works.
In terms of evidence, historians work in the first instance with primary sources. A primary source is a firsthand account of an event. Traditionally historians work with written primary sources such as government and church records, newspapers, books, letters, diaries and as we shall see maps. Increasingly, historians also work with primary sources that are material in nature: buildings, clothing, tools and other sorts of artifacts and commodities. Historians of the more recent past also utilize visual imagery in the form of photographs and film as primary sources, in addition to oral testimony of firsthand witnesses of past events. Generally, the question that a historian asks of the past determines the type of primary sources to be examined and researched, although to some extent the volume and character of the primary sources extant


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