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Longue-Durée Environmental History and the “Chicago School” of Geography, 1903-1957

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Abstract:

In 1903 the first research-level geography program in North America was established at the University of Chicago. At a time when geographical work in Europe was dominated by the intellectual legacies of figures such as Alexander von Humboldt, “Chicago School” geographers such as Rollin Salisbury, J. Paul Goode, Harlan Barrows, and Robert Platt worked to adapt, expand, and update geographical inquiry for the classroom and in the field. Their work tells a rich story of early attempts at integrating spatial dimensions of economic, meteorological, climatologic, agricultural, demographic, and other perspectives, and at experimenting with mapping techniques that could most effectively aid this integration. In its time it offered a precedent for undertaking long-term studies of regional changes in the environment that would, later in the century, become common in the new field of environmental history.
Among the first projects shared by members of the incipient department were grand, longue-durée environmental histories of the Lake Michigan and larger Great Lakes basins, beginning with the geological and hydrological stories of their formation, continuing through the development of their climate, vegetation, and animal and human inhabitation, and emphasizing environmental changes that accompanied phases of human inhabitation and use. Pursuing a field- and map-based approach, these geographers sought to carefully avoid deterministic and “anthropo-geographical” approaches in explaining long-term processes, working to avoid objectifying or essentializing aspects of the environment or its inhabitants. While these projects were never completed, despite decades of extensive notes, field investigation, and data collection, their philosophical underpinnings found their way into decades of courses, as well as prescient maps, atlases, and smaller studies that have subtly informed—and can still inform—environmental-historical thought and practice in the twenty-first century.
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Association:
Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170620_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Nekola, Peter. "Longue-Durée Environmental History and the “Chicago School” of Geography, 1903-1957" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170620_index.html>

APA Citation:

Nekola, P. "Longue-Durée Environmental History and the “Chicago School” of Geography, 1903-1957" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170620_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: In 1903 the first research-level geography program in North America was established at the University of Chicago. At a time when geographical work in Europe was dominated by the intellectual legacies of figures such as Alexander von Humboldt, “Chicago School” geographers such as Rollin Salisbury, J. Paul Goode, Harlan Barrows, and Robert Platt worked to adapt, expand, and update geographical inquiry for the classroom and in the field. Their work tells a rich story of early attempts at integrating spatial dimensions of economic, meteorological, climatologic, agricultural, demographic, and other perspectives, and at experimenting with mapping techniques that could most effectively aid this integration. In its time it offered a precedent for undertaking long-term studies of regional changes in the environment that would, later in the century, become common in the new field of environmental history.
Among the first projects shared by members of the incipient department were grand, longue-durée environmental histories of the Lake Michigan and larger Great Lakes basins, beginning with the geological and hydrological stories of their formation, continuing through the development of their climate, vegetation, and animal and human inhabitation, and emphasizing environmental changes that accompanied phases of human inhabitation and use. Pursuing a field- and map-based approach, these geographers sought to carefully avoid deterministic and “anthropo-geographical” approaches in explaining long-term processes, working to avoid objectifying or essentializing aspects of the environment or its inhabitants. While these projects were never completed, despite decades of extensive notes, field investigation, and data collection, their philosophical underpinnings found their way into decades of courses, as well as prescient maps, atlases, and smaller studies that have subtly informed—and can still inform—environmental-historical thought and practice in the twenty-first century.


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