Geography as Discipline

Start music   Dec 30 2016 || 1:02 PM

 ‘Geography’ as an independent subject helps to learn about

  • The physical environment of the earth.
  • Human activities and their interactive relationships.


What is geography?

  • The term geography was first coined by Eratosthenese, a Greek scholar (276-194 BC.).
  • The word has been derived from two roots from Greek language geo (earth) and graphos (description).
  • In very simple words, it can be said that geography is the description of the earth.
  • Scholars defined geography as, “the description of the earth as the abode of human beings”.
  • Geography is concerned with the description and explanation of the areal differentiation of the earth’s surface.

-Richard Hartshorne

  • Geography studies the differences of phenomena usually related in different parts of the earth’s surface.



Why should we study geography?


  • Our lives are affected by our surroundings in many ways.
  • We depend on the resources to sustain ourselves in the surrounding areas.
  • We adjusted our food habits and clothing according to the prevailing weather conditions.


How to understand Geography?

The understanding and the skills obtained in modern scientific techniques such as GIS and computer cartography equip you to meaningfully contribute to the national endeavour for development.



Relation between Geography with other fields:

  • We have noted that there exist variations over the surface of the earth in its physical as well as cultural environment.
  • A number of phenomena are similar and many are dissimilar. It was, therefore, logical to perceive geography as the study of areal differentiation.
  • Thus, geography was perceived to study all those phenomena which vary over space. Geographers do not study only the variations in the phenomena over the earth’s surface (space) but also study the associations with the other factors which cause these variations.
  • For example, cropping patterns differ from region to region but this variation in cropping pattern, as a phenomenon, is related to variations in soils, climates, demands in the market, capacity of the farmer to invest and technological inputs available to her/him.
  • Thus, the concern of geography is to find out the causal relationship between any two phenomena or between more than one phenomenon.



Influence of Geography on Humans:

  • Geography, is concerned with the study of Nature and Human interactions as an integrated whole.
  • ‘Human’ is an integral part of ‘nature’ and ‘nature’ has the imprints of ‘human’.
  • ‘Nature’ has influenced different aspects of human life.
  • Its imprints can be noticed on food, clothing, shelter and occupation.
  • The present society has passed the stage of primitive societies, which were directly dependent on their immediate physical environment for sustenance.
  • Present societies have modified their natural environment by inventing and using technology and thus, have expanded the horizon of their operation by appropriating and utilising the resources provided by nature. With the gradual development of technology, human beings were able to loosen the shackles of their physical environment.
  • The space got organised with the help of the means of transportation and communication network.
  • The links (routes) and nodes (settlements of all types and hierarchies) integrated the space and
  • Gradually, it got organised.



  • Geography helps in understanding the reality in totality in its spatial perspective.
  • Geography not only takes note of the differences in the phenomena from place to place but integrates them holistically which may be different at other places.
  • This integration can be understood with some examples.
  • Geography influences historical events. Spatial distance itself has been a very potent factor to alter the course of history of the world. Spatial depth provided defence to many countries, particularly in the last century.
  • In India, Himalayas have acted as great barriers and provided protection but the passes provided routes to the migrants and invaders from Central Asia.
  • The sea coast has encouraged contact with people from East and Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa. Navigation technology helped European countries to colonise a number of countries of Asia and Africa, including India as they got accessibility through oceans.
  • The geographical factors have modified the course of history in different parts of the world.





The major approaches to study geography have been

 (i) Systematic

(ii) Regional.

  1. The systematic geography approach:
  • This approach was introduced by Alexander Von Humboldt, a German geographer (1769-1859).
  • In systematic approach, a phenomenon is studied world over as a whole, and then the identification of typologies or spatial patterns is done.
  • For example, if one is interested in studying natural vegetation, the study will be done at the world level as a first step. The typologies such as equatorial rain forests or softwood conical forests or monsoon forests, etc. will be identified, discussed and delimited.


1. Physical Geography

  1. Geomorphology is devoted to the study of landforms, their evolution and related processes.
  2. Climatology encompasses the study of structure of atmosphere and elements of weather and climates and climatic types and regions.
  3. Hydrology studies the realm of water over the surface of the earth including oceans, lakes, rivers and other water bodies and its effect on different life forms including human life and their activities.
  4. Soil Geography is devoted to study the processes of soil formation, soil types, their fertility status, distribution and use.


2. Human Geography

  1. Social/Cultural Geography encompasses the study of society and its spatial dynamics as well as the cultural elements contributed by the society.
  2. Population and Settlement Geography (Rural and Urban). It studies population growth, distribution, density, sex ratio, migration and occupational structure etc.
  3. Settlement geography studies the characteristics of rural and urban settlements.
  4. Economic Geography studies economic activities of the people including agriculture, industry, tourism, trade, and transport, infrastructure and services, etc.
  5. Historical Geography studies the historical processes through which the space gets organised. Every region has undergone some historical experiences before attaining the present day status.
  6. The geographical features also experience temporal changes and these form the concerns of historical geography.
  7. Political Geography looks at the space from the angle of political events and studies boundaries, space relations between neighbouring political units, delimitation of constituencies, election scenario and develops theoretical framework to understand the political behaviour of the population.




3. Biogeography

The interface between physical geography and human geography has lead to the development of Biogeography which includes:

  1. Plant Geography which studies the spatial pattern of natural vegetation in their habitats.
  2. Zoo Geography which studies the spatial patterns and geographic characteristics of animals and their habitats.
  3. Ecology /Ecosystem deals with the scientific study of the habitats characteristic of species.
  4. Environmental Geography concerns world over leading to the realisation of environmental problems such as land gradation, pollution and concerns for conservation has resulted in the introduction of this new branch in geography.


  1. The regional geography approach:
  • This was developed by German geographer and a contemporary of Humboldt, Karl Ritter (1779-1859).
  • In the regional approach, the world is divided into regions at different hierarchical levels and then all the geographical phenomena in a particular region are studied.
  • These regions may be natural, political or designated region.


1. Regional Studies/Area Studies

Comprising Macro, Meso and Micro Regional Studies

2. Regional Planning

Comprising Country/Rural and Town/Urban Planning

3. Regional Development

4. Regional Analysis


There are two aspects which are common to every discipline, these are:

  1. Philosophy
  1. Geographical Thought
  2. Land and Human Interaction/Human Ecology
  1.  Methods and Techniques
  1. Cartography including Computer Cartography
  2. Quantitative Techniques/Statistical Techniques
  3. Field Survey Methods
  4. Geo-informatics comprising techniques such as Remote Sensing, GIS, GPS, etc.


Physical geography includes the study of

  1. Lithosphere (landforms, drainage, relief and physiography),
  2. Atmosphere (its composition, structure, elements and controls of weather and climate; temperature, pressure, winds, precipitation, climatic types, etc.),
  3. Hydrosphere (oceans, seas, lakes and associated features with water realm)
  4. Biosphere ( life forms including human being and macro-organism and their sustaining mechanism, viz. food chain, ecological parameters and ecological balance).



  1. Soils are formed through the process of pedogenesis and depend upon the parent rocks, climate, biological activity and time.
  2. Landforms provide the base on which human activities are located.
  3. Soils are renewable resources, which influence a number of economic activities such as agriculture.
  4. The fertility of the soil is both naturally determined and culturally induced.
  5. Soils also provide the basis for the biosphere accommodating plants, animals and micro organisms.
  6. Plateaus provide forests and minerals.
  7. Mountains provide pastures, forests, tourist spots and are sources of rivers providing water to lowlands. Climate influences our house types, clothing and food habits. The climate has a profound effect on vegetation, cropping pattern, livestock farming and some industries, etc.
  8. Temperature and precipitation ensure the density of forests and quality of grassland.
  9. Precipitation recharges the ground water aquifers which later provides water for agriculture and domestic use. Oceans are the store house of resources. Besides fish and other sea-food, oceans are rich in mineral resources.