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The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise Paperback – Illustrated, Jan 4 1993


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"A major piece of work. Not since reading Glacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore have I read a book on the history of geography that was equally bold in its ambition and erudite in supporting its claims." John A. Agnew, Syracuse University

"He approaches five centuries of geographical work with zest, sympathy, catholicity and (not infrequently) irreverence in an easy style that grinds no particular axe. The reader is shown a kaleidoscope of the different motives, contexts and spirit of those who have taken part in this wide-ranging quest for knowledge. Highly readable, and recommended to all students of the history of geography and of science in general." David Hooson, University of California at Berkeley

"Superb ... a real winner. A fine and well-written book that will become the core of all courses and seminars in the history and philosophy of our field." Peter R. Gould, Pennsylvania State University

"It is clear that The Geographical Tradition is a tour-de-force. I congratulate you on a major achievement ... the best thing to come through my in-tray for many months." Peter Haggett, University of Bristol

"Livingstone ... writes in a lively style, through which the depth of his scholarship shines brightly ... Each chapter ... is a gem: well-written, based on wide reading, and informative about both the particular subject-matter and the book's general theme. An excellent book ... which will surely stand the test of time as a major contribution to the history and historiography of geography." The Times Higher Education Supplement

"David Livingstone's book is an outstanding achievement, a scholarly tour de force unmatched in previous writing on the history and philosophy of geography as a distinct form of knowledge. The scope of his project is so vast that no reviewer can do justice to the complexity of its argumentation and the wealth of its exemplification." Progress in Human Geography

"This arresting book is easily the best intellectual history of geography since Clarence Clacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore." Australian Geographical Studies

"A fine example of intellectual history. Illuminating and convincing." Nature

"This intellectual roller coaster has a superabundance of memorable statements." Geographical Review

"A most interesting book concerning the history of geography, with special reference to European and North American theatres since the Middle Ages. Well written and contributes to an understanding of the history of science in general and the history of geography in particular. Helpful illustrations and a thorough bibliography add to this well-produced work." Choice

"Elegant and eloquent." Times Literary Supplement

"Geographers, historians of geography, historians of science and religion, and historians in general, take heed! This book is one of the few discussions of the history of geography truly worth reading and owning ... This is the work of a widely read, imaginative, and gifted scholar who makes full use of the sources available within the Anglo-Saxon world, dips periodically into the non-Anglo-Saxon literature, and adds a good deal of his own insight and perspective ... this is a marvellous book. Unapologetically intellectual and rigorous, it is also engagingly and beautifully written. It is a delight to read. It will prove an invaluable source of ideas and further reading. It is also a book to show to non-geographers with pride. Indeed, I suppose that it is part of a geographic tradition." The Canadian Geographer

From the Back Cover

This is the first intellectual history of a subject which over the last five centuries has played a significant role in the development of Western civilization. The author describes the activities of the explorers and map-makers of Renaissance and early modern Europe; the role of geography during the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment and the Darwinian Revolution; and the interactions between geography and empire building in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Since 1945 activity in the subject has been intense: David Livingstone provides a critical account of the trends, developments and occasional revolutions by which geography has emerged as a multi-faceted discipline offering unique and revealing perspectives on a wide range of pressing social and environmental issues.

This is a book which all geographers will wish to have and to read.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In March 1974, the prestigious weekly journal Science ran a cheeky article by the distinguished historian and physicist Stephen G. Brush, entitled 'Should the History of Science be Rated X?' Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A required text Jan. 3 2007
By M. Antos - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
My graduate class raced through this text. It was dry, but informative. Certainly not the book you should read for pleasure. By itself it would not have helped me grasp the history of geography, as its title suggests. It was only with the context provided by the prof that things started to gel.
3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
a white man's history for white men Sept. 12 2010
By tornadoalley - Published on Amazon.com
This is another history about wealthy white men, written primarily for wealthy white men. The achievements of other types of people are almost entirely left out and it appears Livingstone does not even recognize the existence of others who are not like him. Sure, the history is solid- names and dates are there, the privileged scholarly circles are documented. However, he totally fails in his attempt to write a different kind of history in which geographic developments are situated in societal contexts. It is a great example of the problems inherent in oblivious masculinist discourse.


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