Human geography

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The human geography , also anthropogeography ( ancient Greek ἄνθρωπος ánthropos "man") or cultural geography is next to the physical geography the second large sub-area of ​​general geography and deals with the relationship between space and man - or more precisely - with the spatial organization of human activity.

All human activities that change space (e.g. settlement, economics) or are influenced by spatial conditions (e.g. mobility ) and are reflected in structures and processes that can be observed directly or indirectly, are the subject of sub-disciplines of human geography . It captures the spatial aspects of cultures, economy and society in their diversity and their change and examines the relationships, dependencies and differences between regions and places on the background of the interrelationships between the natural environment, cultural design and individual action.

Alexander von Humboldt , who recognized the mutual relationships ( causality ) between man and nature, and Friedrich Ratzel with his work Anthropogeography are considered the founder of human geography (anthropogeography) . Modern human geography gains a new meaning against the background of an increasingly globalized economy and the global and regional consequences of this development.

Typical subjects are settlement , economic and social geography .


The equal terms anthropogeography and human geography are used synonymously.

Classic areas

Further areas

There is disagreement as to whether social geography is an independent sub-discipline or a synthetic- integrative view of the entire human geography. The equivalent of physical geography would therefore be geographical landscape ecology .

Human geographic research paradigms

In the history of human geography, several paradigms can be identified, some of which coexisted.

Propaedeutic paradigm

The paradigm up to around 1900 can be described as propaedeutic anthropogeography (propaedeutic = preliminary science). In the course of the discovery of the world and European research trips ( Alexander von Humboldt ) it was the task of geography to record and map spatial phenomena and structures. Geography began to be established as a science in the 19th century. Chairs and geographical societies were founded.

Nature or geodeterministic paradigm

After geography was established as a science, it was of course not enough to just capture phenomena. Attempts to explain structures were increasing. Anthropogeographical issues such as population development, settlement systems or the level of economic development were predominantly justified as the result of natural conditions. This approach, known as natural or geodeterminism, was based on knowledge from physical geography about the geofactors climate, water, soil, relief, geological structure and vegetation. For example, the low level of economic development in tropical countries was based on climate. In 1931, Vladimir Peter Köppen said that the tropical peoples were lazy because the temperatures were too high to work all day. The geodeterministic anthropogeography led to dramatic excesses, which formed the scientific basis for the blood-and-soil ideology of the National Socialists. Despite increasing criticism after World War II, the geodeterministic paradigm existed until 1969.

Space science paradigm

From around 1945, a new paradigm was established as a counterpoint to geodeterminism, which can be described as spatial anthropogeography. The core idea of ​​this approach was to explain spatial structures using mathematical laws. Walter Christaller can be regarded as a pioneer of this paradigm , who explained the distribution, size and number of different settlements by means of mathematical relationships with his system of central locations in 1933. The spatial science paradigm was established in 1969 when the departure from geodeterminism was demanded and essentially achieved at the German Geographers' Day in Kiel.

Action-centered paradigm

The latest paradigm that is being developed alongside spatial geography is that of action-centered human geography. The Jena professor Benno Werlen is considered an important theoretician of this paradigm in the German-speaking world . According to him, human geography should no longer investigate how space determines human activities, but how human actions shape space. Werlen (2004) calls this “geography-making”. When scientists write about the “geography of Northern Germany”, for example, then they first have to differentiate this region from others, i.e. make a regionalization. Regionalizations are therefore carried out by people. Regions are not given by nature, they are made. But non-scientists also do geography in their everyday life. In a globalized world, businesses in other countries are supported by the purchase of certain products. This means that every person determines economic and social structures in other regions in their everyday life. Spatial patterns are not geodeterminated, but are defined by human activity.

Many anthropogeographic discoveries and theories can be assigned to one of these four paradigms, which correlate with the specialist history of geography.

See also


Literature cited in the text
  • Wladimir Köppen: Floor plan of the climate science. de Gruyter, Berlin 1931.
  • Benno Werlen: social geography. An introduction. (= UTB. 1911). Haupt, Bern 2004.

Web links