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Richard Hartshorne's adaptation of Alfred Hettner's system of geography

By F. Harvey and U. Wardenga


Most geographers assume that the ideas of the German geographer Alfred Hettner (1859–1941) had a significant impact on Hartshorne's The Nature of Geography. In this article we consider Hartshorne's adaptation of Hettner's diverse and at times contradictory work in the context of both German and American geographies. We argue that Hartshorne adapted Hettner's system of geography for an American audience, without engaging with fundamental ideological and intellectual changes which took place in Germany following the First World War. Sharply distinguishing their work from that of their predecessors, German geographers in the 1920s and 1930s overwhelmingly rejected Hettner's approach. During this period, many embraced a holistic and organic concept of geography, which built on völkisch and nationalistic ideologies. Yet rather than engaging with these debates in German geographical thought, Hartshorne simply adopted the interpretation of Hettner's work presented by his critics (Spethmann et al.). Motivated by the desire to cast geography in a neo-Kantian philosophical framework, ironically in opposition to Hettner's own philosophy of science, Hartshorne's adaptation of Hettner's system of geography is closer to the interpretations of his German critics. There were, we suggest, significant differences between the ideas of Hettner and Hartshorne on the place of geography among the sciences, the importance of nomothetic and idiographic approaches, the relationship between systematic and regional geography, and the understanding of landscape

Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jhg.2005.07.017
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/2147
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