Human geography: Nature and scope

Human geography deals with the relationship between the physical/natural and the human worlds, the spatial distribution of human phenomena and how they come about, and the social and economic differences between different parts of the world.

What is spatial distribution?

Spatial distribution in statistics is the arrangement of the phenomenon across the Earth’s surface and the graphical display of such an arrangement is an important tool in geographical and environmental statistics.

Definitions of Human geography:

Human geography is the synthetic study of the relationship between human societies and the earth’s surface Ratzel

  • In the above definition, synthesis has been emphasized.

Human geography is the study of “the changing relationship between the unresting man and the unstable earth. – Ellen C. Semple

  • In the definition of Semple, the keyword is ‘dynamism in the relationship’.

Conception results from a more synthetic knowledge of the physical laws governing our earth and of the relations between the living beings which inhabit it. Paul Vidal de la Blache

Nature of Human Geography:

Human geography studies the interrelation between the physical environment and the socio-cultural environment created by human beings through mutual interaction with each other.

(Elements of physical environments are: landforms, soils, climate, water, natural vegetation, flora, and fauna.)

It embraces the study of human races, growth, distribution, and density of population of various parts of the world, their demographic attributes and migration patterns, physical and cultural differences between human groups, and economic activities.

  • With the help of technology, human beings interact with the physical environment.
  • Human geography also covers the relationship between man and his natural environment and the way in which the activities of humans are distributed.
  • It also takes into account the mosaic of culture, language, religion, customs, traditions, types, and patterns of rural settlements, and the functional classification of towns.

Some important terms related to the nature of human geography:

Environmental determinism:

Environmental determinism is also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism. The interaction between primitive human society (with less knowledge of technology) and strong forces of nature was termed environmental determinism.

It is the study of how the physical environment predisposes societies and states toward particular development trajectories.


With social and cultural development, humans developed better and more efficient technology. They create possibilities with the resources obtained from the environment. This utilizing scope of the environment by humans with developed technology shows possibilism, as nature provides opportunities and human beings make use of these and slowly nature gets humanized and starts bearing the imprints of human endeavor.

The theory of Possibilism sets certain constraints or limitations, but culture is otherwise determined by social conditions.

Neo-determinism or Stop and go determinism:

Griffith Taylor introduced another concept that reflects a middle path between the two ideas of environmental determinism and possibilism. He termed it Neo-determinism or stop-and-go determinism.

  • The concept shows that neither is there a situation of absolute necessity i.e. environmental determinism nor a condition of complete freedom i.e. possibilism.
  • It means the possibilities can be created within limits that do not damage the environment and there is no free run without accidents.

For example, the free run that the developed economy attempted to take already resulted in the greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion, global warming, receding of glaciers, and degrading Iceland.

Neo-determinism conceptually attempts to bring a balance nullifying the either-or dichotomy.

Scope of Human Geography:

In human geography, the major thrust is on the studies of human societies, in their relation to the habitat or environment.

  • Human geography’s contents provide integration for all the social sciences, giving that science the spatial, temporal, and system viewpoint they otherwise lack.
  • Human geography draws on other social sciences in the analyses identified with its sub-fields, such as behavioral, political, economic, or social geography.
  • Its analyses of spatial systems make people more aware of the realities and the prospects of our own society in an interestingly competitive and troubled world.

Fields and sub-field of Human geography:

Fields of Human Geography Sub-field Interface with sister Disciplines of Social sciences
Social Geography                         – Social Science – Sociology
Behavioural Geography Psychology
Geography of Social


Welfare Economics
Geography of Leisure Sociology
Cultural Geography Anthropology
Gender Geography Sociology, Anthropology, Women’s Studies
Historical Geography History
Medical Geography Epidemiology
Urban Geography                        – Urban Studies and Planning
Political Geography                        – Political Science
Electoral Geography Psephology
Military Geography Military Science
Population Geography                         – Demography
Settlement Geography                         – Urban/Rural Planning
Economic Geography Geography of Resource Resource Economics
Geography of Agriculture Agricultural Resource
Geography of Industries Industrial Economics
Geography of Marketing Business Studies, Economics, Commerce
Geography of Tourism Tourism and Travel Management
Geography of International Trade International Trade


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Agricultural systems in the world: A brief introduction · October 17, 2022 at 1:13 pm

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