Economic Geography: A Contemporary Introduction

Turning dismal science into a hearty breakfast

February 28, 2008

At last, an accessible, engaging, well-written, student-friendly economic geography textbook. I have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with economic geography texts ever since, as a young lecturer, I found myself having to teach a module in a subject about which I knew very little. Twelve years later I am still teaching the same module and my knowledge of the area has expanded considerably, although a love of the subject has been rather longer in blossoming.

That is beginning to change, in part due to textbooks such as this one and others including Danny Mackinnon and Andrew Cumbers' An Introduction to Economic Geography: Globalization, Uneven Development and Place. These offer interesting new perspectives after a somewhat moribund period during which the market was dominated by worthy seminal volumes such as Peter Dicken's Global Shift: Mapping the Changing Contours of the World Economy. While excellent in their treatment of the subject and undoubtedly widely read, volumes such as this were hardly ever likely to convert anything but the keenest of students to the joys of economic geography. This book, and Mackinnon and Cumbers's text, along with volumes by Jamie Peck, Eric Sheppard and Adam Tickell, represent a welcome first wave of post-"cultural turn" economic geography texts.

The aim of this excellent textbook is to make a powerful case for economic geography and in doing so highlight the folly of economists' "black box" world-view. It attempts to engage students on their own terms. At the level of chapter headings, this is achieved by posing questions that are, by turns, striking and amusing. "Why is economic growth and development so uneven?" and "Where does your breakfast come from?" are two examples from consecutive chapters. Within each chapter this is complemented by extended examples that students will be either aware of or easily able to relate to. The illustrations, tables and boxed examples come thick and fast and are universally useful and effective when set against the text.

The real beauty of this book, however, is the quality and clarity of the writing. While maintaining an appropriate academic rigour, it shows a journalistic flair for hooking its audience and taking them through complex issues. The writing is supple enough to appeal to the novice without alienating the more experienced student. The second edition, when it appears, should be subtitled How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love Economic Geography.

Who is it for? Although it is an introductory text, it would be effective at upper undergraduate levels with additional readings.

Presentation: Excellent, both in layout and in the quality of writing. It recognises its audience's needs without patronising it.

Would you recommend it? Yes.

Economic Geography: A Contemporary Introduction

Authors: N.M. Coe, P.F. Kelly and H.W.C. Yeung
Edition: First
Publisher: Blackwel
Pages: 426
Price: £19.99
ISBN 9781405132190

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