Student review: Geography - History and Concepts: A Student's Guide

February 25, 2010

Author: Arild Holt-Jensen

Edition: Fourth

Publisher: SAGE Publications

Pages: 280

Price: £70.00 and £23.99

ISBN 9781412946490 and 6506

This textbook, now in its fourth edition, adopts the "key thinkers" approach in exploring the history of geography from both the human and physical perspectives.

Arild Holt-Jensen couples major paradigms with topics; for example, in environmental determinism, students are given the foundations of the body of thought as propounded by influential thinkers of the time. To develop further understanding of topics, the author uses inset boxes to present case studies, original quotes from important thinkers, diagrams and models. In the final pages, the key thinkers' approach is cross-referenced with concepts; this is a valuable resource, directing the reader to the relevant pages, and providing a definition of terms often combined with information to contextualise topics.

These definitions are brief enough to allow students unfamiliar with the discipline to comprehend the basics of the topic; however, beyond level one, they may lack the elegant complexity students seek. Despite this, topics such as space, place, nature, landscapes and regional geography are well covered from both social and environmental aspects.

At times the book uses elaborate examples to explain specific points; for example, it uses Alice in Wonderland to explain space. Occasionally the examples seem unnecessarily elongated; by the end, though, the point is made clearly and the link is apparent. Persistence with the points does benefit understanding; however, one fears that students who have read copious amounts may tire of such elaborate explanations before receiving the full benefit.

As well as exploring the evolution of thought, Holt-Jensen considers the changing paradigms of research methods, theoretical perspectives and ontologies. The book provides in-depth information about a number of perspectives, which would be beneficial to those studying research methods. However, one would not recommend it as the sole source to use for understanding such methods. In addition the book places the paradigm shifts in their historical context, signposting the evolution of thought with the predominant paradigm of the time.

Geography - History and Concepts explains the history of geography very well and is written in an accessible way, linking dates, keys thinkers and topics, from both human and physical perspectives. I would highly recommend this book to undergraduate geography students focusing on the evolution of geographical thought, looking at topics such as nature, space and place. This text would be an ideal foundation as long as students recognise the need to use additional sources to further their understanding.

Who is it for? All geography undergraduates (particularly first-year students) as a support text.

Presentation: Generic.

Would you recommend it? Yes, to geography students as a foundation text, especially those exploring the history of geography.

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