Throng numbers

International Journal of Population Geography (four times a year)
December 5, 1997

The rise of population geography as a subdiscipline has coincided closely with concern about the rapid growth and changes in world population since the middle of the 20th century. Its seeds were sown in several developed countries during the 1950s, the plants emerged during the 1960s in the form of early texts, and since then the field has flourished and its fruits have dispersed around the world. The widespread popularity of geography as a school and university subject has also meant that probably more students learn about population issues within its context than within any other subject, and many geographers have gone on to specialise in demography. Of course, population geography is only one of many valuable approaches to the study of population, focusing particularly on spatial patterns, processes and movements, and is not clearly separable from many others. Indeed, multi-method research approaches have long been practised by population geographers.

Britain has been a leader in the evolution of population geography and has trained many postgraduate students, especially from developing countries. So it is not surprising that this new specialist research journal should be fostered by the long-established population geography study group of the Institute of British Geographers, which provides strong editorial backing.

The International Journal of Population Geography appears to go for quality rather than quantity and therefore offers rather restricted fare. Each number contains only four to five scholarly, peer-reviewed papers and a few lengthy book reviews. Presumably, it is felt that other more general demographic and geographic journals already provide extensive bibliographies, scientific information, data sources and so on. Among the most useful papers are the research reviews by well-known scholars, looking at, for example, (re)theorising population geography, fertility transition in Sub-Saharan Africa and the research challenges of Asian international migration for population geography. They extend and elaborate on a tradition of annual research reviews started in the first number of the journal Progress in Human Geography back in 1977.

Other papers vary in their demographic, geographic and historic content, but most frequent are analyses of the many forms of mobility and migration, a reflection perhaps of their growing significance in population change, especially in developed countries and at local level. Surprisingly, no number has yet been devoted to this or any other theme, so perhaps purchases of individual numbers will be limited. Special numbers have been a successful feature of many journals, including the broadly comparable French journal Espace-Populations-Societies, although its articles are shorter and more numerous.

To justify its title, the IJPG will hopefully become even more international. Perhaps inevitably in the early days, most of the authors are British, followed by Americans and Australians. Moreover, most of the papers are about the populations of more developed countries, especially in Europe, notably about the increasing intricacies of their mobility and migrations. Despite its massive and diverse demographic changes, the developing world has attracted fewer papers so far. Of course, the editors are dependent on the supply from authors, most of whom are home grown, and sales are probably still small in most parts of the developing world. The absence of papers about India may also partly result from the persistent if slightly spasmodic publication since 1979 of the journal Population Geography by the Association of Population Geographers of India based in Chandigarh, but there is also nothing yet on the rest of South Asia, the Middle East or Latin America. Whatever the reasons, future numbers should reflect the rich diversity of demographic processes and patterns worldwide, yesterday and today. Outlets for papers about the population geography of Britain, the United States and Australia already abound.

Despite these comments, the editors and publishers have made a good start with an attractive product. Certainly it should establish itself as the leading English-language research journal in the field, and with modifications and further consideration of population policy issues it has the potential to capture a wider market.

John I. Clarke is emeritus professor of geography, University of Durham.

International Journal of Population Geography (four times a year)

Editor - Huw Jones and R. Woods
ISBN - ISSN 1077 3495
Publisher - Wiley
Price - $295.00 (institutions) $150.00 (individuals)
Pages - -

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