Geography: History and Branches

Geography: History and Branches

 A captivating and interesting subject, geography is a scientific discipline and is devoted to the careful study and analysis of the Earth’s landforms, environment, oceans, and ecosystems. It is also the study of the interaction between the human society and their environment.  It is worth mentioning that the word geography actually means “earth writing”. Keep in mind that geography has been discussed and elucidated by a variety of sources time and again.

What is Geography?

 Geographers tend to explore the Earth’s physical properties as well as the human societies that are spread across it. Moreover, they examine and evaluate how human culture often interacts with the natural environment, as well as the way that places and locations could have a big impact on people. Geography also aims to understand where specific things are found, why they’re there, and the way they develop as well as change over time. 

Discussion of a location or area’s geography often refers to its specific topography—its unique relief and drainage patterns as well as predominant vegetation, coupled with weather patterns and climate — along with human responses to the environment, like in industrial, agricultural, and other land uses as well as in urbanization and settlement patterns.

While there was a considerably earlier teaching of what is currently known as geography, keep in mind that this academic discipline is mainly a 20th-century creation, and forms a bridge between the social and natural sciences. This is why the history of geography is mainly the history of considering the key concepts relating to places, environments, and spaces.

The subject’s contents cover an in depth understanding and study of the physical reality that we all occupy and the transformations of our environments into desirable places that we usually find more comfortable and convenient to inhabit (although in many cases such modifications usually have negative or adverse long-term impacts).

Geography as a discipline also provides valuable insights into major and important contemporary issues, like environmental change and globalization, and a detailed and comprehensive appreciation of various local differences. Also, changes in many disciplinary interests as well as practices reflect these issues.

History of Geography

Throughout the years as the schooling and academic systems of different countries are coming into their own, geography has become a compulsory discipline among all students. Depending on the country and sometimes the state, the contents of the subject can change drastically. However, with geography differing from country to country, the history of geography is in many ways more interesting than the contents of the subject itself.

Egypt and Babylon

Two of the first civilizations to construct proper maps date back to nearly 600 B.C. Although maps had been common among other civilizations and countries of the time, no civilization ever made a map to properly show political ties and properly divide the land mass. With two very esteemed and advanced races, there came two very different maps of the world.

The Egyptians thought the river Nile, to be the center of the world. With the river Nile in the center they began to distribute the many Egyptian tribes among the land using different colors for each. Color grading each tribe was very important, as some tribes were very hospitable whereas other tribes would be incredibly hostile. Along the land there were also various oases which many people at the time considered to be homes and houses of the gods.

While Egypt was working on their version of the world map, scholars in Babylon were already done with their version of a proper map. The oldest map in the world dates back to nearly 9thcentury BC. This map showed Babylon surrounded by the Euphrates, one of the most historically significant rivers in the world. The map also showed the other cities and countries that surrounded Babylon.

The Greco-Roman Period

Although it is true that many of the first renditions of maps came from Egypt and Babylon, the first proper map that would later lay the ground rules for the rest of time, came from Ancient Greece. At the time, Ancient Greece – and many of the current generation, saw toward a poet by the name of homer as the father of geography.

While many think that Homer was a mere poet, many of his poems contained very detailed geographical information of the world. He believed that the world was a circle, with small patches of water separating major countries while a large ocean encapsulated all of these countries. 

After Homer came various other philosophers with their own theories of the world. Out of all of these only two stood out; they were Hecataeus and Pythagoras. Hectaeus instead of leaning heavily on mathematics turned to a more literal study of the world through the help of sailors. Pythagoras, on the other hand, went the absolute route and with the help of mathematics, and was the first to propose that the earth is a sphere.

Branches of Geography


It is a key branch of geography that deals with the distribution of different species of animals and plants on the Earth surface, and the specific reasons behind these different distribution patterns. Note that the field aims to study in detail why specific species can only dwell or inhabit particular kinds of landforms.


Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Aspects of cartography include how to represent the terrain of the mapped object on flat media and how to orchestrate the elements of the map to best convey its message to its audience. Modern cartography provides a foundation for geographic information systems.


The comprehensive scientific study of climate and climate change, climatology is an important area of geographical studies today. It studies and examines all aspects that are associated with the local or micro climates of places as well as the macro or global climate. This field also entails an examination of the effect of climate on human society and vice versa.

Cultural Geography

Cultural geography is the study of cultural norms, differences, and products, across spaces and places. It explores the cultural aspects around the Earth and their relationship with the places and spaces where they originated from before moving across various areas of the earth as a people. It is a sub-field of human geography and details the cultural migration of people.

Economic Geography

Economic geography is an interdisciplinary field that cuts across geography, economics, social sciences, and business and it focuses on the study of the location, spatial organization, and distribution of economic activities across the planet. In recent times, this traditional field of research has been approached in an economics-based manner. In a geography-based term, it involves the relationship between economic and physical conditions to the production of raw materials and the process through which they change.

Historical Geography

Historical geography is a field in geography that attempts to master the ways by which geographic phenomena changes over time. The majority of things in historical geography are considered human geography, and the discipline also entails the study of geographic change that is not primarily anthropogenic ? human geography shares both methodological and topical similarities with anthropology, ecology, environmental science, and geology.


 As oceans hold about 96.5% of the Earth’s waters, there was a need for a specialized field of oceanography that is wholly dedicated to the in depth study of oceans. Note that the science of oceanography also covers geological oceanography (the study and analysis of the various geological aspects of oceanic floor, its volcanoes, and mountains etc.), biological oceanography (the study of ocean ecosystems and the marine life), chemical oceanography (the study of the detailed chemical composition of marine waters as well as their impacts on marine life forms) and physical oceanography (the study of various oceanic movements such as the waves, and currents etc.). Put differently, it is a comprehensive study of how geographical processes and landforms determine the type of species, which might dwell in a certain region.


It is the study and analysis of various types of soils in their natural environment. It covers not only processes like soil classification and formation, but also the unique interactions between a variety of physical (water, air, and climate etc.) and biological (microbes, plants etc.) forces and the soil as well as their effects on soil composition.It is worth mentioning that one of the chief aims of pedology is to thoroughly study soil composition in order that the natural nutrients and minerals that it contains could be exploited effectively and efficiently by humans.

Population Geography

Population geography is a branch of human geography that studies the ways which spatial variations in the composition, distribution, growth, and migration of populations concerning the nature of these places. In a geographical perspective, the population geography will also include demography. Population geography encompasses the analysis and spatial variations of demographic components of change. It is a division of geography that deals mainly with the in depth study of how the specific nature of a place or location determines the growth, distribution, composition, as well as migration of human populations.

Social Geography

Social geography is the field of study that focuses on variations within society, in the forms of ethnicity, religion, class, gender, age, and sexual orientation. It is the most closely related to social theory in sociology and deals with the relationship between social phenomena and its geographical components. It can be interpreted as the analysis of social phenomena as shown in space.

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