Georgraphy of Egypt - History

Georgraphy of Egypt - History

Geography of Egypt

The Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile River. The Nile was seen as the giver of life. Every year in September, the Nile would flood. By November, the floodwaters would recede leaving behind a nutrient-rich silt which Egyptians were able to use for planting. Narrow areas on both sides of the river were suitable for agriculture. The Nile also provided an easy path for communication and thus contributed to the unification of the country. Egypt's geography also reinforced its security.

Deserts to the east and west, the Mediterranean to the North made attempts to conquer Egypt very difficult for potential invaders.

Herodutus on the Nile:
For indeed without trouble they obtain crops from the land more easily than all other men... They do not labor to dig furrows with plough or hoe or do the work which other men do to raise grain. But when the river itself inundates the field and the water recedes, then each man, having sown his field, sends pigs into it. When the pigs trample down the seed, he waits for the harvest. Then when the pigs thresh the grain, he gets his crop.

Ancient Egypt Geography

Ancient Egypt geography was centered around the Nile River. Ancient Egyptian civilization flourished as a result of the Nile's nourishment. From around 3200 B.C. onward Egypt, like Mesopotamia, became a powerful center of civilization in the ancient world and exerted a powerful influence on the shaping of the history of Palestine and the Ancient Near East.

So ancient was Egypt that when Abraham fled the famine inCanaan  and crossed the Sinai into Egypt, the Pharaohs had been ruling for over a thousand years already!

Egypt's Pharaohs consistently interfered with the affairs of Canaan in order to secure trade routes. Ancient Egypt geography was dominated by desert regions to the west, east, and south. To the north lay the Mediterranean Sea. Great trade routes led across the Sinai into the heartland of Canaan. It was vital Egypt exert some influence in the region in order to prosper through relations with eastern powers.

The Egyptians wished to exploit these trade routes and to provide a zone of security between Egypt and the eastern powers. Ancient Egypt geography dictated the easiest route of invasion lie across the Sinai. Canaan, especially the Negev, was of keen interest to the Egyptian Pharaohs.

The geography of ancient Egypt is composed of two geographical regions, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, with modern day Cairo acting as the divider.


North of Cairo deep alluvial sediments deposited by the Nile formed a great Delta. Ancient Egypt geography used to consist of many branches flowing from the Nile into this region. Today, however, only two branches remain.

Great cities such as Sais and Bubastis emerged from this region, along with the Biblical cities of Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11). The northeast Delta is the closest part of Egypt to Israel. Throughout the history of Israel and Egypt commerce, war, travel and trade have flowed freely between these two regions.

It was in the northeast Delta that the land of Goshen was located. Here the Israelites toiled under the Egyptian yoke during the 400 years of slavery. Genesis 45:9-11 and 46:31 speak of the patriarchs traveling frequently to Goshen. It was in this region that Abraham fled to escape the famine in Palestine.


The Nile Valley rests south of Cairo. The desert, just as influential on ancient Egypt geography as the Nile, limits settlement only to those areas that are affected by the Nile's annual flood. The Nile Valley is never more than a few miles wide, consequently settlements are packed into a small sliver of land. The contrast between the brown, barren desert and green, fertile and lush Nile Valley is striking.

Prominent cities in Upper Egypt include Abydos, Edfu, and Thebes. Thebes is the biblical No-amon, and was known for its temple to the sun-god Amon-Re. Across from Thebes, among the cliffs of the western desert, rested the Valley of the Kings. These cities personified Egypt in its most glorious era.

The Nile River was by far Egypt's most precious resource. The Nile was Egypt's life vein. The Greek historian Herodotus called Egypt "the gift of the Nile". This river linked the cities of Egypt together. It provided transportation, and was the main highway of communication throughout the empire as well.

The Nile shaped ancient Egypt geography, culture, settlement, worship, harvest and the well being of Egypt's citizens. The uncanny regularity of the Nile's flooding would leave behind water for the land, as well as a thin new layer of extremely fertile soil.

The Nile River flows from South to North, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. Water from the Ethiopian (Cush) highlands in the south runs down stream to form the sources of the Nile River. Melting snow and rains pour into the Blue Nile and Atbara rivers, which join the White Nile river to jointly form the Nile River.

The rushing water of these three rivers carry sediment and organic materials, depositing its load into the Nile. The water from these rivers would also swell the banks of the Nile. From July to September these banks overflow soaking the land with water, and leaving behind a layer of rich and fertile silt.

Once the waters receded, Egyptian farmers would reclaim their fields and prepare the land for planting in this newly deposited, fertile soil. Egyptians developed a method for measuring these rising flood waters. Since all of Egypt's agriculture depended on the annual flood, it was vital for the Egyptians to be able to measure and monitor the Nile.

The balance between prosperity and disaster rested precariously on the Nile River's flood. A rise of 7 to 8 meters was ideal. More water meant devastating floods. Less water was known to produce famines, like the famine Joseph experienced in Genesis 41:53.

Egypt was also the benefactor of a favorable climate which accompanied friendly geography. Though rainfall is scarce, hence the dependency upon the flooding of the Nile, long, hot summer days, and mild winters, generated ideal crop growing conditions. Egypt was also impervious to the storms and intense weather changes that affected other lands in the Near East.

Heavily fortified garrisons protected the 6 cataracts along the Nile in the south. The desert bordered Egypt on the east and west, and the Mediterranean provided protection in the north.

Egypt's most vulnerable region lie in the northeast Delta. It was here that traffic chiefly entered into Egypt. Throughout ancient Israel Israelites entered Egypt frequently in times of trouble or distress. Great trade routes ran from Israel, across the Sinai, into Egypt. These routes allowed for easy entry into the country. These routes also made Egypt vulnerable to attack.

As a result of this vulnerability, the history of Palestine is dotted with Egypt's constant attempt to extend it's control beyond Palestine into Syria - effectively extending the buffer zone between Egypt's outer limits and the country's heartland. These excursions brought Egypt into conflict with its neighbors, most notably the Hittites, Mesopotamians, Assyrians, Israel and Judah - among untold others.

However, it also allowed for international travel - such as the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem during King Solomon's reign, described in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. Travel between the two regions was also popular during the time of Jesus, as is evident in the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8.

The close relationship of Egypt and Israel cannot be denied as the two are inextricably linked.

Are you a student of Egyptian history? Palestine history? Give us your expertise! Click on the above link to share your insights, thoughts, comments, and questions!

Georgraphy of Egypt - History

In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer ’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web . Unless otherwise noted, charts and illustrations come from the original Gazetteer . — George P. Landow


The valley of the Nile, throughout its whole extent, from Philae to the vicinity of Cairo, is hemmed in on both sides by continuous chains of hills those on the East side approach more closely to the river, while the Libyan hills on the West rise with a gradual ascent, and sometimes recede to a distance of 1 or 1½miles. Hence they appear less elevated than the East hills, which vary in height from 400 to 800 feet. Towards the delta these chains of hills diverge that on the East side turning East by Jebel Mokattem (that is, the hewn so called probably from its quarries), near Cairo, and sinking gradually till it disappears in the isthmus of Suez while the Libyan chain skirts to the North of the plains of the Natron lakes.

The desert between the Nile and the Red Sea is intersected by several chains of mountains, which increase in elevation to wards the East, so that the ridges nearest to the Red Sea attain a height perhaps exceeding 6000 feet West of the Nile, on the other hand, the land evidently sinks, so that the Libyan chain separates the river from a wide valley, which is supposed to be not above the level of the sea, and may probably have received the waters of the Nile, and conducted them to the sea in early times, while the rocky channel through lower Nubia was as yet but imperfectly opened. The appearance and physical character of this region is well described by the name Bahr belamn, or river without water, now estowed on a portion of it.

Valleys and Roads

The openings or lateral valleys of the hills confining the valley of the Nile are comparatively few, or, being little frequented, remain unknown. Those on the East side, with which we are best acquainted, are, the Valley of the Wanderings (of the children of Israel), leading from the neighbourhood of Cairo to the head of the Gulf of Suez, and that through which passes the road from Koptos to Kosseir on the Red Sea. In early ages, when the commerce of the Red Sea was far more important than it is at present, the roads from the Nile through the East desert were numerous and frequented and there still remains indubitable evidence, chiefly in the ruins of guard-houses and of solidly-constructed wells, of the industry which once animated these inhospitable wastes. West of the Nile, in latitude 29˚ 20' North, a deep sinuosity in the Libyan chain of hills forms the fertile valley of Fayoum (in Coptic, Ph-iom, the sea or lake), in the Northwest and lowest part of which is the lake named Birket-el Kerun, the level of which is perhaps not above that of the river. The East part of the Fayoum was anciently the site of the celebrated Lake Moeris, the embankments enclosing which were first recognized and traced, in 1842, by M. Linant de Bellefonds. From this valley a road leads West, through the hills, to the oasis of Dakhileh. The roads from Jirjeh or Girgeh and Esne to the great oasis are much frequented and several other openings of less note offer communications with the fertile spots which characterize the depressed region West of the river.


The oases above alluded to extend, in a narrow line, along the hollow region of the Libyan desert, parallel to the general direction of the valley of the Nile, and above 80 miles West of it The Great Oasis, called, from its chief town, El Wah el Kha-rijeh, lies immediately West of the Thebaid, and has a length of 100 miles, from latitude 24˚ 15' to 25˚ 42' North. About 50 miles West of the North extremity of this oasis, lies the Wah el Dakhileh, 24 miles long and 10 miles broad. In the parallel of Jirjeh and West South from the Fayoum, the date groves of the Little Oasis (Oasis parva), or Wah-el-Baharieh, display their unusual verdure. In this fertile spot artesian wells are numerous, and some of ancient construction have been recently discovered, which have a depth exceeding 400 feet On the road between this oasis and that of El Dakhileh, inclining to the West, occurs half-way the Wah-el-FeraTreh, of small extent. West of Fayoum, and about 200 miles from the Nile, lies the oasis of Siwah, where the foundations of the once-celebrated temple of Jupiter Ammon may still be traced. The inhabitants of this secluded spot, though tributary to Egypt, are in language and manners wholly Libyan. The region of the oases ter minates towards the North in the desert of the Natron lakes, which the Copts called Scete, and where, in the midst of the dreary wilderness, prison-like monasteries offered a congenial home to gloomy and ascetic tempers. The deserts on the West bank of the Nile generally present to view uniform plains of gravel or of fine drifting sand on the East the scene is varied by rocks and mountains, but the aridity is extreme, and the heat, reverberated from surrounding cliffs, is often insupportable.


The Subsiding of the Nile, Egypt . 1873. by Frederick Goodall. Reproduced by kind permission of the Guildhall Gallery, London, and the City of London Corporation.

The only river of Egypt is the Nile, which receives no accession from tributary streams (occasional torrents from extraordinary rains excepted) in the last 1500 miles of its course. At Philrc it enters Egypt with a breadth of 3000 feet, and though often contracted lower down to 2000 feet, its average width throughout may be taken at half a mile, and therefore, with the canals depending on it, bears a considerable proportion to the whole area of the habitable valley. Of the canals alluded to, one of the most remarkable is that commonly called the Bahr Yusef, or Joseph’s river or canal, which, leaving the Nile at Beirut (latitude 26˚ 15'), runs along the foot of the Libyan hills, which it enters at the opening of el-Lahun and, having watered the valley of Fayoum, it again issues from the Libyan chain and joins the Nile. The Bahr Yusef has a length of 140 miles, and the level plain, often 10 or 12 miles wide, included between it and the Nile, forms, with the valley of Fayoum, the most fertile part of Egypt. Popular belief ascribes the construction of this water-course to Joseph, but competent observers pronounce it to be an ancient branch of the river, flowing between banks for the most part of natural origin. It has a general breadth of 300 feet, and winds like the Nile.

The apex of the Delta was, in the time of Herodotus, at Cercasorus, 10 miles below Memphis it is now about 6 miles still lower down, at Batn el-Bakara. The river, at the early period referred to, separated at once into three branches, the Canopic going NorthWest, the Pelusiac, Northeast, and the Sebennytic branch proceeding directly North to the sea. But the latter threw off also two other branches, namely, the Saitic, West, and the Mendesian, East Near the former of these flowed the Bolbitine, and, at some distance to the East, the Bucolic branches, both artificial. These were the seven mouths of the Nile as described by Herodotus (from whom later writers differ in many particulars) and it is remarkable that, at the present day, only two of them continue to flow in uninterrupted navigable channels to the sea, and those are the Bolbitine and Bucolic (the artificial) arms, now named respectively, from the towns at their mouths, the Eosetta (Eashid) and Damietta (Dimyet) branches. The artificial branches probably owed their superior permanence to the circumstance of their being cut in a straight line, so that their banks were not liable to be impinged on by the current.

On the Banks of the Nile . 1873. by Frederick Goodall. Reproduced courtesy of the Fine Art Society.

The other ancient arms of the river may still be traced, more or less satisfactorily, among the numerous canals which intersect the Delta, and terminate, for the most part, in the lakes bordering the sea-coast. Among the ancient canals of Lower Egypt, there was one which merits especial notice, namely, that which, starting from the Nile a little below the modern Cairo, ran Northeast and East into the desert, and then turning South, through the marshy district of the Bitter lakes, terminated at Arsinoe, at the head of the Gulf of Suez, thus uniting the Nile and the Red Sea. Pharaoh Necho was the first who ventured on this great undertaking he failed, however, and Darius, of the Persian dynasty, had no better success. At length Ptolemy Philadelphus overcame the numerous hindrances opposed by nature to the completion of the work yet, in a few years, this canal, apparently so advantageous, became choked up and useless, and was restored by Trajan, to fall again to ruin. Some traces of it remain at the present day, but for the most part it is wholly obliterated.

One of the greatest works carried on in Egypt in modern times, is that projected by Mahommed Ali for the damming up or barrage of the Nile below Cairo, and for the establishment of canals above the barrage which should carry the water of the stream over the surface of Lower Egypt. The barrage is established at the point of the Delta where the Nile bi-forks into two great branches, which flow, one to Eosetta, the other to Damietta. It is 118 miles from Alexandria, and 99 miles from Eosetta 12 miles below Cairo, in view of the great pyramids of Gizeh. The works comprehend 1. A sluice bridge on each of the two branches of the river, with a levelling quay, to fix the points of the Delta. 2. Three great canals, one cut on the right bank of the Damietta branch in the direction of Mansqurah, another running along the left branch of the Eosetta branch in the direction of Alexandria, the third placed in the axis of the Delta. The canal directed towards Alexandria is to be 197 feet wide the two others, 328 feet each. The barrage has a length of 1765 feet between the extreme abutments on the Damietta branch, and of 1535 feet on the Eosetta branch, making a length altogether of 3300 feet The quay wall constructed at the point of the Delta is 5291 feet in length. The barrage is expected to be finished in the course of 1852.


The first place among the lakes of Egypt has been hitherto usually assigned to the Birket-el-Kerun, lying NorthWest of el-Fayouin, owing probably to the celebrity which attached to it from the supposition that it was a remnant of the ancient lake Moeris. It has a length of about 34 m., and a general breadth of 6 miles its direction being from West by South to East by North On its shores stands a castle, the projecting spouts of which have procured for it the appellation of Kasr-el-Kerun, (Horn Castle), whence the lake takes it name. It abounds with fish, and like Lake Moeris of old, is farmed out to fisher men, to the great profit of the Government. There can be no doubt that this lake is of natural origin, but it probably owes a great increase of size to the causes which led to the disap pearance of Lake Moeris. So long as the great reservoir, on the higher level of the valley, was maintained in good con dition, its embankments must have cut off supplies from the natural hike below. At present the Nile, in cases of high flood, makes its way to the Birket-el-Kerun, which then rises 4 or 5 feet

About 50 miles North of the Birket-el-Kerun, where the Libyan chain of hills, West of the Nile, begins to sink in the desert, a low tract, extending SouthEast to NorthWest, exhibits in the rainy season a chain of pools, known as the Natron Lakes from which, in the dry season, the water evaporates, leaving the ground thickly encrusted with natron (sesquicarbonate of soda) , better known in commerce under the name of trona. The fertile land of the Delta is, for the most part, separated from the sea by a series of lakes, or rather vast lagoons, which are themselves fenced from the sea by very narrow necks of land. On the West side of the Delta, and proceeding West to East, these maritime lakes are, Mareotis, Madyeh or Abukir, and Edku or Etko. They all communicate with the sea by shallow openings. Between the Eosetta and Damietta arms of the Nile, Lake Bourlos occupies half of the coast, or above 30 miles while East of the latter arm, Lake Menzaleh covers an extent of 500 sq. miles while Lake Bardowal (Sirbonis) stretches 70 miles still further East Altogether, the frontier covered by these lagoons has an extent little short of 200 miles They all abound in fish, but more particularly Lake Menzaleh, the shores of which are rendered hateful to strangers by the smell of fish and mud, by filth and pestilence. From the Souteast angle of Lake Menzaleh, a low tract, annually converted into a swamp during the inundation, winds South by East across the desert isthmus to Suez in the South part of this tract are the Bitter Lakes, which are very like the Natron Lakes of the West. [2.908]


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive . 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive . Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

How Did Geography Affect Ancient Egypt?

The geography of the area influenced where the Ancient Egyptians built most of their civilization. The geography also affected the materials the civilization used to build things, and it kept the civilization relatively safe from invasion.

The harsh climate pushed the early Egyptian tribes toward the Nile River Valley, where the long, strong river kept the surrounding areas lush and green through regular flooding. This allowed the civilization to thrive even in the hot, dry desert. Egyptian culture and daily life revolved around the river because it brought the different seasons. The Nile also has a high place in Egyptian mythology and belief. In addition, the flow of the river determined how their trade routes were set up.

The stones available in the land determined what kind of buildings the people were able to build, and the abundance of stones to mine led to the many monuments left behind thousands of years later. Without the solid stone available, such things as the pyramids would not have been possible. Egypt is historically known for the enslavement of Hebrews which aided in the expansion in the empire by providing free manual labor. The climate was harsh and the Nile broken up by dangerous rapids, keeping many invading forces out. This allowed the civilization to thrive for thousands of years with minimal examples of being taken over.

Facts about Egypt Geography 7: Nile Valley

Nile Valley spans from Aswan to Cairo with the length of 800 kilometers. The Lower Egypt is defined by the presence of Nile Delta, while Upper Egypt is located in Nile Valley.

Facts about Egypt Geography 8: Aswan Dam

Irrigation is important for agricultural industry in Egypt because of the construction of Aswan Dam. Look at facts about Egyptian Music here.

Egypt Facts | Egypt People

Egypt is home to the largest population in the Arab countries. Most Egyptians live in the fertile valley along the Nile river. 

Aswan at the Nile River

Almost all people in Egypt (99%) live on 5% of the land area of the country! Very few people live in oases in the desert.

In Egypt most of the people are Egyptians, smaller Ethnic groups include Turks, Greeks and the Berbers.

Islam is the state religion of Egypt. However, Egypt's population was mainly Christian until the seventh century before the county was islamised. The Egyptian muslims today are mainly Sunni muslims. 

Egyptian girls in traditional dress

Today Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, while Coptic Christians are a minority. 

He then was named” King of Upper and Lower Egypt” and the double crown was called Pschent in Greek and Sekhemti in ancient Egyptian.

The Geography of Egypt was a major aspect of its ruling, with the king keeping the unity as well as choosing Egypt’s capital city. We can say that the real history of ancient Egypt began with this unification, and the magical pharaonic period that lasted over 3,000 years.

Click here to learn more about ancient Egyptian geography – its different capitals, population and the characteristics of the people from different areas.

Where is Egypt?

Egypt is a transcontinental country that stretches from the northeast corner of Africa to the southwest corner of Asia. The Sinai Peninsula of Egypt acts as the land bridge between these two continents. Egypt is located in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres of the Earth. It has land borders with Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, Israel and the Gaza Strip to the northeast. To the north, Egypt has a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea while the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba border it to the east.

Regional Maps: Map of Africa

Georgraphy of Egypt - History

Physical Size and Borders

Egypt, covering 1,001,449 square kilometers of land, is about the same size as Texas and New Mexico combined. The country's greatest distance from north to south is 1,024 kilometers, and from east to west, 1,240 kilometers. The country is located in northeastern Africa and includes the Sinai Peninsula (also seen as Sinai), which is often considered part of Asia. Egypt's natural boundaries consist of more than 2,900 kilometers of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea.

Egypt has land boundaries with Israel, Libya, Sudan, and the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian area formerly administered by Egypt and occupied by Israel since 1967. The land boundaries are generally straight lines that do not conform to geographic features such as rivers. Egypt shares its longest boundary, which extends 1,273 kilometers, with Sudan. In accordance with the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, this boundary runs westward from the Red Sea along the twenty-second parallel, includes the Sudanese Nile salient (Wadi Halfa salient), and continues along the twenty-second parallel until it meets the twenty-fifth meridian. The Sudanese Nile salient, a finger-shaped area along the Nile River (Nahr an Nil) north of the twenty-second parallel, is nearly covered by Lake Nasser, which was created when the Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s. An "administrative" boundary, which supplements the main Egyptian-Sudanese boundary permits nomadic tribes to gain access to water holes at the eastern end of Egypt's southern frontier. The administrative boundary departs from the international boundary in two places Egypt administers the area south of the twenty-second parallel, and Sudan administers the area north of it.

Egypt shares all 1,150 kilometers of the western border with Libya. This border was defined in 1925 under an agreement with Italy, which had colonized Libya. Before and after World War II, the northern border was adjusted, resulting in the return of the village of As Sallum to Egyptian sovereignty. Egypt shares 255 kilometers of its eastern border in Sinai with Israel and 11 kilometers with the Gaza Strip.

Egypt is divided into twenty-six governorates (sometimes called provinces), which include four city governorates: Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah), Cairo (Al Qahirah), Port Said (Bur Said) and Suez the nine governorates of Lower Egypt in the Nile Delta region the eight governorates of Upper Egypt along the Nile River south from Cairo to Aswan and the five frontier governorates covering Sinai and the deserts that lie west and east of the Nile. All governorates, except the frontier ones, are in the Nile Delta or along the Nile Valley and Suez Canal.

Egypt is predominantly desert. Only 35,000 square kilometers- -3.5 percent of the total land area--are cultivated and permanently settled. Most of the country lies within the wide band of desert that stretches from Africa's Atlantic Coast across the continent and into southwest Asia. Egypt's geological history has produced four major physical regions: the Nile Valley and Delta, the Western Desert (also known as the Libyan Desert), the Eastern Desert (also known as the Arabian Desert), and the Sinai Peninsula. The Nile Valley and Delta is the most important region because it supports 99 percent of the population on the country's only cultivable land.

Nile Valley and Delta

The Nile Valley and Delta, the most extensive oasis on earth, was created by the world's second-longest river and its seemingly inexhaustible sources. Without the topographic channel that permits the Nile to flow across the Sahara, Egypt would be entirely desert the Nile River traverses about 1,600 kilometers through Egypt and flows northward from the Egyptian-Sudanese border to the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is a combination of three long rivers whose sources are in central Africa: the White Nile, the Blue Nile, and the Atbarah.

The White Nile, which begins at Lake Victoria in Uganda, supplies about 28 percent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. In its course from Lake Victoria to Juba in southern Sudan, the elevation of the White Nile's channel drops more than 600 meters. In its 1,600-kilometer course from Juba to Khartoum, Sudan's capital, the river descends only 75 meters. In southern and central Sudan, the White Nile passes through a wide, flat plain covered with swamp vegetation and slows almost to stagnation.

The Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, provides an average of 58 percent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. It has a steeper gradient and flows more swiftly than the White Nile, which it joins at Khartoum. Unlike the White Nile, the Blue Nile carries a considerable amount of sediment for several kilometers north of Khartoum, water closer to the eastern bank of the river is visibly muddy and comes from the Blue Nile, while the water closer to the western bank is clearer and comes from the White Nile.

The much shorter Atbarah River, which also originates in Ethiopia, joins the main Nile north of Khartoum between the fifth and sixth cataracts (areas of steep rapids) and provides about 14 percent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. During the low-water season, which runs from January to June, the Atbarah shrinks to a number of pools. But in late summer, when torrential rains fall on the Ethiopian plateau, the Atbarah provides 22 percent of the Nile's flow.

The Blue Nile has a similar pattern. It contributes 17 percent of the Nile's waters in the low-water season and 68 percent during the high-water season. In contrast, the White Nile provides only 10 percent of the Nile's waters during the highwater season but contributes more than 80 percent during the lowwater period. Thus, before the Aswan High Dam was completed in 1971, the White Nile watered the Egyptian stretch of the river throughout the year, whereas the Blue Nile, carrying seasonal rain from Ethiopia, caused the Nile to overflow its banks and deposit a layer of fertile mud over adjacent fields. The great flood of the main Nile usually occurred in Egypt during August, September, and October, but it sometimes began as early as June at Aswan and often did not completely wane until January.

The Nile enters Egypt a few kilometers north of Wadi Halfa, a Sudanese town that was completely rebuilt on high ground when its original site was submerged in the reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam. As a result of the dam's construction, the Nile actually begins its flow into Egypt as Lake Nasser, which extends south from the dam 320 kilometers to the border and an additional 158 kilometers into Sudan. Lake Nasser's waters fill the area through Lower Nubia (Upper Egypt and northern Sudan) within the narrow gorge between the cliffs of sandstone and granite created by the flow of the river over many centuries. Below Aswan the cultivated floodplain strip widens to as much as twenty kilometers. North of Isna (160 kilometers north of Aswan), the plateau on both sides of the valley rises as high as 550 meters above sea level at Qina (about 90 kilometers north of Isna) the 300-meter limestone cliffs force the Nile to change course to the southwest for about 60 kilometers before turning northwest for about 160 kilometers to Asyut. Northward from Asyut, the escarpments on both sides diminish, and the valley widens to a maximum of twenty-two kilometers. The Nile reaches the Delta at Cairo.

At Cairo the Nile spreads out over what was once a broad estuary that has been filled by silt deposits to form a fertile, fan-shaped delta about 250 kilometers wide at the seaward base and about 160 kilometers from north to south. The Nile Delta extends over approximately 22,000 square kilometers (roughly equivalent in area to Massachusetts). According to historical accounts from the first century A.D., seven branches of the Nile once ran through the Delta. According to later accounts, the Nile had only six branches by around the twelfth century. Since then, nature and man have closed all but two main outlets: the east branch, Damietta (also seen as Dumyat 240 kilometers long), and the west branch, Rosetta (235 kilometers long). Both outlets are named after the ports located at their mouths. A network of drainage and irrigation canals supplements these remaining outlets. In the north near the coast, the Delta embraces a series of salt marshes and lakes most notable among them are Idku, Al Burullus, and Manzilah.

The fertility and productivity of the land adjacent to the Nile depends largely on the silt deposited by floodwaters. Archaeological research indicates that people once lived at a much higher elevation along the river than they do today, probably because the river was higher or the floods more severe. The timing and the amount of annual flow were always unpredictable. Measurements of annual flows as low as 1.2 billion cubic meters and as high as 4.25 billion cubic meters have been recorded. For centuries Egyptians attempted to predict and take advantage of the flows and moderate the severity of floods.

The construction of dams on the Nile, particularly the Aswan High Dam, transformed the mighty river into a large and predictable irrigation ditch. Lake Nasser, the world's largest artificial lake, has enabled planned use of the Nile regardless of the amount of rainfall in Central Africa and East Africa. The dams have also affected the Nile Valley's fertility, which was dependent for centuries not only on the water brought to the arable land but also on the materials left by the water. Researchers have estimated that beneficial silt deposits in the valley began about 10,000 years ago. The average annual deposit of arable soil through the course of the river valley was about nine meters. Analysis of the flow revealed that 10.7 million tons of solid matter passed Cairo each year. Today the Aswan High Dam obstructs most of this sediment, which is now retained in Lake Nasser. The reduction in annual silt deposits has contributed to rising water tables and increasing soil salinity in the Delta, the erosion of the river's banks in Upper Egypt, and the erosion of the alluvial fan along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Western Desert covers about 700,000 square kilometers (equivalent in size to Texas) and accounts for about two-thirds of Egypt's land area. This immense desert to the west of the Nile spans the area from the Mediterranean Sea south to the Sudanese border. The desert's Jilf al Kabir Plateau has an altitude of about 1,000 meters, an exception to the uninterrupted territory of basement rocks covered by layers of horizontally bedded sediments forming a massive plain or low plateau. The Great Sand Sea lies within the desert's plain and extends from the Siwah Oasis to Jilf al Kabir. Scarps (ridges) and deep depressions (basins) exist in several parts of the Western Desert, and no rivers or streams drain into or out of the area.

The government has considered the Western Desert a frontier region and has divided it into two governorates at about the twenty-eighth parallel: Matruh to the north and New Valley (Al Wadi al Jadid) to the south. There are seven important depressions in the Western Desert, and all are considered oases except the largest, Qattara, the water of which is salty. The Qattara Depression is approximately 15,000 square kilometers (about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island) and is largely below sea level (its lowest point is 133 meters below sea level). Badlands, salt marshes, and salt lakes cover the sparsely inhabited Qattara Depression.

Limited agricultural production, the presence of some natural resources, and permanent settlements are found in the other six depressions, all of which have fresh water provided by the Nile or by local groundwater. The Siwah Oasis, close to the Libyan border and west of Qattara, is isolated from the rest of Egypt but has sustained life since ancient times. The Siwa's cliff-hung Temple of Amun was renowned for its oracles for more than 1,000 years. Herodotus and Alexander the Great were among the many illustrious people who visited the temple in the pre-Christian era.

The other major oases form a topographic chain of basins extending from the Al Fayyum Oasis (sometimes called the Fayyum Depression) which lies sixty kilometers southwest of Cairo, south to the Bahriyah, Farafirah, and Dakhilah oases before reaching the country's largest oasis, Kharijah. A brackish lake, Birkat Qarun, at the northern reaches of Al Fayyum Oasis, drained into the Nile in ancient times. For centuries sweetwater artesian wells in the Fayyum Oasis have permitted extensive cultivation in an irrigated area that extends over 1,800 square kilometers.

The topographic features of the region east of the Nile are very different from those of the Western Desert. The relatively mountainous Eastern Desert rises abruptly from the Nile and extends over an area of approximately 220,000 square kilometers (roughly equivalent in size to Utah). The upward-sloping plateau of sand gives way within 100 kilometers to arid, defoliated, rocky hills running north and south between the Sudan border and the Delta. The hills reach elevations of more than 1,900 meters. The region's most prominent feature is the easterly chain of rugged mountains, the Red Sea Hills, which extend from the Nile Valley eastward to the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. This elevated region has a natural drainage pattern that rarely functions because of insufficient rainfall. It also has a complex of irregular, sharply cut wadis that extend westward toward the Nile.

The Eastern Desert is generally isolated from the rest of the country. There is no oasis cultivation in the region because of the difficulty in sustaining any form of agriculture. Except for a few villages on the Red Sea coast, there are no permanent settlements. The importance of the Eastern Desert lies in its natural resources, especially oil. A single governorate, the capital of which is at Al Ghardaqah, administers the entire region.

This triangular area covers about 61,100 square kilometers (slightly smaller than West Virginia). Similar to the desert, the peninsula contains mountains in its southern sector that are a geological extension of the Red Sea Hills, the low range along the Red Sea coast that includes Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrinah), the country's highest point--2,642 meters. The Red Sea is named after these mountains, which are red.

The southern side of the peninsula has a sharp escarpment that subsides after a narrow coastal shelf that slopes into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. The elevation of Sinai's southern rim is about 1,000 meters. Moving northward, the elevation of this limestone plateau decreases. The northern third of Sinai is a flat, sandy coastal plain, which extends from the Suez Canal into the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Before the Israeli military occupied Sinai during the June 1967 War (Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War), a single Egyptian governorate administered the whole peninsula. By 1982 after all of Sinai was returned to Egypt, the central government divided the peninsula into two governorates. North Sinai has its capital at Al Arish and the South Sinai has its capital in At Tur.

Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, temperatures range between an average minimum of 14 C in winter and an average maximum of 30 C in summer.

Temperatures vary widely in the inland desert areas, especially in summer, when they may range from 7 C at night to 43 C during the day. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate less dramatically, but they can be as low as 0 C at night and as high as 18 C during the day.

The average annual temperature increases moving southward from the Delta to the Sudanese border, where temperatures are similar to those of the open deserts to the east and west. In the north, the cooler temperatures of Alexandria during the summer have made the city a popular resort. Throughout the Delta and the northern Nile Valley, there are occasional winter cold spells accompanied by light frost and even snow. At Aswan, in the south, June temperatures can be as low as 10 C at night and as high as 41 C during the day when the sky is clear.

Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimeters of precipitation annually in most areas. Most rain falls along the coast, but even the wettest area, around Alexandria, receives only about 200 millimeters of precipitation per year. Alexandria has relatively high humidity, but sea breezes help keep the moisture down to a comfortable level. Moving southward, the amount of precipitation decreases suddenly. Cairo receives a little more than one centimeter of precipitation each year. The city, however, reports humidity as high as 77 percent during the summer. But during the rest of the year, humidity is low. The areas south of Cairo receive only traces of rainfall. Some areas will go years without rain and then experience sudden downpours that result in flash floods. Sinai receives somewhat more rainfall (about twelve centimeters annually in the north) than the other desert areas, and the region is dotted by numerous wells and oases, which support small population centers that formerly were focal points on trade routes. Water drainage toward the Mediterranean Sea from the main plateau supplies sufficient moisture to permit some agriculture in the coastal area, particularly near Al Arish.

A phenomenon of Egypt's climate is the hot spring wind that blows across the country. The winds, known to Europeans as the sirocco and to Egyptians as the khamsin, usually arrive in April but occasionally occur in March and May. The winds form in small but vigorous low-pressure areas in the Isthmus of Suez and sweep across the northern coast of Africa. Unobstructed by geographical features, the winds reach high velocities and carry great quantities of sand and dust from the deserts. These sandstorms, often accompanied by winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, can cause temperatures to rise as much as 20 C in two hours. The winds blow intermittently and may continue for days, cause illness in people and animals, harm crops, and occasionally damage houses and infrastructure.


The known world of Ancient Egypt saw the Nile as the centre, and the world as based upon "the" river. Various oases were known to the east and west, and were considered locations of various gods (e.g. Siwa, for Amon)12 . To the South lay the Kushitic region, known as far as the 4th cataract. Punt was a region south along the shores of the Red Sea. Various Asiatic peoples were known as Retenu, Kanaan, Que, Harranu, or Khatti (Hittites). At various times especially in the Late Bronze Age Egyptians had diplomatic and trade relationships with Babylonia and Elam. The Mediterranean was called "the Great Green" and was believed to be part of a world encircling ocean. Europe was unknown although may have become part of the Egyptian world view in Phoenician times. To the west of Asia lay the realms of Keftiu, possibly Crete, and Mycenae (thought to be part of a chain of islands, that joined Cyprus, Crete, Sicily and later perhaps Sardinia, Corsica and the Balarics to Africa). [2]

The oldest known world maps date back to ancient Babylon from the 9th century BC. [3] The best known Babylonian world map, however, is the Imago Mundi of 600 BC. [4] The map as reconstructed by Eckhard Unger shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Urartu [5] and several cities, in turn surrounded by a "bitter river" (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it so as to form a seven-pointed star. The accompanying text mentions seven outer regions beyond the encircling ocean. The descriptions of five of them have survived. [6]

In contrast to the Imago Mundi, an earlier Babylonian world map dating back to the 9th century BC depicted Babylon as being further north from the center of the world, though it is not certain what that center was supposed to represent. [3]

The ancient Greeks view Homer as the founder of geography. [7] His works the Iliad and the Odyssey are works of literature, but both contain a great deal of geographical information. Homer describes a circular world ringed by a single massive ocean. The works show that the Greeks by the 8th century BC had considerable knowledge of the geography of the eastern Mediterranean. The poems contain a large number of place names and descriptions, but for many of these it is uncertain what real location, if any, is actually being referred to.

Thales of Miletus is one of the first known philosophers known to have wondered about the shape of the world. He proposed that the world was based on water, and that all things grew out of it. He also laid down many of the astronomical and mathematical rules that would allow geography to be studied scientifically. His successor Anaximander is the first person known to have attempted to create a scale map of the known world and to have introduced the gnomon to Ancient Greece.

Hecataeus of Miletus initiated a different form of geography, avoiding the mathematical calculations of Thales and Anaximander he learnt about the world by gathering previous works and speaking to the sailors who came through the busy port of Miletus. From these accounts he wrote a detailed prose account of what was known of the world. A similar work, and one that mostly survives today, is Herodotus' Histories. While primarily a work of history, the book contains a wealth of geographic descriptions covering much of the known world. Egypt, Scythia, Persia, and Asia Minor are all described, [8] including a mention of India. [9] The description of Africa as a whole are contentious, [10] with Herodotus describing the land surrounded by a sea. [11] Though he described the Phoenicians as having circumnavigated Africa in the 6th century BC, through much of later European history the Indian Ocean was thought to be an inland sea, the southern part of Africa wrapping around in the south to connect with the eastern part of Asia. This was not completely abandoned by Western cartographers until the circumnavigation of Africa by Vasco da Gama. [12] Some, though, hold that the descriptions of areas such as India are mostly imaginary. [13] Regardless, Herodotus made important observations about geography. He is the first to have noted the process by which large rivers, such as the Nile, build up deltas, and is also the first recorded as observing that winds tend to blow from colder regions to warmer ones.

Pythagoras was perhaps the first to propose a spherical world, arguing that the sphere was the most perfect form. This idea was embraced by Plato, and Aristotle presented empirical evidence to verify this. He noted that the Earth's shadow during a lunar eclipse is curved from any angle (near the horizon or high in the sky), and also that stars increase in height as one moves north. Eudoxus of Cnidus used the idea of a sphere to explain how the sun created differing climatic zones based on latitude. This led the Greeks to believe in a division of the world into five regions. At each of the poles was an uncharitably cold region. While extrapolating from the heat of the Sahara it was deduced that the area around the equator was unbearably hot. Between these extreme regions both the northern and southern hemispheres had a temperate belt suitable for human habitation.

Hellenistic period Edit

These theories clashed with the evidence of explorers, however, Hanno the Navigator had traveled as far south as Sierra Leone, and Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II of Africa is related by Herodotus and others as having commissioned a successful circumnavigation of Africa by Phoenician sailors. While they were sailing west around the Southern tip of Africa, it was found that the sun was to their right (the north). This is thought to have been a key trigger in the realization that the earth is spherical, in the classical world.

In the 4th century BC the Greek explorer Pytheas traveled through northeast Europe, and circled the British Isles. He found that the region was considerably more habitable than theory expected, but his discoveries were largely dismissed by his contemporaries because of this. Conquerors also carried out exploration, for example, Caesar's invasions of Britain and Germany, expeditions/invasions sent by Augustus to Arabia Felix and Ethiopia (Res Gestae 26), and perhaps the greatest Ancient Greek explorer of all, Alexander the Great, who deliberately set out to learn more about the east through his military expeditions and so took a large number of geographers and writers with his army who recorded their observations as they moved east.

The ancient Greeks divided the world into three continents, Europe, Asia, and Libya (Africa). The Hellespont formed the border between Europe and Asia. The border between Asia and Libya was generally considered to be the Nile river, but some geographers, such as Herodotus objected to this. Herodotus argued that there was no difference between the people on the east and west sides of the Nile, and that the Red Sea was a better border. The relatively narrow habitable band was considered to run from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to an unknown sea somewhere east of India in the east. The southern portion of Africa was unknown, as was the northern portion of Europe and Asia, so it was believed that they were circled by a sea. These areas were generally considered uninhabitable.

The size of the Earth was an important question to the Ancient Greeks. Eratosthenes calculated the Earth's circumference with great precision. [14] Since the distance from the Atlantic to India was roughly known, this raised the important question of what was in the vast region east of Asia and to the west of Europe. Crates of Mallus proposed that there were in fact four inhabitable land masses, two in each hemisphere. In Rome a large globe was created depicting this world. Posidonius set out to get a measurement, but his number actually was considerably smaller than the real one, yet it became accepted that the eastern part of Asia was not a huge distance from Europe.

Roman period Edit

While the works of almost all earlier geographers have been lost, many of them are partially known through quotations found in Strabo (64/63 BC – ca. AD 24). Strabo's seventeen volume work of geography is almost completely extant, and is one of the most important sources of information on classical geography. Strabo accepted the narrow band of habitation theory, and rejected the accounts of Hanno and Pytheas as fables. None of Strabo's maps survive, but his detailed descriptions give a clear picture of the status of geographical knowledge of the time. Pliny the Elder's (AD 23 – 79) Natural History also has sections on geography. A century after Strabo Ptolemy (AD 90 – 168) launched a similar undertaking. By this time the Roman Empire had expanded through much of Europe, and previously unknown areas such as the British Isles had been explored. The Silk Road was also in operation, and for the first time knowledge of the far east began to be known. Ptolemy's Geographia opens with a theoretical discussion about the nature and techniques of geographical inquiry, and then moves to detailed descriptions of much the known world. Ptolemy lists a huge number of cities, tribes, and sites and places them in the world. It is uncertain what Ptolemy's names correspond to in the modern world, and a vast amount of scholarship has gone into trying to link Ptolemaic descriptions to known locations.

It was the Romans who made far more extensive practical use of geography and maps. The Roman transportation system, consisting of 55,000 miles of roads, could not have been designed without the use of geographical systems of measurement and triangulation. The cursus publicus, a department of the Roman government devoted to transportation, employed full-time gromatici (surveyors). The surveyors’ job was to gather topographical information and then to determine the straightest possible route where a road might be built. Instruments and principles used included sun dials for determining direction, theodolites for measuring horizontal angles, [15] and triangulation without which the creation of perfectly straight stretches, some as long as 35 miles, would have been impossible. During the Greco-Roman era, those who performed geographical work could be divided into four categories: [16]

  • Land surveyors determined the exact dimensions of a particular area such as a field, dividing the land into plots for distribution, or laying out the streets in a town.
  • Cartographical surveyors made maps, involving finding latitudes, longitudes and elevations.
  • Military surveyors were called upon to determine such information as the width of a river an army would need to cross.
  • Engineering surveyors investigated terrain in order to prepare the way for roads, canals, aqueducts, tunnels and mines.

Around AD 400 a scroll map called the Peutinger Table was made of the known world, featuring the Roman road network. Besides the Roman Empire which at that time spanned from Britain to the Middle East and Africa, the map includes India, Sri Lanka and China. Cities are demarcated using hundreds of symbols. It measures 1.12 ft high and 22.15 ft long. The tools and principles of geography used by the Romans would be closely followed with little practical improvement for the next 700 years. [17]

A vast corpus of Indian texts embraced the study of geography. The Vedas and Puranas contain elaborate descriptions of rivers and mountains and treat the relationship between physical and human elements. [18] According to religious scholar Diana Eck, a notable feature of geography in India is its interweaving with Hindu mythology, [19]

No matter where one goes in India, one will find a landscape in which mountains, rivers, forests, and villages are elaborately linked to the stories and gods of Indian culture. Every place in this vast country has its story and conversely, every story of Hindu myth and legend has its place.

Ancient period Edit

The geographers of ancient India put forward theories regarding the origin of the earth. They theorized that the earth was formed by the solidification of gaseous matter and that the earth's crust is composed of hard rocks (sila), clay (bhumih) and sand (asma). [20] Theories were also propounded to explain earthquakes (bhukamp) and it was assumed that earth, air and water combined to cause earthquakes. [20] The Arthashastra, a compendium by Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) contains a range of geographical and statistical information about the various regions of India. [18] The composers of the Puranas divided the known world into seven continents of dwipas, Jambu Dwipa, Krauncha Dwipa, Kusha Dwipa, Plaksha Dwipa, Pushkara Dwipa, Shaka Dwipa and Shalmali Dwipa. Descriptions were provided for the climate and geography of each of the dwipas. [20]

Early Medieval period Edit

The Vishnudharmottara Purana (compiled between 300 and 350 AD) contains six chapters on physical and human geography. The locational attributes of peoples and places, and various seasons are the topics of these chapters. [18] Varahamihira's Brihat-Samhita gave a thorough treatment of planetary movements, rainfall, clouds and the formation of water. [20] The mathematician-astronomer Aryabhata gave a precise estimate of the earth's circumference in his treatise Āryabhaṭīya. [18] Aryabhata accurately calculated the Earth's circumference as 24,835 miles, which was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 24,902 miles.

Late Medieval period Edit

The Mughal chronicles Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri, Ain-i-Akbari and Dastur-ul-aml contain detailed geographical narratives. [18] These were based on the earlier geographical works of India and the advances made by medieval Muslim geographers, particularly the work of Alberuni.

In China, the earliest known geographical Chinese writing dates back to the 5th century BC, during the beginning of the Warring States period (481 BC – 221 BC). [22] This work was the Yu Gong ('Tribute of Yu') chapter of the Shu Jing or Book of Documents, which describes the traditional nine provinces of ancient China, their kinds of soil, their characteristic products and economic goods, their tributary goods, their trades and vocations, their state revenues and agricultural systems, and the various rivers and lakes listed and placed accordingly. [22] The nine provinces at the time of this geographical work were relatively small in size compared to those of modern China with the book's descriptions pertaining to areas of the Yellow River, the lower valleys of the Yangtze and the plain between them as well as the Shandong peninsula and to the west the most northern parts of the Wei and Han Rivers along with the southern parts of modern-day Shanxi province. [22]

In this ancient geographical treatise, which would greatly influence later Chinese geographers and cartographers, the Chinese used the mythological figure of Yu the Great to describe the known earth (of the Chinese). Apart from the appearance of Yu, however, the work was devoid of magic, fantasy, Chinese folklore, or legend. [23] Although the Chinese geographical writing in the time of Herodotus and Strabo were of lesser quality and contained less systematic approach, this would change from the 3rd century onwards, as Chinese methods of documenting geography became more complex than those found in Europe, a state of affairs that would persist until the 13th century. [24]

The earliest extant maps found in archeological sites of China date to the 4th century BC and were made in the ancient State of Qin. [25] The earliest known reference to the application of a geometric grid and mathematically graduated scale to a map was contained in the writings of the cartographer Pei Xiu (224–271). [26] From the 1st century AD onwards, official Chinese historical texts contained a geographical section, which was often an enormous compilation of changes in place-names and local administrative divisions controlled by the ruling dynasty, descriptions of mountain ranges, river systems, taxable products, etc. [27] The ancient Chinese historian Ban Gu (32–92) most likely started the trend of the gazetteer in China, which became prominent in the Northern and Southern dynasties period and Sui dynasty. [28] Local gazetteers would feature a wealth of geographic information, although its cartographic aspects were not as highly professional as the maps created by professional cartographers. [28]

From the time of the 5th century BC Shu Jing forward, Chinese geographical writing provided more concrete information and less legendary element. This example can be seen in the 4th chapter of the Huainanzi (Book of the Master of Huainan), compiled under the editorship of Prince Liu An in 139 BC during the Han dynasty (202 BC – 202 AD). The chapter gave general descriptions of topography in a systematic fashion, given visual aids by the use of maps (di tu) due to the efforts of Liu An and his associate Zuo Wu. [29] In Chang Chu's Hua Yang Guo Chi (Historical Geography of Szechuan) of 347, not only rivers, trade routes, and various tribes were described, but it also wrote of a 'Ba Jun Tu Jing' ('Map of Szechuan'), which had been made much earlier in 150. [30] The Shui Jing (Waterways Classic) was written anonymously in the 3rd century during the Three Kingdoms era (attributed often to Guo Pu), and gave a description of some 137 rivers found throughout China. [31] In the 6th century, the book was expanded to forty times its original size by the geographers Li Daoyuan, given the new title of Shui Jing Zhu (The Waterways Classic Commented). [31]

In later periods of the Song dynasty (960–1279) and Ming dynasty (1368–1644), there were much more systematic and professional approaches to geographic literature. The Song dynasty poet, scholar, and government official Fan Chengda (1126–1193) wrote the geographical treatise known as the Gui Hai Yu Heng Chi. [32] It focused primarily on the topography of the land, along with the agricultural, economic and commercial products of each region in China's southern provinces. [32] The polymath Chinese scientist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) devoted a significant amount of his written work to geography, as well as a hypothesis of land formation (geomorphology) due to the evidence of marine fossils found far inland, along with bamboo fossils found underground in a region far from where bamboo was suitable to grow. The 14th-century Yuan dynasty geographer Na-xin wrote a treatise of archeological topography of all the regions north of the Yellow River, in his book He Shuo Fang Gu Ji. [33] The Ming dynasty geographer Xu Xiake (1587–1641) traveled throughout the provinces of China (often on foot) to write his enormous geographical and topographical treatise, documenting various details of his travels, such as the locations of small gorges, or mineral beds such as mica schists. [34] Xu's work was largely systematic, providing accurate details of measurement, and his work (translated later by Ding Wenjiang) read more like a 20th-century field surveyor than an early 17th-century scholar. [34]

The Chinese were also concerned with documenting geographical information of foreign regions far outside of China. Although Chinese had been writing of civilizations of the Middle East, India, and Central Asia since the traveler Zhang Qian (2nd century BC), later Chinese would provide more concrete and valid information on the topography and geographical aspects of foreign regions. The Tang dynasty (618–907) Chinese diplomat Wang Xuance traveled to Magadha (modern northeastern India) during the 7th century. Afterwards he wrote the book Zhang Tian-zhu Guo Tu (Illustrated Accounts of Central India), which included a wealth of geographical information. [33] Chinese geographers such as Jia Dan (730–805) wrote accurate descriptions of places far abroad. In his work written between 785 and 805, he described the sea route going into the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and that the medieval Iranians (whom he called the people of the Luo-He-Yi country, i.e. Persia) had erected 'ornamental pillars' in the sea that acted as lighthouse beacons for ships that might go astray. [35] Confirming Jia's reports about lighthouses in the Persian Gulf, Arabic writers a century after Jia wrote of the same structures, writers such as al-Mas'udi and al-Muqaddasi. The later Song dynasty ambassador Xu Jing wrote his accounts of voyage and travel throughout Korea in his work of 1124, the Xuan-He Feng Shi Gao Li Tu Jing (Illustrated Record of an Embassy to Korea in the Xuan-He Reign Period). [33] The geography of medieval Cambodia (the Khmer Empire) was documented in the book Zhen-La Feng Tu Ji of 1297, written by Zhou Daguan. [33]

Byzantine Empire and Syria Edit

After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, ruled from Constantinople and known as the Byzantine Empire, continued to thrive and produced several noteworthy geographers. Stephanus of Byzantium (6th century) was a grammarian at Constantinople and authored the important geographical dictionary Ethnica. This work is of enormous value, providing well-referenced geographical and other information about ancient Greece.

The geographer Hierocles (6th century) authored the Synecdemus (prior to AD 535) in which he provides a table of administrative divisions of the Byzantine Empire and lists the cities in each. The Synecdemus and the Ethnica were the principal sources of Constantine VII's work on the Themes or divisions of Byzantium, and are the primary sources we have today on political geography of the sixth-century East.

George of Cyprus is known for his Descriptio orbis Romani (Description of the Roman world), written in the decade 600–610. [36] Beginning with Italy and progressing counterclockwise including Africa, Egypt and the western Middle East, George lists cities, towns, fortresses and administrative divisions of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire.

Cosmas Indicopleustes, (6th century) also known as "Cosmas the Monk," was an Alexandrian merchant. [37] By the records of his travels, he seems to have visited India, Sri Lanka, the Kingdom of Axum in modern Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Included in his work Christian Topography were some of the earliest world maps. [38] [39] [40] Though Cosmas believed the earth to be flat, most Christian geographers of his time disagreed with him. [41]

Syrian bishop Jacob of Edessa (633–708) adapted scientific material sourced from Aristotle, Theophrastus, Ptolemy and Basil to develop a carefully structured picture of the cosmos. He corrects his sources and writes more scientifically, whereas Basil's Hexaemeron is theological in style. [42]

Karl Müller has collected and printed several anonymous works of geography from this era, including the Expositio totius mundi.

Islamic world Edit

In the latter 7th century, adherents of the new religion of Islam surged northward out of Arabia taking over lands in which Jews, Byzantine Christians and Persian Zoroastrians had been established for centuries. There, carefully preserved in the monasteries and libraries, they discovered the Greek classics which included great works of geography by Egyptian Ptolemy's Almagest and Geography, along with the geographical wisdom of the Chinese and the great accomplishments of the Roman Empire. The Arabs, who spoke only Arabic, employed Christians and Jews to translate these and many other manuscripts into Arabic.

The primary geographical scholarship of this era occurred in Persia, today's Iran, in the great learning center the House of Wisdom at Baghdad, today's Iraq. Early caliphs did not follow orthodoxy and so they encouraged scholarship. [43] Under their rule, native non-Arabs served as mawali or dhimmi, [44] and most geographers in this period were Syrian (Byzantine) or Persian, i.e. of either Zoroastrian or Christian background. [ citation needed ]

Persians who wrote on geography or created maps during the Middle Ages included:

    (Geber or Jabir) (721– c. 815) Wrote extensively on many subjects, expanded on the wisdom of the Greek classics and engaged in experimentation in natural science. It is unclear whether he was Persian or Syrian. [45] (780–850) wrote The Image of the Earth (Kitab surat al-ard), in which he used the Geography (Ptolemy) of Ptolemy but improved upon his values for the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, and Africa. (820–912) authored a book of administrative geography Book of the Routes and Provinces (Kitab al-masalik wa’l-mamalik), which is the earliest surviving Arabic work of its kind. He made the first quadratic scheme map of four sectors.
  • Sohrab or Sorkhab [46] (died 930) wrote Marvels of the Seven Climes to the End of Habitation describing and illustrating a rectangular grid of latitude and longitude to produce a world map. [47][48] (850–934) founded the "Balkhī school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. (died 957) compiled the Book of the Routes of States, (Kitab Masalik al-Mamalik) from personal observations and literary sources (973–1052) described polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. (960–1036) known for his work with the spherical sine law. His Book of Azimuths is no longer extant. (980–1037) wrote on earth sciences in his Book of Healing. (10th century) wrote Concise Book of Lands (Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan). (10th century) wrote a geographical compendium known as Book of Precious Records.

Further details about some of these are given below:

In the early 10th century, Abū Zayd al-Balkhī, a Persian originally from Balkh, founded the "Balkhī school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. The geographers of this school also wrote extensively of the peoples, products, and customs of areas in the Muslim world, with little interest in the non-Muslim realms. [49] Suhrāb, a late 10th-century Persian geographer, accompanied a book of geographical coordinates with instructions for making a rectangular world map, with equirectangular projection or cylindrical equidistant projection. [49] In the early 11th century, Avicenna hypothesized on the geological causes of mountains in The Book of Healing (1027).

In mathematical geography, Persian Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, around 1025, was the first to describe a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. [50] He was also regarded as the most skilled when it came to mapping cities and measuring the distances between them, which he did for many cities in the Middle East and western Indian subcontinent. He combined astronomical readings and mathematical equations to record degrees of latitude and longitude and to measure the heights of mountains and depths of valleys, recorded in The Chronology of the Ancient Nations. He discussed human geography and the planetary habitability of the Earth, suggesting that roughly a quarter of the Earth's surface is habitable by humans. He solved a complex geodesic equation in order to accurately compute the Earth's circumference. [51] His estimate of 6,339.9 km for the Earth radius was only 16.8 km less than the modern value of 6,356.7 km.

By the early 12th century the Normans had overthrown the Arabs in Sicily. Palermo had become a crossroads for travelers and traders from many nations and the Norman King Roger II, having great interest in geography, commissioned the creation of a book and map that would compile all this wealth of geographical information. Researchers were sent out and the collection of data took 15 years. [52] Al-Idrisi, one of few Arabs who had ever been to France and England as well as Spain, Central Asia and Constantinople, was employed to create the book from this mass of data. Utilizing the information inherited from the classical geographers, he created one of the most accurate maps of the world to date, the Tabula Rogeriana (1154). The map, written in Arabic, shows the Eurasian continent in its entirety and the northern part of Africa.

An adherent of environmental determinism was the medieval Afro-Arab writer al-Jahiz (776–869), who explained how the environment can determine the physical characteristics of the inhabitants of a certain community. He used his early theory of evolution to explain the origins of different human skin colors, particularly black skin, which he believed to be the result of the environment. He cited a stony region of black basalt in the northern Najd as evidence for his theory. [53]

Medieval Europe Edit

During the Early Middle Ages, geographical knowledge in Europe regressed (though it is a popular misconception that they thought the world was flat), and the simple T and O map became the standard depiction of the world.

The trips of Venetian explorer Marco Polo throughout Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Christian Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries, and the Portuguese and Spanish voyages of exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries opened up new horizons and stimulated geographic writings. The Mongols also had wide-ranging knowledge of the geography of Europe and Asia, based in their governance and ruling of much of this area and used this information for the undertaking of large military expeditions. The evidence for this is found in historical resources such as The Secret History of Mongols and other Persian chronicles written in 13th and 14th centuries. For example, during the rule of the Great Yuan Dynasty a world map was created and is currently kept in South Korea. See also: Maps of the Yuan Dynasty

During the 15th century, Henry the Navigator of Portugal supported explorations of the African coast and became a leader in the promotion of geographic studies. Among the most notable accounts of voyages and discoveries published during the 16th century were those by Giambattista Ramusio in Venice, by Richard Hakluyt in England, and by Theodore de Bry in what is now Belgium.

Following the journeys of Marco Polo, interest in geography spread throughout Europe. From around c. 1400, the writings of Ptolemy and his successors provided a systematic framework to tie together and portray geographical information. This framework was used by academics for centuries to come, the positives being the lead-up to the geographical enlightenment, however, women and indigenous writings were largely excluded from the discourse. The European global conquests started in the early 15th century with the first Portuguese expeditions to Africa and India, as well as the conquest of America by Spain in 1492 and continued with a series of European naval expeditions across the Atlantic and later the Pacific and Russian expeditions to Siberia until the 18th century. European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial empires, with the contact between the "Old" and "New World"s producing the Columbian Exchange: a wide transfer of plants, animals, foods, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the continents. These colonialist endeavours in 16th and 17th centuries revived a desire for both "accurate" geographic detail, and more solid theoretical foundations. The Geographia Generalis by Bernhardus Varenius and Gerardus Mercator's world map are prime examples of the new breed of scientific geography.

The Waldseemüller map Universalis Cosmographia, created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in April 1507, is the first map of the Americas in which the name "America" is mentioned. Before this, the Native Americans referred to their land depending on their location, with one of the more commonly used terms being "Abya Yala", meaning "land of vital blood". These indigenous geographical discourses were largely ignored or appropriated by the European colonialists to make way for European thought.

The Eurocentric map was patterned after a modification of Ptolemy's second projection but expanded to include the Americas. [54] The Waldseemuller Map has been called "America's birth certificate" [55] Waldseemüller also created printed maps called globe gores, that could be cut out and glued to spheres resulting in a globe.

This has been debated widely as being dismissive of the extensive Native American history that predated the 16th-century invasion, in the sense that the implication of a "birth certificate" implies a blank history prior.

18th centuries in the West Edit

Geography as a science experiences excitement and exerts influence during the Scientific Revolution and Religion Reformation. In the Victorian period, the oversea exploration gave it institutional identity and geography was "the science of imperialism par excellence." [56] [ citation needed ] Imperialism is a crucial concept for the Europeans, as the institution become involved in geographical exploration and colonial project. Authority was questioned, and utility gained its importance. In the era of Enlightenment, geography generated knowledge and made it intellectually and practically possible as a university discipline. The natural theology required geography to investigate the world as a grand machine from the Divine. Scientific voyages and travels constructed geopolitical power from geographical knowledge, partly sponsored by Royal Society. John Pinkerton appraised the eighteenth century had "the gigantic progress of every science, and in particular of geographical information" and "alteration has taken place in states and boundaries." [ citation needed ]

The discourse of geographical history gave way to many new thoughts and theories, but the hegemony of the European male academia led to the exclusion of non-western theories, observations and knowledges. One such example is the interaction between humans and nature, with Marxist thought critiquing nature as a commodity within Capitalism, European thought seeing nature as either a romanticised or objective concept differing to human society, and Native American discourse, which saw nature and humans as within one category. The implied hierarchy of knowledge that perpetuated throughout these institutions has only been recently challenged, with the Royal Geographical Society enabling women to join as members in the 20th century.

After English Civil War, Samuel Hartlib and his Baconian community promoted scientific application, which showed the popularity of utility. For William Petty, the administrators should be "skilled in the best rules of judicial astrology" to "calculate the events of diseases and prognosticate the weather." [ citation needed ] Institutionally, Gresham College propagated scientific advancement to a larger audience like tradesmen, and later this institute grew into Royal Society. William Cuningham illustrated the utilitarian function of cosmography by the military implement of maps. John Dee used mathematics to study location—his primary interest in geography and encouraged exploiting resource with findings collected during voyages. Religion Reformation stimulated geographical exploration and investigation. Philipp Melanchthon shifted geographical knowledge production from "pages of scripture" to "experience in the world." Bartholomäus Keckermannseparated geography from theology because the "general workings of providence" required empirical investigation. His follower, Bernhardus Varenius made geography a science in the 17th century and published Geographia Generalis, which was used in Newton's teaching of geography at Cambridge.

Science develops along with empiricism. Empiricism gains its central place while reflection on it also grew. Practitioners of magic and astrology first embraced and expanded geographical knowledge. Reformation Theology focused more on the providence than the creation as previously. Realistic experience, instead of translated from scripture, emerged as a scientific procedure. Geographical knowledge and method play roles in economic education and administrative application, as part of the Puritan social program. Foreign travels provided content for geographic research and formed theories, such as environmentalism. Visual representation, map-making or cartography, showed its practical, theoretical, and artistic value.

The concepts of "Space" and "Place" attract attention in geography. Why things are there and not elsewhere is an important topic in Geography, together with debates on space and place. Such insights could date back in 16th and 17th centuries, identified by M. Curry as "Natural Space", "Absolute Space", "Relational Space" (On Space and Spatial Practice). After Descartes's Principles of Philosophy, Locke and Leibniz considered space as relative, which has long-term influence on the modern view of space. For Descartes, Grassendi and Newton, place is a portion of "absolution space", which are neural and given. However, according to John Locke, "Our Idea of Place is nothing else, but such a relative Position of any thing" (in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding). "Distance" is the pivot modification of space, because "Space considered barely in length between any two Beings, without considering any thing else between them". Also, the place is "made by Men, for their common use, that by it they might be able to design the particular Position of Things". In the Fifth Paper in Reply to Clarke, Leibniz stated: "Men fancy places, traces, and space, though these things consist only in the truth of relations and not at all in any absolute reality". Space, as an "order of coexistence", "can only be an ideal thing, containing a certain order, wherein the mind conceives the application of relation". Leibniz moved further for the term "distance" as he discussed it together with "interval" and "situation", not just a measurable character. Leibniz bridged place and space to quality and quantity, by saying "Quantity or magnitude is that in things which can be known only through their simultaneous compresence—or by their simultaneous perception. Quality, on the other hand, is what can be known in things when they are observed singly, without requiring any compresence." In Modern Space as Relative, place and what is in place are integrated. "The Supremacy of Space" is observed by E. Casey when the place is resolved as "position and even point" by Leibniz's rationalism and Locke's empiricism.

During Enlightenment, advancements in science mean widening human knowledge and enable further exploiting nature, along with industrialization and empire expansion in Europe. David Hume, "the real father of positivist philosophy" according to Leszek Kolakowski, implied the "doctrine of facts", emphasizing the importance of scientific observations. The "fact" is related with sensationalism that object cannot be isolated from its "sense-perceptions", an opinion of Berkeley. Galileo, Descartes, later Hobbes and Newton advocated scientific materialism, viewing the universe—the entire world and even human mind—as a machine. The mechanist world view is also found in the work of Adam Smith based on historical and statistics methods. In chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier proposed the "exact science model" and stressed quantitative methods from experiment and mathematics. Karl Linnaeus classified plants and organisms based on an assumption of fixed species. Later, the idea of evolution emerged not only for species but also for society and human intellect. In General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, Kant laid out his hypothesis of cosmic evolution, and made him "the great founder of the modern scientific conception of Evolution" according to Hastie.

Francis Bacon and his followers believed progress of science and technology drive betterment of man. This belief was attached by Jean-Jacques Rousseau who defended human emotions and morals. His discussion on geography education piloted local regional studies. Leibniz and Kant formed the major challenge to the mechanical materialism. Leibniz conceptualized the world as a changing whole, rather than "sum of its parts" as a machine. Nevertheless, he acknowledged experience requires rational interpretation—the power of human reason.

Kant tried to reconcile the division of sense and reason by stressing moral rationalism grounded on aesthetic experience of nature as "order, harmony, and unity". For knowledge, Kant distinguished phenomena (sensible world) and noumena (intelligible world), and he asserted "all phenomena are perceived in the relations of space and time." Drawing a line between "rational science" and "empirical science", Kant regarded Physical geography—associating with space—as natural science. During his tenure in Königsberg, Kant offered lectures on physical geography since 1756 and published the lecture notes Physische Geographie in 1801. However, Kant's involvement in travel and geographical research is fairly limited. Kant's work on empirical and rational science influence Humboldt and at smaller extent Ritter. Manfred Büttner asserted that is "Kantian emancipation of geography from theology."

Humboldt is admired as a great geographer, according to D. Livingstone that "modern geography was first and last a synthesizing science and as such, if Goetzmann is to be believed, 'it became the key scientific activity of the age'." Humboldt met the geographer George Forster at the University of Göttingen, whose geographical description and scientific writing influenced Humboldt. His Geognosia including the geography of rocks, animals, and plants is "an important model for modern geography". As the Prussian Ministry of Mines, Humboldt founded the Free Royal Mining School at Steben for miners, later regarded the prototype of such institutes. German Naturphilosophie, especially the work of Goethe and Herder, stimulated Humboldt's idea and research of a universal science. In his letter, he made observations while his "attention will never lose sight of the harmony of concurrent forces, the influence of the inanimate world on the animal and vegetable kingdom." His American travel stressed the geography of plants as his focus of science. Meanwhile, Humboldt used empirical method to study the indigenous people in the New World, regarded as a most important work in human geography. In Relation historique du Voyage, Humboldt called these research a new science Physique du monde, Theorie de la Terre, or Geographie physique. During 1825 to 1859, Humboldt devoted in Kosmos, which is about the knowledge of nature. There are growing works about the New World since then. In the Jeffersonian era, "American geography was born of the geography of America", meaning the knowledge discovery helped form the discipline. Practical knowledge and national pride are main components of the Teleological tradition.

Institutions such as the Royal Geographical Society indicate geography as an independent discipline. Mary Somerville's Physical Geography was the "conceptual culmination of . Baconian ideal of universal integration". According to Francis Bacon, "No natural phenomenon can be adequately studied by itself alone – but, to be understood, it must be considered as it stands connected with all nature."

By the 18th century, geography had become recognized as a discrete discipline and became part of a typical university curriculum in Europe (especially Paris and Berlin), although not in the United Kingdom where geography was generally taught as a sub-discipline of other subjects.

A holistic view of geography and nature can be seen in the work by the 19th-century polymath Alexander von Humboldt. [57] One of the great works of this time was Humboldt's Kosmos: a sketch of a physical description of the Universe, the first volume of which was published in German in 1845. Such was the power of this work that Dr Mary Somerville, of Cambridge University intended to scrap publication of her own Physical Geography on reading Kosmos. Von Humboldt himself persuaded her to publish (after the publisher sent him a copy).

In 1877, Thomas Henry Huxley published his Physiography with the philosophy of universality presented as an integrated approach in the study of the natural environment. The philosophy of universality in geography was not a new one but can be seen as evolving from the works of Alexander von Humboldt and Immanuel Kant. The publication of Huxley physiography presented a new form of geography that analysed and classified cause and effect at the micro-level and then applied these to the macro-scale (due to the view that the micro was part of the macro and thus an understanding of all the micro-scales was need to understand the macro level). This approach emphasized the empirical collection of data over the theoretical. The same approach was also used by Halford John Mackinder in 1887. However, the integration of the Geosphere, Atmosphere and Biosphere under physiography was soon over taken by Davisian geomorphology.

Over the past two centuries the quantity of knowledge and the number of tools has exploded. There are strong links between geography and the sciences of geology and botany, as well as economics, sociology and demographics.

The Royal Geographical Society was founded in England in 1830, although the United Kingdom did not get its first full Chair of geography until 1917. The first real geographical intellect to emerge in United Kingdom geography was Halford John Mackinder, appointed reader at Oxford University in 1887.

The National Geographic Society was founded in the United States in 1888 and began publication of the National Geographic magazine which became and continues to be a great popularizer of geographic information. The society has long supported geographic research and education.

In the West during the second half of the 19th and the 20th century, the discipline of geography went through four major phases: environmental determinism, regional geography, the quantitative revolution, and critical geography.

Environmental determinism Edit

Environmental determinism is the theory that a people's physical, mental and moral habits are directly due to the influence of their natural environment. Prominent environmental determinists included Carl Ritter, Ellen Churchill Semple, and Ellsworth Huntington. Popular hypotheses [ by whom? ] included "heat makes inhabitants of the tropics lazy" and "frequent changes in barometric pressure make inhabitants of temperate latitudes more intellectually agile." [ citation needed ] Environmental determinist geographers attempted to make the study of such influences scientific. Around the 1930s, this school of thought was widely repudiated as lacking any basis and being prone to (often bigoted) generalizations. [ citation needed ] Environmental determinism remains an embarrassment to many contemporary geographers, and leads to skepticism among many of them of claims of environmental influence on culture (such as the theories of Jared Diamond). [ citation needed ]

Regional geography Edit

Regional geography was coined by a group of geographers known as possibilists and represented a reaffirmation that the proper topic of geography was study of places (regions). Regional geographers focused on the collection of descriptive information about places, as well as the proper methods for dividing the earth up into regions. Well-known names from these period are Alfred Hettner in Germany and Paul Vidal de la Blache in France. The philosophical basis of this field in United States was laid out by Richard Hartshorne, who defined geography as a study of areal differentiation, which later led to criticism of this approach as overly descriptive and unscientific.

However, the concept of a Regional geography model focused on Area Studies has remained incredibly popular amongst students of geography, while less so amongst scholars who are proponents of Critical Geography and reject a Regional geography paradigm. It can be argued that Regional Geography, which during its heyday in the 1970s through early 1990s made substantive contributions to students' and readers' understanding of foreign cultures and the real world effects of the delineation of borders, is due for a revival in academia as well as in popular nonfiction.

The quantitative revolution Edit

The quantitative revolution in geography began in the 1950s. Geographers formulated geographical theories and subjected the theories to empirical tests, usually using statistical methods (especially hypothesis testing). This quantitative revolution laid the groundwork for the development of geographic information systems. [ citation needed ] Well-known geographers from this period are Fred K. Schaefer, Waldo Tobler, William Garrison, Peter Haggett, Richard J. Chorley, William Bunge, Edward Augustus Ackerman and Torsten Hägerstrand.

Critical geography Edit

Though positivist approaches remain important in geography, critical geography arose as a critique of positivism. The first strain of critical geography to emerge was humanistic geography. Drawing on the philosophies of existentialism and phenomenology, humanistic geographers (such as Yi-Fu Tuan) focused on people's sense of, and relationship with, places. [58] More influential was Marxist geography, which applied the social theories of Karl Marx and his followers to geographic phenomena. David Harvey and Richard Peet are well-known Marxist geographers. Feminist geography is, as the name suggests, the use of ideas from feminism in geographic contexts. The most recent strain of critical geography is postmodernist geography, which employs the ideas of postmodernist and poststructuralist theorists to explore the social construction of spatial relations.