Fundamentals Of Regional Geography, by Joseph J. Hobbs
When I was in high school and my mum took a course in urban geography as part of her undergraduate studies. The book was written by a Dutch fellow, and I found the book quite interesting myself as someone very interested in both geography and the relationship between town and country . I was reminded about that book when I was reading this one, which at more than 400 pages is the sort of textbook that would be assigned to a class of undergraduate students of geography who more or less had to be there because regional geography was a required course, not because they had a quirky interest in the formation of identity for geographic regions based on the complex mixture of physical environment and human factors. This is a book that by trying to do too much ends up doing a bit too little, and that is giving students a compelling reason to love and practice an understanding of regional geography. It has all the hallmarks of being written for people who have to read it, not so much for those who choose to read it freely of their own accord.
The contents of this book, as might be imagined, are a bit sprawling. The author divides the earth into eight regions: Europe, Russia and the “Near Abroad,” “The Middle East and North Africa, Monsoon Asia, The Pacific World (Oceania), Africa South of the Sahara, Latin America, and the United States and Canada (and Greenland). Before these regions are discussed in that order, the author gives a brief discussion of the objectives and tools of world regional geography without doing a good job of explaining why anyone would practice it and then provides a somewhat vaguely politically correct discussion of the physical and human processes that shape regional geography. When looking at the regions themselves, the author provides notes on area and population, physical geography and human adaptation, cultural and human geographies, economic geography, geopolitical issues, and regional issues and landscapes , a pattern that is uniformly kept up through all the regions. The author manages to hit most of the high points about the problems faced by different regions because of the disconnect between human behaviors and geography and between historical and cultural geography, but the author is content to give a fairly superficial level of discussion about these problems without blaming anything other than European imperialism for most of these difficulties.
It is difficult to give a good recommendation about this book. If one had to read it as a college student, one could certainly do far worse. An astute and alert student would at least be able to understand the tangle of issues between human and environmental factors that make an area a region, and avoid the extremes of either environmental possibilism or determinism that are provided here as a false dilemma. Even with the book’s length, its scope is so immense that it can only give the most surface-level discussion of the topics under the author’s purview. As a result one gets brief flashes of information about the threat of future devolution in Russia and someone’s comment that Russia needs a czar, as well as Nigeria’s lament about the mistakes that led so many disparate elements to be placed in one nation, or a division of Africa into three levels of political freedom or a look at the “new slave trade” in various areas because of human trafficking that demonstrates the corruption of Europe and the United States. The author also, predictably, takes a somewhat too credulous view of anthropomorphic climate change. This is a book that could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse as well.
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