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Title: Armchair geography : speculation, synthesis, and the culture of British exploration, c.1830-c.1870
Author: Cox, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 4711
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis recovers the practice of ‘armchair geography’ as an overlooked, yet significant aspect of the mid-nineteenth-century culture of exploration. These histories are popularly associated with such famed explorers as Dr David Livingstone and John Hanning Speke, who travelled across Africa. Yet, far from the field, there were other geographers, like William Desborough Cooley and James MacQueen, who spoke, wrote, theorised, and produced maps about the world based not on their own observations, but on the collation, interpretation, speculation, and synthesis of existing geographical sources. The dominant historical trope of geography through the nineteenth century is one of transition, shifting from an early modern textual practice of the ‘armchair’ to a modern science in the ‘field’. This thesis challenges such a limited view by demonstrating how critical practices continued to be a pervasive presence in the period 1830–1870, and how these two modes of geography co-existed and overlapped, and were combined and contested. It seeks to dismantle the static binarism that positions the critical geographer as both separate and in opposition to the field explorer. The chapters move to survey explorers that sit; explorers that read; critical geographers that move; books that travel; and libraries that lay out the world. In so doing, it identifies and attends to the unsettled physical and spatial boundaries between modes and methods of geography. It examines the role of the ‘armchair geographer’ in developing geographical thought and practice, and in negotiations concerning credible knowledge at the newly founded Royal Geographical Society. Crucially, this thesis expands the history of ‘armchair’ practices in geography beyond an entertaining tale of ‘conflict’ in exploration, and presents a critical examination of the many spatial manifestations of the ‘field’ and ‘fieldwork’ in geography’s disciplinary identity. This thesis contributes a spatially sensitive account of geographical knowledge making that interrupts and challenges current histories of the development of geography as a field of knowledge and set of practices in the nineteenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Royal Geographical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: G Geography (General)