Geography as a Discipline and Branches of Geography (NCERT Notes)

What is geography?

In simple terms, geography is the description of the Earth. The term geography was coined by a Greek scholar Eratosthenes (276-194 BC.). It is made up of two Greek roots, geo (Earth) and graphos (description). Thus, giving the meaning to the word, description of the Earth.

Geography as a discipline is concerned with three questions:
1. What?
To identify the patterns of natural and cultural features found across the Earth.
2. Where?
To examine the distribution of the natural and cultural features across the Earth.
3. Why?
To define the relationship between features and the processes and phenomena.

Branches of Geography

There are two ways to approach geography: 1. Systematic Approach and 2. Regional Approach.

The Systematic approach was developed by Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859). On another hand, Karl Ritter (1779-1859) introduced the regional approach. Interestingly, both geographers belonged to  Germany.

In a systematic approach, a phenomenon is studied across the globe as a single phenomenon. And thereafter, the different typologies or spatial patterns are identified. For example, if one wants to study natural vegetation, the study will be done at the global level. Then typologies such as equatorial rainforests or softwood conical forests etc. will be identified, discussed, and demarcated.

In the regional approach, first regional divisions are demarcated and then a geographical phenomenon for a particular region is studied. These regions may be natural, political, or other designated regions. The phenomenon in a region is studied holistically, looking for a uniting factor in a diverse world.

Branches of Geography (Based on the Systematic Approach)

Branches of Geography based on Systematic Approach

1. Physical Geography

In Physical Geography, one studies relief, soil, and structure of the Earth. It is known as the superstructure of geography as a discipline. It is further divided into the following sub-branches:

1. Geomorphology:-  study of landforms, their evolution, and related processes.
2. Climatology:- a study of climate and how it changes over time.
3. Hydrology:- study of the realm of water over the surface of the earth.
4. Soil Geography (Pedology): a study of processes of soil formation, soil types, their fertility status, and so on.

2. Human Geography
It deals with the evolution of human beings i.e. studies spatial dynamics and societal cultural elements. Following are the sub-branches of Human Geography

1. Social/Cultural Geography: the study of society and its spatial distribution, as well as the cultural elements, contributed by the society.
2. Population Geography: a study of the patterns of population growth, distribution, density, sex ratio, migration, and occupational structure.
3. Settlement Geography: studies the characteristics of rural and urban settlements.
4. Economic Geography: a study of the economic activities of the people include agriculture, industry, tourism, trade, and transport, etc.
5. Historical Geography: studies the historical processes through which space gets organized.
6. Political Geography: studies the space from the angle of political events.

3. Biogeography
The interaction between physical geography and human geography lead to the development of Biogeography. It includes
1. Plant Geography: studies the spatial patterns of natural vegetation in their habitats.
2. Zoo Geography: studies the spatial patterns of animals in their habitats.
3. Ecology: studies habitats of species
4. Environmental Geography: concerns with environmental problems and their solutions.

Branches of Geography (Based on Regional Approach)

Branches of Geography based on Regional Approach

1. Region/Area Studies: Comprising Macro, Meso, and Micro Regional Studies.

2. Regional Planning: Comprising Country/Rural and Town/Urban Planning.

3. Regional Development

4. Regional Analysis
i) Geographical Philosophy:-
a. Geographical Thoughts
b. Human Ecology
ii) Methodology
a. Cartography
b. Statistical Techniques

 Source: Class 11 Fundamentals of Physical Geography Chapter 1: Geography as a Discipline

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