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Geography Unbound: French Geographic Science from Cassini to Humboldt
by Anne Marie Claire Godlewska
University of Chicago Press, 1999
Paper: 978-0-226-30047-4 | Cloth: 978-0-226-30046-7 | eISBN: 978-0-226-30053-5
Library of Congress Classification G97.G63 1999
Dewey Decimal Classification 914.4

At the end of the eighteenth century, French geographers faced a crisis. Though they had previously been ranked among the most highly regarded scientists in Europe, they suddenly found themselves directionless and disrespected because they were unable to adapt their descriptive focus easily to the new emphasis on theory and explanation sweeping through other disciplines.

Anne Godlewska examines this crisis, the often conservative reactions of geographers to it, and the work of researchers at the margins of the field who helped chart its future course. She tells her story partly through the lives and careers of individuals, from the deposed cabinet geographer Cassini IV to Volney, von Humboldt, and Letronne (innovators in human, physical, and historical geography), and partly through the institutions with which they were associated such as the Encyclopédie and the Jesuit and military colleges.

Geography Unbound presents an insightful portrait of a crucial period in the development of modern geography, whose unstable disciplinary status is still very much an issue today.

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