Areal Differentiation in Geography: UPSC Geography Notes

Richard Hartshorne was major modern proponent of Areal Differentiation in Geography

Richard Hartshorne was major modern proponent of Areal Differentiation in Geography

The topic of Areal Differentiation in Geography falls under the ‘Perspectives in Human Geography’ sub-heading of UPSC Geography Paper-1 syllabus. This part of the syllabus is very tricky because no matter how many times I read the geographical thinkers and their ideas, I always mixed up between who said what under which heading! I am sure this is true for many of the aspirants with Geography optional.

So I strategized specially for this part. Now, I was a very reluctant note-taker. These are the kind of topics that made note-taking absolutely imperative. I used to read the topic multiple times, get a basic understanding and then write one-page note from my own understanding. This would help me in quick revision a day before exams.

For Areal Differentiation in Geography, I made my notes as follows:

Areal Differentiation in Geography

  • Ancient concept given by : Hicateus, Miletus, Strabo.
  • Strabo said: Geography is the description of regions.
  • The ancient concept continued till early 19th century.
  • Hartshorne was a major proponent of Areal Differentiation. He said that the areal differentiation is to study both ‘differences’ as well as ‘similarities’ between regions. It is the study of co-variation of physical and human phenomena with geographic features.
  • Critics argued that Hartshorne’s focus on ‘differentiation’ fixed geography into traditionalism. He ignored ‘integration’. Regions are never totally unique. Rather there are always some unifying features across all regions.
  • Revival of Areal Differentiation happened in the 1980s due to following reasons:
    1. Capitalistic Ideas such as investment regions, division of labour. It saw all regions as different and rejected geographically undifferentiated capitalism.
    2. Social Science: Human agency and social structure was mediated by the local geography and this differentiation explains the different evolution of societies.
    3. Human Geography: Human actions are functions of the images of the geographical space that humans have in their minds.
  • Criticism
    • it is difficult to delineate exact boundaries between different geographical regions as physical features and human societies diffuse dynamically.
    • This theory was not practically useful because it wasn’t able to contribute towards effective generalization (which is needed to study any subject).

For the topics under geographical thinkers, I referred Majid Hussain’s book. Click for complete Geography Optional Book List that I used. I will slowly upload all my notes for Perspectives in Human Geography part. Please subscribe via email to stay updated.

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