Have the human geographical can(n)ons fallen silent; or were they never primed?

Ron Johnston, James D. Sidaway*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


A disciplinary canon comprises a body of work - almost invariably textual - that is represented as highly influential in its development, laying the foundations on which contemporary practices have been built. Such works, most often books, are sources that all students should address to appreciate the disciplinary fundamentals - where it has come from and whose shoulders it rests on. This implies progress, of the discipline advancing on those foundations. This is not the case with Anglophone human geography, however; whereas until c.1960 the discipline's practices could be traced back to the writings of a small number of key scholars, many German or French, those works are now very rarely the subject of close study. The discipline has fissured into many constituent strands each of which has had core figures and classic works that have guided practices but without the stability expected of a canonical tract. Arguably, Anglophone geography has been defined less by its canonical works but rather by its canonical concepts - space, place (region, milieu, and locale), and environment. These build on earlier advances in geographical vocabulary and visualisation. Contestation over their meanings and the diverse sources of influence and inspiration in human geography connects with questions about comparative canonization amongst disciplines and past and present challenges to geography's status and future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-60
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Canon
  • Classic
  • Human geography
  • Progress


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