What is Human geography – Meaning, Scope, and Type


Man is not only a geographical agent but also an active creature. He makes an adjustment to the physical environment. Man changes the shape of natural resources by making maximum use of them. In this way, man influences his environment. The mutual synthesis between man and nature and the environment is studied in human geography.

The factor of natural and cultural environments of the two regions do not show similarity with one another. The study of such regional variation is the subject matter of human geography. This is a comparative study of the anatomy, customs, manners, and activities of the men living in various regions.

In Human Geography, we study the mutual relationship between man and the earth. This Subject focuses on people, where they live, why they live in certain places and how they make a living.

Human Geography

Meaning of Human geography:

Human Geography is the field of geography that deals with human presence, activities, and impacts on the natural environment. This includes the study of populations, their migration, and their distribution, economic activities such as resource extraction, industry, and agriculture. It also includes the study of settlement patterns and political geography and the modification of the natural environment.

In short, This subject involves the study of all human activities and their impact on the natural environment. It is both old and new.

It is old because its intellectual roots can be traced back to antiquity in the writings of Eratosthenes and Strabo. They showed a keen interest in human habitat and man’s interaction with it

It is new because its disciplinary moonings were anchored in the Anthropogeography (1882 and 1891) of Friedrich Ratzel. He is regarded as the father of human geography.

Human geography is concerned with the study of inter-relationship between man and environment. Man in his large activities affects the natural environment. The nature of human activities and the limit of their development are strongly influenced by the human habitat.

The natural environments have been modified by human activities because people may react differently to the same natural environments.

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Definitions of Human Geography:

Human geography is the science that studies the spatial distribution of human beings and cultural facts. Some important and valuable definitions which are defined by different geographers and philosophers are given below:

According to E.C. Sample, “human geography is the study of changing the relationship between the unresting man and the unstable earth.”

In the words of Vidal de la Blache, “Human geography offers a new conception of the inter-relationship between earth and man, a more synthetic knowledge of physical laws governing our earth and of the relations between the living beings which inhabit it.”

In the opinion of Jean Brunhes, “Human geography is the ensemble of all those facts in which human activity has a part to play a complex group of facts infinitely variable and varied, always contained within the limit of physical geography, but having always the easily discernable characteristic of being related more or less directly to man.”

According to Ellsworth Huntington, “Human geography may be defined as the study of the relationship between geographical environment and human activities and qualities.”

With changing the philosophy of geography, the definition of human geography has been modifying considerably.     

Scope of Human geography:

The central point of human geography is ‘human or man’. The circumference of this subject is all-embracing in terms of man-environment interactions but as a scientific discipline, it is to limit its contents so as to avoid wooliness. Many geographers have attempted this exercise in their own way but have failed to reach unanimity or consensus. It is mainly concerned with the spatial study of habitat, economy, and society of the human population living in various parts of the world.  

Branches of Human Geography:

Human geography is a social science. The content of it provides integration for all the social sciences and develops close interface and relationship with other sister disciplines in social sciences in order to understand and explain human or cultural elements on the earth’s surface.

With the expansion of knowledge and specialization in particular fields, new subfields in different subjects emerge and it has also happened to human geography.

It is closely related to other social sciences because it belongs to the family of social science. Major sub-branches of human geography are as follows:       

Economic geography:

Economic geography is the study of areal variation on the earth’s surface in human activities related to producing, exchanging, and consuming wealth. It makes a scientific investigation of the nature of world areas in their direct influence on the production of goods.

Economic geography is closely related to economics and it includes the spatial study of various economic activities such as hunting, livestock farming, agriculture, forestry, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, trade and commerce, transport and communication and diversified services e.g. government, education, health, sanitation, entertainment etc.

Thus, Economic geography refers to the field of study focused on the location of economic activities at the local, national, and world scale.

Population geography:

Population geography is concerned with demonstrating how spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration and growth of population are related to the spatial variations in the nature of places. It treats the spatial variations in demographic and non-demographic qualities of the human population.

Thus, population geography treats the spatial variations in distribution, composition, migration, growth of populations and the socio-economic patterns resulted by the interrelationship between population and environment of any given area.

Population geography is closely related to demography.

Settlement geography:

Settlement geography is the branch of human geography which deals with the orderly description and interpretation of origin and growth, locational patterns, morphology, function and spatial organizations of human settlement on the earth’s surface.

In other words, it aims to study the size, form, functions and regional associations of human settlement and traces their growth and pattern of distribution. Settlement geography is divided into two separate sub-branches, i.e. rural settlement geography and urban settlement geography.


Historical geography:

Historical geography is essentially the geography of the past. It is the study of past events in their spatial context. The concept of historical geography as the study of the changing landscape was an obvious extension of the wider concept of geography as the study of landscape. As a sub-field of human geography, it is concerned with the study of the process through which human groups have over time succeeded in transforming the area of their habitats from a small territory into a cultural landscape reflecting their thoughts and their way of life.


Political geography:

Political geography is concerned with politically organized areas. It studies their resources and extent and the reasons for the particular geographic form which they assume. In particular, it is concerned with the most significant of all such areas, the state. It can be described as that discipline that treats political phenomena geographically.

Political phenomena are features produced by political forces and the political ideas which generate those forces.

Social geography:

Social geography is concerned with the study of spatial patterns and functional relations of social groups in the context of their social environment, the internal structure and external relation of the nodes of social activity, and the articulation of various channels of social communication. It is devoted to the study of the patterns and processes in understanding the socially defined populations in a spatial setting.

Social geography includes the study of the origin and evolution of man and human society. It also includes the study of social processes, man-environment relations, phases of cultural development, and social organizations and institutions.

Cultural geography:

As a branch of human geography, cultural geography studies the areal organization of various cultural aspects in relation to the total environment.

It also concentrates on the study of the human activities which have been determined culturally, of the cultural area, and of the impact of different cultural groups and the succession of cultural groups on the landscape and on other natural resources.

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Thus, it has been seen from the above description that, Human geography is an important branch of geography that studies the various human-related activities on the surface of the earth. it is mainly concern with the spatial study of habitat, economy, and society of the human population living in the various part of the Earth.

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