Mark Boyle is Professor of Geography and Director of the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analyses (NIRSA) at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. He has taught introductory and advanced courses in Human Geography for more than twenty years. He has also researched and published widely in the fields of migration, diaspora and development, and spatial planning and urban and regional development.
For Whom This Book Is Written and Why
The aim of this book is to provide undergraduate students who are embarking upon Geography programs in universities throughout the world with a concise introduction to Human Geography.
It is my view that all students completing a three- or four-year program of study in Human Geography should emerge with an understanding of the fundamental ideas, debates, concepts, and theories in the discipline, informed both by an appreciation of seminal texts and thinkers, and by current thinking and research. They should present themselves as imbued with and practiced in the basic intellectual skills of analysis, synthesis, reflection, and critical thinking. They should be intellectually responsible, adaptable, curious, and creative, and ready to begin the job of taking responsibility for their own learning. They should show an appreciation of the contribution of Human Geography to the formation of informed citizens, display an interest in ethics, and be prepared to formulate views on social, economic, cultural, technological, and environmental actions which both threaten and support the public good. Ideally, they should also emerge with a well-rounded appreciation of the breadth and richness of human knowledge and a recognition that Human Geography has much to gain by engaging with perspectives, theories, concepts, and methods in cognate disciplines.
A tall order indeed! Evidently much responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the Human Geography instructor. The question that presents itself here is how far an introduction to Human Geography should go toward preparing students for the journey that lies ahead. The response of this book is significantly far and perhaps farther than some existing introductory texts and introductory modules might imply.
For over 10 years now, I have taught semester-long "Introduction to Human Geography" modules to first year students at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland (circa 150 students a year) and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth in County Kildare (circa 430 students per year). In so doing I have come to realize that there already exists a historically unprecedented range of high quality introductory textbooks in the field of Human Geography. But still I have felt compelled to write this book. Why so? Part of the answer resides in my belief that there is scope for introductory books to do better in three main areas:
Content should always be prioritized over aesthetics and spectacle. Some textbooks provide students only or mainly with a tsunami of colorful illustrations, facts, figures, and case studies and suffer from what might be termed "bells and whistles" syndrome. Whilst short, this book will not patronize students. Alongside case study illustrations, it will address concepts, ideas, and debates that are often avoided in introductory courses because they are difficult to summarize in a basic and digestible form. It will introduce students to seminal thinkers and influential texts. This will be a short book with sophisticated ideas communicated clearly and concisely.
Students learn best when a book has a strong organizing framework. It is said of some books that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But in some textbooks it is the parts themselves that are greater than the whole. This is perhaps because few introductory courses are taught by a single scholar and few introductory textbooks are written by a single author. Clearly, multi-contributory textbooks have a number of advantages. But there can be difficulties too; writing styles are often disparate and jar, concepts are sometimes used differently in different chapters, and chapters aren't always knitted together well enough. The result is that less confident students become disoriented. Penned by a single author, this book will be written with a cle