Geography and Enlightenment in the German states, c.1690 – c.1815
This thesis is concerned with the science of geography in the German states during the ‘long’ eighteenth century, c.1690 – c.1815. It speaks to recent scholarly debates in historical geography, the history of science, book history, and Enlightenment studies. The thesis investigates the forms taken by eighteenth-century German geography, its meanings, and practices. This is of particular interest, since this topic is understudied. The thesis is based upon an analysis of geographical print (books and periodicals) and manuscript correspondence. The thesis proposes that geography’s definition was understood as ‘description of the earth’. The interpretative meaning of this definition, geography’s purpose in print, and its educational practice (content and methods) were, in contrast, debated. The thesis suggests that geographical print – in the form of books and periodicals – served two main purposes: progress in geography, guided by the aim of scientific ‘completeness,’ and progress of society, guided by the aim of human improvement. In chapter 1, I outline the main topics and the structure of the thesis. Chapter 2 reviews the background of the thesis, and offers a partial historiographic and conceptual overview of the relevant themes. In chapter 3, I show that the Holy Roman Empire was characterised by fragmented political, religious, urban, and scholarly landscapes. The German emphasis on ‘writing’ geography ‘completely’ was partly, I argue, a way to transcend this fragmentation in an imagined ‘geographical republic of letters’. The emphasis on writing geography systematically was a way to justify the German wish for greater scholarly recognition on part of their foreign ‘colleagues’ who more opportunities to participate in geographical expeditions overseas and in colonial politics. In chapter 4, I argue that the classification of geography and geography’s relation to other sciences were debated. In consequence, geographical practice and use – geography’s writing and teaching – affected its interpretative meaning. In chapter 5, I go on and suggest that geography was a sedentary science aimed at improvement in geography and of society. Geographical print production and its evolution reflect the iii urban and religious landscapes of the empire. Geographical print was produced across the German states and, particularly, in the Protestant – middle and central German – states. This leads in chapter 6 to an analysis of geographical education and the suggestion that wide-spread conservatism in geographical instruction reflects the education aim for social utility and personal ‘eudaimonia’, as well as and an adherence to given social and political structures. In conclusion (chapter 7), the main findings of this thesis shed light on the production and use of geography in the German states during the ‘long’ eighteenth century, and the history of geography more generally. In discussing the relationship between Enlightenment thought and geography, the thesis extends our knowledge on German intellectual history, and contributes to our understanding of the geographies of Enlightenment geographical knowledge and practice.