A geography of utopia

Its figure is not unlike a crescent: In this bay there is no great current; the whole coast is, as it were, one continued harbor, which gives all that live in the island great convenience for mutual commerce; but the entry into the bay, occasioned by rocks on the one hand, and shallows on the other, is very dangerous. In the middle of it there is one single rock which appears above water, and may therefore be easily avoided, and on the top of it there is a tower in which a garrison is kept; the other rocks lie under water, and are very dangerous. The channel is known only to the natives, so that if any stranger should enter into the bay, without one of their pilots, he would run great danger of shipwreck; for even they themselves could not pass it safe, if some marks that are on the coast did not direct their way; and if these should be but a little shifted, any fleet that might come against them, how great soever it were, would be certainly lost.

A geography of utopia

The goals and functions of these have recently received considerable attention, both because of the influence that such histories have had on the legitimacy and self-image of the disciplines and also because of the adaptability that they have shown when faced with the conceptual and methodological changes that they have undergone.

With regard to these disciplines, there are, moreover, alternative approaches whose advantages and disadvantages are also the subject of debate: Certain old sciences, such as geography, constitute areas of special interest in this respect, since on the one hand there are diverse generations of disciplinary histories, connected with the most important theoretical issues and the contentious relations with other sciences; and on the other hand profound changes have recently taken place which have led to far-reaching transformations in historiography.

Within the frame of reference of the present simposium, it might be of interest to present some of these developments and, in particular, to offer a general overview of the origins and goals of the research program in the history of geography which, in what is today the Department of Human Geography of the University of Barcelona, has been in progress for almost two decades.

The goals and the evolution of this project have led to a growing integration of our research with that which is being undertaken by other historians of science, while at the A geography of utopia time providing a stimulus for, and a new perspective on, the work on current issues in human geography which is being carried out in the Department.

The histories of the disciplines and their functions The history of science is full of great works that have marked a turning point in the development of a branch of knowledge, and in which the proposals for a new theoretical frame of reference or a new systematization of the known facts were preceded by an extensive historical introduction consisting in the evolution of the topic up to that moment.

From the 18th Century on, with the growing specialization in science that gave rise to new disciplines, and with the acceleration of the changes in theories and scientific method, the number of works of this kind has grown considerably.

A geography of utopia

Particularly in the 19th Century, there were many scientists who were conscious of the profoundly innovative character of their work, and who did not hesitate to draw self-justifying historical pictures which promoted appreciation of the significance of their own contributions. Cuvier, Humboldt, Ritter, Lyell, Darwin, Comte, and many others who made decisive contributions, were not only aware of being genuine creators and the force behind new scientific developments, they also took active part in contemporary controversies and felt the need, to a greater or lesser extent, to convince the general public of the innovative character of their work.

This led them to write, or rewrite, the history of the discipline, to reveal the obstacles that had been put in the way of the development of that science, whose final manifestation was now assured - and to point out those forerunners who had prepared the way.

The case of Lyell is particularly significant. In the long historical introduction to his Principles of Geology 1Lyell created the myths which allowed him to set himself in a privileged position in the Pantheon of Geology.

He did this both by claiming to be the true creator of the basic principles of that science, and also by pointing out the barriers which had hitherto impeded its development: In spite of these obstacles, the way towards a positive and uniformitarian geology had in fact been discovered gradually, but in talking about this Lyell hands out praise, blame and silence in a way that exaggerates the originality of his own contribution.

His introduction presents the history of geology as an oversimplified dichotomy between biblical catastrophism and uniformitarianism with its classical roots. Moreover, and not surprisingly given the epoch, he offers a selective, partial vision of the past, decontextualising it from its social and intellectual climate.

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His conception of history and geology are different: It is a catastrophist history in which Lyell's final contribution achieves its true significance as an authentic, definitive revolution. The example of Lyell, like that of other great authors, lays bare the distortions and errors that can be found in the history of science when one accepts the ideas of one justifications of scientist concerning the evolution of the subject.

Biassed ideas that distort the true evolution and which undoubtedly serve as excuses and self-justifications: An appreciation of the distortions that are found in the historical conceptions of great scientists, and of the personal and corporate factors that can affect these, allows us also to question the validity of the way that the members of a scientific community collectively present their discipline.

We might well suspect that, as in the case of the histories of individuals, these histories of communities will have, due to conscious or unconscious bias, distortions and slants, whose precise content and purpose we would do well to reveal.

In recent years a great deal of attention has been paid to the histories of disciplines within the field of the history of science. What has undoubtedly contributed to this is the incorporation and diffusion of relativist focuses in the study of the disciplines.A summary of Agriculture, Cities, and Government in Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Utopia and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans. Ever loved a book or story, and been unable to find another quite like it?

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Play a Geography Quiz on Sporcle, the world's largest quiz community. Test your knowledge with over 4, fun Geography Quizzes. The geography of Utopia is that of an island of different cities. The fact Utopia is an island speaks to the isolated nature of the society and its distance from the influence of other societies.

The nature of the government in Utopia reflects this kind of response.

Utopia Book 2 (1) Geography