French School of Human Geography

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

French School of Human Geography


one of the schools of geography that originated in France and became widely known in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries as géographie humaine. Its adherents defined the task of geography as the study of the interrelation between nature and man, focusing on the influence of the geographic environment on the various forms of human activity. They harbored ideas close to geographic possibilism, maintaining that nature influences the historical and socioeconomic development of peoples and regarding the social organization of a society as a national structure devoid of class conflicts. Nevertheless, in specific works devoted to individual regions or countries, the geographers of this school displayed a profound knowledge of these territories. Their detailed regional descriptions showing the occupations and way of life of the inhabitants and their highly original area studies, rich in factual material, especially environmental and ethnographic information, reveal picturesque exposition and brilliant style.

The basic concepts of the French school of human geography were set forth by its founder, P. Vidal de la Blache, in Principles of Human Geography (published posthumously in 1920 by E. de Martonne) and developed by J. Brunhes in Human Geography (1910). Among other leading exponents of the school were A. Demangeon, L. Gallois, and M. Sorre. The works of the French school of human geography, notably the impressive World Geography, influenced the development of geography in a number of Western European and Latin American countries.


Vitver, I. A. “Frantsuzskaia shkola ’geografiia cheloveka’.” Uch. zap. MGU, 1940, no. 35, pp. 8–44.
Aleksandrovskaia, O. A. Frantsuzskaia geograficheskaia shkola kontsa XIX–nach. XX veka. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.