Geography's other histories? Geography and science in the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1831–c.1933



With reference to the history of modern geography in Britain and from assessment of the archives of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), this paper examines the role of the BAAS in promoting geography from the Association's foundation in 1831 to the 1930s. Particular attention is paid to BAAS Section E (Geography) in the period after 1851. Geography's place is considered with respect to its funding, content and relationship with other sciences, to shifts in its focus – from exploration to what contemporaries termed ‘scientific’ geography and to the attendant decline in audiences at BAAS geography sessions – and to moments of ‘crisis’ in geography's epistemological status. In examining extant work on geography's role in the BAAS, a case is made for revision of the current historiographies of ‘modern’ British geography and questions are raised about the connections between geography and science and the writing of geography's ‘disciplinary’ and institutional history in the modern period.