What Is Human Geography?

Human geography is one of the two main subfields of the geography discipline and deals with how human activities are influenced or how they affect the earth’s surface. It refers to a branch of social sciences that studies the earth, its people, communities and cultures. The emphasis is on how they relate to the spaces and places where they originate and then travel, as people increasingly move across various regions.

Human geography developed out of the University of California, Berkeley, and was spearheaded by Carl Sauer. He used landscapes as the shaping unit of geographic study and suggested that cultures developed due to landscape, but that they equally helped develop the landscape. Human geography is distinct from physical geography, principally in that it is largely concentrated on studying human activities and is highly receptive to qualitative research methods. The discipline is particularly diversified with respect to its methods and theoretical approaches to study.

Human geography is often referred to as cultural geography, and it studies cultural phenomena such as language, religion, art, music, various economic and governmental structures, and other cultural elements that define how or why humans function the way they do in their settlement areas. Human geography brings together economic and cultural geography to understand the associations between humans and their natural environment, and to explain the broad social patterns that define human societies.