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Book review: By northern lights: on the making of geography in Sweden. By Anne Buttimer and Tom Mels. Basingstoke: Ashgate. 2006. 214pp. £xx cloth. ISBN: 0 7546 4814 1 cloth

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Maddrell, Avril

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Abstract 283 Book reviewBy northern lights: on the making of geography in Sweden. By Anne Buttimer and Tom Mels. Basingstoke: Ashgate. 2006. 214pp. £xx cloth. ISBN: 0—7546—4814—1 cloth SAGE Publications, Inc.2008DOI: 10.1177/14744740080150020804 AvrilMaddrell Oxford Brookes University This book follows on conceptually and in subject matter from Buttimer's Geography and the human spirit (1993) and Geographers of Norden (1988) co-edited with Torsten Hagerstrand. The volume explores the making of Swedish geography, emphasizing geography as socially constructed knowledges. Although principally an analysis of the historical development of Geography in Sweden, By northern Lights draws on the interviews of the International Dialogue Project 1978–88, notably in the interview with Hagerstrand constituting Chapter Six. This interview, in the spirit of the Dialogue Project brings the (albeit still mediated) personal– professional voice of the geographer rather than their authorial or pedagogic voice to the history of geography. Buttimer brought oral history to the history of geography, long before it was fashionable, and this tradition is continued here. Many will find insight to Hagerstrand's work through this interview and it provides a useful resource in teaching the development of geographical thought – as does the whole book. The exploration of personal life-careers through biography (such as those of Edgar Kant, W. William-Olsson and Gerd Enquist) is a rich vein running throughout the text, linked in turn to wider intellectual, social and polit- ical milieu within and beyond geography. Conceptually, changes in the history of Swedish geography are explained using Buttimer's threefold conceptual frameworks of meaning, metaphor and milieu and phoenix, faust and narcissus. Although explained here, a reader unfamiliar with these ideas may find it helpful to read Buttimer's earlier work first. However, once grasped, these analytical frameworks are applied to effect in this volume in the nuanced exploration of institutional and individual accounts of geography (although the poor text quality on some of the tables mapping these different elements is unfortunate). Buttimer and Mels provide the historian of geographical ideas and practices with a rich source of contextual studies at an institutional and national 284 level, all of which combines to shed light on particular matrices of influence that produced a specifically Swedish expression of geography and Empire, home and regional studies, geog- raphy and social concern, applied geography and the separation of physical and human geog- raphy. This then provides the international reader with an opportunity to place famous Swedish developments such as the quantitative group at Lund within the broader context of Swedish geography, as well as an opportunity to learn about other geographical events and trends less well known to the Anglo-American reader at least. One novel and fascinating ele- ment is the inclusion of all Swedish doctoral dissertations 1884–2000 in Appendix A, pro- viding an accessible data set that can be analysed in many ways, not least in showing the trends in themes and methodologies in Swedish geography as well as the strong applied route for geographical knowledge. Overall, By northern Lights provides a detailed account of the history of Swedish geography, which has been long-overdue and should long stand as a reference not only on geography in Sweden but the practice of the historiography of geography.
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 283-284
Journal Cultural Geographies, 15 (2008) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)