From the history of the Cold War, to the peril of the 2008 financial crash, what can a radical perspective on geography teach us about the world?

Danny Dorling, one of the editors of the Radical Geography series, recognises the need for a reclamation of geography, from its imperialist past, showing how geographical knowledge and thinking could play a key role in radical social and political activism.

Last year marked the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution. Half a century before 1917, radical thinkers had believed that a communist revolution was not possible in a place as ‘backwards’ as Russia. Radicals ignore geography or make presumptions about it at their peril; there is much more to society, categorization and experience than class or intersectionality.

Geography, in its modern-day form, grew out of German, French and British imperialism. It was about justifying exploitation as the supposed natural order and explaining away the hierarchy of races and places. All that bigotry and racism was presented simply as knowledge, knowledge that you had to learn to recite at school. Yet even back then, at the heart and height of the British Empire, there was an awareness of the power that geographical knowledge could unleash.

In 1879 in testimony to a Select Committee of the British Parliament one petitioner was in no doubt about the threat: ‘Geography, sir, is ruinous in its effects on the lower classes. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are comparatively safe, but geography invariably leads to revolution.’ That petitioner may have been over estimating the potential rebellions that would ensue when school children began to be taught what was where and where was what. However, we must not underestimate the power that comes from understanding the present and the future and how everything is connected to everything else, by its very nature geographical knowledge and understanding can be used to oppose the forces that want to maintain the status quo and pacify resistance.

read more on Radical Geography by Danny

or read about: Pit Ponies and Dominoes: Myths of Mining Communities by Stephen Crossley

or We are all Space Invaders now by Paul Routledge

The first three books are:
Making Workers: Radical Geographies of Education by Katharyne Mitchell
In Their Place: The Imagined Geographies of Poverty by Stephen Crossley
Space Invaders: Radical Geographies of Protest by Paul Routledge

The series editors are, Kate Derickson, Associate Professor in Geography at the University of Minnesota
Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford
Jenny Pickerill, Professor in Environmental Geography at the University of Sheffield.