Reassessing Kant's geography

Stuart Elden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This article offers a critical reassessment of Immanuel Kant's lectures on Physische Geographie and his contribution to geographical thought more generally. There are a number of reasons why this reassessment is needed: the lectures are finally about to be published in English translation; careful philological work in German has exposed how corrupted the standard text of the lectures is; and philosophers are finally beginning to critically integrate an understanding of the Geography into their overall assessment of Kant's work. English speaking geographers will therefore soon have access to the lectures in a way that they have not done before, but they need to be aware both of the problems of the edition being translated and the work philosophers have undertaken on their situation in Kant's work and their impact. More broadly, the reassessment requires us to reconsider the position Kant occupies in the discipline of geography as a whole. The article examines the history of the lectures and their publication in some detail; discusses Kant's purpose in giving them; and looks at the way in which he structured geographical knowledge and understood its relation to history and philosophy. In terms of the broader focus particular attention is given to the topics of race and space. While these lectures are undoubtedly of largely historical interest, it is for precisely that reason that an examination of them and Kant's thought more generally is of relevance today to the history of the discipline of geography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-25
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • History of geography
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Race
  • Space

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