Branches of Geography

The subject matter of geography can be divided into two broad categories—physical geography and human geography. Each has many subdivisions, some of which overlap. Some are closely akin to the physical, biological, and social sciences. Geography can also be divided into two categories according to the method of study; the subject can be approached systematically or regionally. Either approach will involve physical geography, human geography, or both.

Physical Geography

is the study of land and water features and the natural forces responsible for their occurrence. It is not a distinct science, but brings together the subject matter of many earth sciences to give a general knowledge of the nature of the environment. Physical geography's subdivisions include:


the study of weather conditions over an extended period of time. It deals with the kinds, causes, and characteristics of climates throughout the world. Its final aim is to recognize the many different types of climates and to interpret their regional pattern of distribution over the earth's surface.

Geomorphology, Or Physiography

which seeks to explain the origin and development of landforms and to interpret their arrangement and distribution over the earth. This science, concerned mainly with surface features and topography, is closely related to geology. Related fields are hydrology, the study of surface and underground waters; and physical oceanography, dealing mainly with ocean currents, tides, waves, and undersea landforms.

Mathematical Geography

which deals with the earth's size, shape, and movements. It is also concerned with the effects of heavenly bodies, such as the sun and moon, on the earth. Tides and seasons of the year are examples of such effects.

Other Subdivisions

Plant geography and soil geography are concerned with the kinds and distribution of the earth's natural vegetation and soils. Plant geography is often grouped with animal geography, the study of the distribution of the world's animals, in a category called biogeography.

Human Geography

is the study of the way human beings live in their physical and cultural environments. The subdivisions of human geography include:

Cultural Geography

the study of the geographical distribution of cultural traits. Cultural geography is a highly diverse discipline that includes the study of the geography of languages, religions, and music.

Economic Geography

the study of how people make a living. It is especially concerned with the earth's natural resources and how they are used. Specialized phases of the study include agriculture geography, manufacturing geography, and transportation geography.

Political Geography

the study of the influence of geography on nations, national interests, and international relations. Such things as area growth and development, boundaries, and territorial size, shape, and location are considered.

Population Geography

the study of the geographical distribution of humans and the analysis of changes in distribution patterns. Population geographers study a variety of statistical information, including birth and death rates and migration patterns.

Urban Geography

the study of cities and towns in relation to their location, size, shape, and function.

Other Subdivisions

include historical geography and social geography.

Systematic Geography

keeps the entire world in view while investigating a single element, such as landforms, climate, agriculture, or manufacturing. For example, a systematic study of climate includes such things as the world distribution of temperature, precipitation, pressure, and winds. It also classifies climates and deals with their distribution throughout the world.

Regional Geography

instead of dealing with a single element, focuses attention on a particular country or region. The goal of regional geography is to view an area in its entirety, bringing into consideration such factors as the natural environment, the people, and economic and cultural activities.