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Human geography

This page explains what the subject of human geography covers, gives an overview of the material the British Library holds for this subject, and advice on how you can find and use it. It also gives details of current activities for developing the collections for this subject.

Geography is the study of the earth’s landscapes, peoples, places and environments and is unique in bridging the social sciences (human geography) with the natural sciences (physical geography). Human geography is that part of geography that focuses on the spatial organisation of human activity and its relations with the physical environment. Human Geography encompasses, among others: cultural geography, social geography, historical geography, urban geography, political geography, economic geography, rural geography, feminist geography, and development geography.

Collection overview

The British Library Human Geography collection is extensive and has particular strengths in English-language material published in the UK and North America. Most printed material is kept offsite and has to be ordered in advance of your visit or via our Document Supply Service; but a selection of around 200 relevant books and reports published in the last three years, and key journals published in the last 12 months, are available on the shelves in the London Social Sciences Reading Room.

Overall we have:

  • an extensive collection of commercially published English-language material published in the UK and North America
  • an extensive journals collection for Human Geography and related disciplines; and strong coverage of electronic abstracting and indexing resources
  • significant amounts of grey literature, international and national government publications, report literature, conference proceedings, working papers and PhD theses. Related collections include Official Publications, the , and publications of International Organisations
  • extensive collections of market research reports, company reports, patents and trade directories in the Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) in London, where you can also use financial, market and news databases
  • important special collections include newspapers and the Sound Archive with oral history, soundscape, wildlife and birdsong and music collections
  • the Library’s manuscript collections hold a significant collection of geographer and explorer archives including those of Sir Joseph Banks, James Cook and Robert Falcon Scott, as well as manuscript maps and topographical drawings
  • an extensive map collection, which is of value for the historical aspects of the discipline, environmental pollution and international boundary disputes
  • exceptionally strong collections of print and non-print resources for Asia, particularly South and Central Asia, in part as a result of our holding the former India Office Records collection
  • strong collections of photographic and topographic material relating to Asia, Canada and the UK.

Online access to human geography holdings

The British Library has a dedicated website that gives free access to food oral history recordings. Foodstories is an interactive learning resource which explores some of the changes that have taken place in food consumption and production within the last century. The site is organised around different themes such as food and cultural identity, food and regulation, technology and change and ritual and tradition and is an excellent resource for Geography teachers and students.

In addition, British Newspapers 1600-1900 and Sounds are available to researchers based at UK HE establishments.

Finding aids

  • Explore the British Library to find details of books, reports, journal titles, newspapers, maps and many more parts of the Library’s collections.

Social Sciences Enquiry team

For more help on using the Social Sciences collections, contact the Enquiry team at or telephone +44 (0)20 7412 7894 from 10.00 - 20.00 Mon- Thurs or 10.00 - 17.00 Friday.

Current activities

British Library Content Strategy

We have refined our Content Strategy (i.e what we collect now and in future). Please see the content strategy pages on our website. These pages are organised by subject. Please remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described under more than one subject. A subject will also cover a variety of research themes, so even though your topic may not be specifically listed, it will likely be found under one of our headings.

If you have comments on the Library's content strategy, we would be pleased to hear from you.

In the Content Strategy, you will see descriptions for individual subjects listed in the appendices. Human Geography is described at page 11. Remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described by more than one subject template.