Historians confront space

Alfred Joseph Rieber


This essay seeks to analyze how historians have treated the concept of space as an analytical category, by focusing on three spatial concepts: frontiers, Europe and the world. The argument proceeds along several lines: first that historians have long been engaged in debating the interaction of geography and culture, thus foreshadowing the “spatial turn,” second, that representative figures in different specialties have been working away against a Eurocentric conceptualization of space and third that in order to achieve these ends they have employed theoretical insights from the social sciences. The essay concludes that the spatial turn has provided a fresh perspectives on the ways in which space has been conceived by employing terms like frontiers and place to illuminate cultural categories, but that there is a danger for historians that this “turn” can lead into imprecise or abstract formulations that lose their heuristic possibilities.


mental mapping, frontiers, geo-politics; Grenze, Geopolitik, Kognitive Karten


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