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Human Geography

Do you love maps? Do you adore travel? Are you fascinated by online clips of people trying exotic foods in faraway cities? Are you worried about climate change, the destruction of the environment, the plights of migrants, or why so many people still live in poverty? Then Human Geography might be the subject for you! 

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Human Geography


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Do you love maps? Do you adore travel? Are you fascinated by online clips of people trying exotic foods in faraway cities? Are you worried about climate change, the destruction of the environment, the plights of migrants, or why so many people still live in poverty? Then Human Geography might be the subject for you!

Geography is for people curious about our planet and intrigued by the myriad ways we interact with our environments. Geography is the “why of where” – the science that helps us understand the Earth and empowers us to make a difference. Geography is as old as the ancient Greeks and as new as today’s headlines. Take your voyage of discovery with us!

What is Human Geography?

Human Geography is the study of how human societies relate to the Earth. While other sciences—economics, political science, anthropology, biology, and environmental science, for example—look at either aspects of society or nature, human geography is the only one that genuinely seeks to understand how the two interact.

Human geographers use tools like maps and censuses to understand places, landscapes, and many other types of locations. They gather and analyze data to describe and explain geographic processes ranging from the growth of cities to the strategies used in wars to how people can farm better to alleviate poverty.

Human Geography World Map StudySmarterHuman Geography's most essential tool is the map

Human Geography Topics and Learning Objectives

Human Geography is divided into six subject areas that cover cultural, political, and economic aspects of people’s relationships with the Earth. The six human geography content areas overlap and include physical and environmental geography elements. Another area looks at the essential tools of human geography.

Introduction to Human Geography

Everyone has heard of maps, but there are many other types of qualitative and quantitative tools that can be used in the search for understanding geography topics. Even—and especially—photographs, a visual record of the Earth, are part of the geographer’s craft.

Human geography, like any science, has many different theories and concepts that are useful to know. These include a concern with spatial questions—where things are located, how to find them, what scale or scales to use, how to group places that are similar together, and many others.

Human Geography: Population Geography

Population geography studies the distribution and concentration of people and what that means for our world. Population geographers map and model where people are located and try to predict how and why populations will grow, shrink, or stabilize. How many people can live in a particular area comfortably? Can we change that? What if we run out of resources for these people? These are just some of the questions we ask in population geography.

Human Geography: Cultural Geography

Cultural geography looks at how expressions of human culture—language, food, religion, leisure activities, gender identity, the arts, and others—are situated and arranged in different places. “Cultural Landscape” is a central concept that recognizes that culture is expressed geographically; you can see it in action every time you go outside. People express their culture through the types of buildings they construct, the cars they drive, the restaurants they eat in, the sports they play, and so on. And culture doesn’t just stay in one place–it diffuses (spreads), coming into contact and sometimes into conflict with other cultures. That conflict, and avoidance of it, are at the heart of closely-related political geography.

Human Geography Schoolchildren  StudySmarterCultural Geography studies the cultures of people across the world

Human Geography: Political Geography

Political geography is often the flip side of cultural geography. Different cultures —an ethnic or religious group, for example—follow different rules. But human societies are comprised of many different cultures that usually have to follow the same rules when they live in the same area. Governments administer these systems of laws. Political geography studies the “spatial” parts of these governments—types of boundaries and voting districts, for example—and all of the issues created by governments controlling geographic territory.

Human Geography middle East map  StudySmarterPolitical geography looks at how different governments control and come into conflict over territories

You can probably see where this is going. Political geography does not shy away from trying to understand why people in different territories have conflicts with each other. Problems as severe as ethnic cleansing and genocide may emerge from disputes over territory and natural resources. Ah, resources! This leads us to another major part of human geography called economic geography.

Human Geography: Economic Geography

Economic geography deals with the many scales and levels of human economic activity across the world and how they interrelate. Economic geographers look at five sectors of economic activity, from mining resources, the raw materials of the global economy, all the way up to the high-level, literally earth-shaking decisions made in corporate boardrooms. For those interested in understanding how the world truly works and who wonder if and how it can be changed, economic geography is critical because it explores the importance of people’s basic economic behavior: earning money, getting a job, making more money, saving, retiring, investing.

But economic geography is more than just that; it provides us tools to understand how we can change a world dependent on raw materials that are scarce or even finite (i.e., that will run out someday, like fossil fuels). Economic geography helps us envision and plan a world where economic activities are in sync with what the Earth provides. Sustainable development is an end goal of economic geography.

Human Geography: Urban Geography

No question about it, cities and other urban areas are the focus of human activity in the world at this moment in time. Cities may not cover as much of the Earth’s surface as rural areas, but they hold an ever-increasing proportion of the world’s eight-billion-or-so humans. The majority of the world’s material wealth is found in them. Urban geography studies the cities of the past and present to help plan for the healthier, sustainable cities of the future.

Human Geography Urban Model  StudySmarterUrban Geography uses geographic models to understand cities

Urban geographers have their work cut out for them because the metropolitan areas of some cities may surpass 100 million people in the 21st century. That’s larger than most countries! And many cities, even in highly developed countries, contain large amounts of poverty and a host of other problems. Geography is at the forefront of improving city landscapes through more green space, local food options, better transportation, and equitable housing options.

Human Geography: Agricultural Geography

Cities may be where most people live, but as agricultural geography practitioners know, rural areas are where most of the food comes from. Agricultural geography recognizes that farming, the domestication of plants and animals, is the most important human invention, one that allowed cities and modern civilization as we know it to exist in the first place.

Whether small farms will survive or mechanized commercial farming will dominate the planet, the geography of rural farming areas is critical to understanding and planning for the future.

How Can StudySmarter Support Me in Studying Human Geography?

StudySmarter’s bank of resources is there to help guide you through the maze of often complex geography concepts, themes, and topics. Our content writers have all been geography students at one time or another, so they remember how confusing Human Geography can be! If you aren’t quite sure how politics and geography relate or how culture, the environment, and space come together, then you are in the right place! You can use the resources we provide and add them to your resources.

Human Geography Study Guide

Our intelligent guide is here to introduce everything you need to know to study for your Human Geography courses and exams successfully. Here is what you can discover on StudySmarter:

Human Geography Explanations

Our Human Geography explanations provide you with the basic knowledge you need, and they are arranged in a format that will intrigue you. They are geared toward the topics typically taught in Advanced Placement Human Geography courses in US high schools, so they are at the college freshman level in terms of language and content–not too hard, and not too simple, but just right.

The explanations include sections of text broken into easily digestible sections, with various examples used to make things a little more concrete. There are also study hints to get you zeroed in on the most important content you need to know, and there are Deep Dives for that little extra you might need to impress a teacher.

Human Geography Flashcards

Human Geography explanations come with ten or fifteen flashcards that you can use to get you started learning the material. You can add as many flashcards as you wish.

Human Geography Study Groups

You don’t have to stop at creating and uploading your material. StudySmarter lets you form study groups and learn with your friends and Human Geography students from wider learning communities. Remember the flashcards? You can use them to quiz fellow group members and test their knowledge. This way, you can create a personalized Human Geography quiz! Learn, create, quiz – repeat.

Rewards for Learning Human Geography

StudySmarter is your next best friend, encouraging you to learn and achieve top results. StudySmarter lets you set your weekly goals: complete subjects, correctly answer flashcards, and ask questions. Reaching these goals will earn you trophies. For example, gain the "Best thing since sliced bread" if you study every week for three months, or become a Grandmaster if you answer five questions in the same course. The more you learn, the more trophies you get to celebrate your hard work.

Frequently Asked Questions about Human Geography

Human Geography is a social science that studies the relationships between human societies and the Earth.

AP Human Geography is a challenging subject for US high school students because it is taught using college-level materials and concepts. How hard it is depends on the background you already might have in geography, how hard you study, and the quality of your study aids.

Human Geography is important because it is the only science focused on understanding the relationships between people and planet Earth.

Human Geography covers six major topic areas as well as the Introduction to Human Geography. Those topics cover urban areas (urban geography), rural areas (agricultural geography), culture (cultural geography), politics and government (political geography), the economy, including industry (economic geography), and population issues (population geography).

In AP Human Geography, "devolution" refers to the political process whereby countries devolve (give) certain political powers to their constituent region. This often happens because regions desire autonomy or even independence from the central government.

Flashcards in Human Geography2771

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What is a natural resource?

A natural resource is a commodity that is extracted from nature with little to no alteration. 

True or False: Natural resources can be used to create human-made resources. 

True! Virtually all human-made resources are derived, in some way, from natural resources.

Which of the following is NOT a natural resource?


What is an abiotic natural resource?

An abiotic natural resource is a non-living natural resource.

What is a biotic natural resource?

A biotic natural resource is a living natural resource.

Which of the following are abiotic natural resources? Select ALL that apply. 



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