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Armchair geography

Speculation, Synthesis and the British Culture of Exploration

Research by Natalie Cox

Natalie Cox

September 2012 start, 2017 completion. University of Warwick: PI Dr David Lambert.



Armchair geographers, an under-appreciated group of British and Irish authors and critics, spoke, wrote, theorised and produced maps about the non-European world based not on their own observations, but using a combination of the collation, interpretation and synthesis of existing sources. Active in contemporary geographical controversies centred on RGS-IBG but with wider public resonance, they often criticised – sometimes quite rightly – the claims of contemporary explorers such as David Livingstone, Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke. Victorian armchair geography has continuing resonance in present-day debates about field science, expeditionary activity and academic knowledge (such as the notion that expeditionary research in the ‘field’ is superior to that stemming from the ‘ivory tower’).


Find out more

A printed copy of this thesis is available for consultation in the Foyle Reading Room (reference only). An electronic copy may be ordered through the British Library's e-theses online service.

You can view a recording of a talk given by Natalie about her research. 

Watch Natalie's talk