Sunday, 17 November 2019

1950: New Sheffield HQ - official opening


I wonder where the "large globe" ended up?

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

1949: Sir Harry Alexander Fanshawe Lindsay KCIE CBE

Sir Harry Lindsay was an administrator, who was connected with India, and worked to develop aspects of the Commonwealth, which grew from the end of Empire.

He was another St. Paul's Old Boy and was also educated at Oxford University, as were many previous Presidents.

A Wikipedia article provided the following information, under CC license:

In 1910 Lindsay became Under-Secretary to the government of Bengal. He moved to the Commerce and Industry Department of the Government of India in 1912.

In 1916 he was Director-General of Commercial Intelligence in Calcutta and in 1922 Secretary to the Government of India, Commerce Dept. In 1923 he became Government of India Trade Commissioner in London. In 1923 he was delegate for India to the Economic Committee of the League of Nations. In 1934 he was appointed Director of the Imperial Institute, a post in which he remained until 1953.

Image credit: National Portrait Gallery

Described here:

Lindsay was Chairman of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts, editing the publication British Commonwealth Objectives in 1946. 
He was president of the Imperial Institute in the 1940s as well.

Lindsay was also president of the Royal Geographical Society (yet another President to have served with both organisations), and vice-president of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Lindsay's presidential address was on 'Geography and the Museum'.

In it, he talked about the role that geography might play in the development of museums, even the one at the RGS, which he mentions at the start of his address.

There is a return here to the contested notions of geography as a science, which was a debate had throughout the early 20th Century, and aspects of this are still talked about now.

An interest in museums also connects him other former GA President, who were connected with museums:
1925 - John Linton Myres, who was linked with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, and
1929 - Sir Henry Lyons, who was a director of the Science Museum

I wasn't able to find much about what he did while GA President.


Wikipedia page: - a brief entry, which doesn't say anything about his Geographical career - Edited to add his GA Presidency as always.

Lindsay, Harry. “GEOGRAPHY AND THE MUSEUM: ADDRESS TO THE GEOGRAPHICAL ASSOCIATION.” Geography, vol. 35, no. 1, 1950, pp. 1–9. JSTOR,

Portrait at NPG:

Mentioned in:

Lindsay, Harry. “CULTURAL RELATIONS WITHIN THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 96, no. 4756, 1947, pp. 6–18. JSTOR,

Here's an image of Sir Harry Lindsay welcoming the Queen to an event at the Royal Society of Arts mentioned in the article above.

Image of Lindsay from NPG under Creative Commons
Sir Harry Alexander Fanshawe Lindsay
by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, March 1943
NPG x165080© National Portrait Gallery, London

As always, I would be happy to hear from anyone who has further details on this President's particular contributions to the work of the GA.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Dr. Hilda Ormsby

While researching the blog I have come across a whole range of interesting characters who have made a contribution to the development of geography and geography eduction.

From the LSE Flickr page.

Here is Dr Hilda Ormsby, taken c1910

'Dr Hilda Ormsby died on October 23rd 1973, a few days before her 96th birthday. She was the country's longest living geographer, for she had been a student of and then assistant to Sir Halford Mackinder, one of the founders of modern geography, a former director of the School, and its first Professor of Geography. Indeed Mackinder tried out on her a draft of his famous book "Democratic Ideals and Reality."Mackinder's successor as Professor was Rodwell Jones, brother of Hilda Ormsby, and the brother-sister partnership is thought to have been the only one on a British department of geography. In 1931 she became one of the very few heography holders of the D.Sc (Econ) and was appointed Reader in 1932. Although she retired in 1940 she gave some lectures in the next two sessions whilst the School was in Cambridge. In both wars she served with Naval Intelligence. During the first she worked on terrain analysis, and in the second helped to prepare handbooks on France. She was elected an Honorary Fellow of the School in 1962...' R.J. Harrison Church, LSE Magazine, November 1974, No48, p14


Image link:

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Thought for the Day

I've been using the first line of this quote for years without knowing the real source of it, and found it while researching some other GA Presidents earlier today.

Geography without fieldwork is like science without experiments; the ‘field’ is the geographic laboratory where young people experience at first hand landscapes, places, people and issues, and where they can learn and practice geographical skills in a real environment. Above all, fieldwork is enjoyable.

Bland, K., Chambers, B., Donert K. and Thomas, T. (1996) ‘Fieldwork’ in Bailey, P. and Fox, P. (eds) Geography Teacher's Handbook. Sheffield: GA, pp.165-76

Thursday, 7 November 2019

1937: Classifying the World's regions

In 1937, a committee of the GA reported their progress on defining the world's regions. It was a 30 page article, exploring classifications of regions, with maps such as those of Köppen and Herbertson. Some of those ideas can still be seen in textbooks over 80 years later.


All GA Presidents, other than the Chair.

1948: Professor Herbert John Fleure FRS

Updated November 2019

This is another of the true greats of the Geographical Association. 

We come next to Professor Herbert John Fleure - another of the great names who will be forever associated with the Geographical Association. In compiling this blog, it is clear that there are several names who are intertwined with the DNA of the Association as it is now, and one of those is H. J. Fleure or HJF as he wrote on so many documents, articles, book reviews and other documentation throughout his long time at the GA.

By the time Fleure became President, he had been linked with the GA for many decades, acting as its librarian and holding other roles, including the compilation of the Annual Report as far back as 1920 in his role as Secretary.

The Annual Report in 1920, for example talked about the progress of the association. The 2020 Conference theme, chosen by Gill Miller, is "Geography really matters", and in 1920, H. J. Fleure was already onto Gill's idea of each teacher doing something to show that geography matters,  in this statement.

"The Report of the progress of the Association should encourage teachers all over the country to put an extra dose of enthusiastic interest into their exposition of Geography and their co-operation with other subjects for a more synthetic education..... [Geography] is a subject that the pupils can go on with, must go on with, all through their lives. It is the one subject which really tries to face the problem of the interpretation of our modern world. it is the most hopeful line of work towards a better understanding between the peoples of the world.... the opportunity and responsibility of teachers of Geography is a great one, and we are confident they are rising to it."

Fleure, in addition to being a long serving Secretary of the Association, was also the editor of 'Geography' for a time, amongst many other contributions that he made to the workings of the GA.

ImageHe was born in Guernsey in 1877.
He went to Aberystwyth University, and also studied in Zurich, Switzerland.
Fleure was an academic geographer for his lengthy career, and was associated with the Universities of Aberystwyth and Manchester in particular where he held posts which allowed him to support the development ot the GA as well.

His research in Wales is described here.

Fleure wanted to look at how place influenced people, and the way that geography affected identity

During his Presidential year, he did a great deal also for the Le Play Society. The Le Play society organised overseas tours as the earlier Touring Branch had done, and also held an annual conference. I also notice the address of the Secretary on the bill below.
I wonder if the Birlings at Birling Gap is still there, or has succumbed to the coastal erosion that has taken place there in recent decades particularly.

The Le Play Society continued after the end of the GA's own Touring Branch had to close.
Someone who is also associated with the Le Play Society and the GA is Frederick Soddy, in whose name grants are now provided for teachers to provide fieldwork opportunities for their students, for both the GA and the RGS.

Here is Fleure in 1927 - 2nd from the right on the Front Row


Fleure was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the American Geographical Society in 1930, and its Daly Medal in 1939.
He received the Victoria Medal of the RGS in 1946, as have a few former Presidents of the GA. A precedent that I think is worth renewing ;)

Fleure was also one of only three geographers to have been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society - bonus points if you can name the other two...

The Fleure Library is the name of the GA's archive of materials, and it has been quite mobile, and found several homes, as has been described in the blog. Some elements of the library are now on display in the Patrick Bailey room at Solly Street (a room named after another former GA President)

As I blogged about previously, back in 1917 Fleure took the library with him when the GA relocated to Aberystwyth and he was able to secure premises in the town with appropriate space for the archive.

He later relocated to the University of Manchester, where he had a Professorship, and the library followed him there, until 1947.
Here is an announcement from 'Geography' in 1947

As one can imagine, as with many other Geographers of the time, we have to look at his work through the lens of history.
According to this piece, Fleure made his name originally through writing about Race, although he was not a racist, and spoke out against those who were.

I wonder what this publication suggested were the particular problems... answers on a carte postale.

When he retired from the Professorship at Manchester, this piece was written about his time at the GA.
It describes his major work called 'The Corridors of Time' which ran to several volumes.
A Natural History of Man in Britain Hardcover  by
Fleure also wrote several books on the landscape of the UK and the influence of man, and worked with Harold Peake on a series of archaeological books.

No scholar in Great Britain has done more to justify the claims of human geography, closely linked with both the natural sciences and the humanities but pursuing its own distinct objectives and devising its own technique and methods, to be one of the most illuminating approaches to the study of civilisation and its problems.
From a notice in 'Nature' in 1944

Fleure also wrote an excellent 33 page long account of the first 60 years of the GA and Education, which I have referred to several times during the production of this blog.

This is proper scholarship though, compared to my scribblings on this blog.

Fleure died at the age of 92, having a lived a life full of geography. He finally had his own obituary, after the very many that he had written for other GA Presidents before that.

While communicating with Ricky Buck at the GA recently, he told me that he had been in touch with an academic who was researching the life of H J Fleure.
She is exploring his life, and I hope to perhaps find out more about H. J. Fleure through chatting to her.

Another of Fleure's books, with M. Davis.
Related image


Matless, David. “Nature, the Modern and the Mystic: Tales from Early Twentieth Century Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 16, no. 3, 1991, pp. 272–286. JSTOR,

I have edited the page to add Fleure's Presidency to the page, as I have with all those who didn't have this information.

Fleure, H.J. (1953) "Sixty years of geography and education", Geography, vol.38, pp.231-264 - biography from Royal Society pages.

Fleure, H. J. “GEOGRAPHY AND THE SCIENTIFIC MOVEMENT.” Geography, vol. 22, no. 3, 1937, pp. 178–188. JSTOR,

Mentioned in:

Invited to speak at Edinburgh University:

His part in the founding of the IBG: Stoddart, D. R. “Progress in Geography: The Record of the I. B. G.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 8, no. 1, 1983, pp. 1–13. JSTOR,
Obituary - written by another former President: E G Bowen (or EGB as he was known)

Fleure's account of the 60 years of the GA on JSTOR. I've mined this for lots of details on other Presidents as well, and they will appear in the next few months.

Fleure, H. J. “NEW ENGLAND-AND OLD.” Geography, vol. 31, no. 3, 1946, pp. 105–110. JSTOR,

As always, if anyone has further information relating to H. J. Fleure and his time at the GA. he is one of the most influential figures in the history of the Association. Please let me know so that I can expand on this post.
 I am sure there is plenty more to say about him. 

Image - books from the Fleure library

Added August 2019

Fleure is also mentioned in Crone's chronology of Geography in the 20th Century.

Crone, G. R. “British Geography in the Twentieth Century.” The Geographical Journal, vol. 130, no. 2, 1964, pp. 197–220. JSTOR,

Added November 2019

Thanks to Jamie Woodward from the University of Manchester. He references a document which relates to Fleure's work at the University.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Essential equipment

When I first started teaching in the late 80s, all of this equipment was sitting in a cupboard in my classroom.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Memories of Jim Nicholls

This blog is marking the biographies of over 100 GA Presidents.

However, the GA works on many levels, and only a tiny fraction of a percentage of the GA's members and volunteers will ever become President, so from time to time we feature other GA folks.
This particular blog entry is about Jim Nicholls.
Jim was a teacher at Lewes Grammar School.
I like this description which will be familiar to those who are into this style of teaching, which has come back in vogue after 70 years...

Jim will be remembered by countless Old Lewesians for his geography lessons in Room 2, most of which were taken up by a "test" consisting of twenty questions on the previously set homework ("read Chapter XIII") the answers to which had to be written on a minuscule scrap of paper (there was a war on and paper was in short supply) to be marked by the boy in the next seat. When the test was finished and the marks gathered in he would announce the next chapter to be read for homework. Lessons in those days were a mere 40 minutes long so there was precious little time for real teaching. Money for old rope, really.

This was an interesting addition too
Roy Metcalfe writes ...
[Jim] was a founding committee member of the Brighton and District Branch of the Geographical Association when it was formed in 1952, serving for many years on committee and its Chairman from 1953 to 1955 and 1965-66. He hadn't been active in the branch for some years, but he came along to a celebration of the Association's centenary in 1994 held at the University of Sussex. I have a photograph of the occasion where he appeared with the Association's President of the year, the founding Chairman of the branch, one of our first students and myself as founding Secretary. 

As at school, he is remembered in the local G.A. Branch as being concerned that we should run field excursions and he led our first one in 1953 on, appropriately, "The site of Lewes in its physical and historical setting". I shall miss our occasional chats and he was indeed, as your OL correspondent writes, 'Gentleman Jim'.

I came across his biography when researching another President.


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

1947: Sir Alexander Morris Carr-Saunders

Clack and white portrait photograph of an elderly Alexander Carr-SaundersSir Alexander Carr-Saunders was another Economist and former Head of the LSE. It is not surprising to see some connections between the LSE and the GA given their long-term hosting of the GA conferences, even into the 1970s.

He was born in Reigate in 1886 - the son of an underwriter - and was educated at Eton College.

A British Academy biography describes the bullying he endured at Eton, which he described as "a convict ship"
He said he could learn nothing during term time, and left at 16, when he visited Paris and the Alps, and fell in love with the mountains there.

Perhaps this was the start of his love for Geography, along with mountaineering.

Carr-Saunders went to the University of Oxford, studing zoology initially.

He served in France and Egypt during the First World War as well - one of a generation of GA Presidents around the first half of the century to have experienced conflict and had their world view shaped by this.

On his return, he studied once again at Oxford, and during this time, he developed some ideas around Eugenics.
He was offered a Professorship in Social Science at the University of Liverpool, which allowed him to develop his thinking.
In 1943 he joined the Asquith Commission on Higher Education in the Colonies, and travelled widely during this time, having never previously travelled much at all.
He helped set up a lot of work in Colonial Universities through the next few decades and this is where his contribution to Geographical education began to flourish, and perhaps his potential as a GA President to unfold.

From his Wikipedia extract: shared under CC license

He participated in one of the first Oxford Expeditions to Spitsbergen in the Arctic in 1921 as main scientists, together with Julian Huxley. 

During the expedition he distilled his early ideas on population dynamics and summarized them in a book called The Population Problem. The book used a neo-Malthusian argument plus Galton's eugenics as the theoretical framework for a quantitative analysis of population dynamics. 

The population problem arose - according to Carr-Saunders' demographic analysis - from the fact of having high reproductive rates among what were described as "primitive people with low mental and physical qualities". Over-population of these lower races endangered the standard of living of races bearing higher qualities. Unlike Malthus, he thought that industrial productivity and not food was the main limiting factor in human populations.

Some of the views were of course of their time. Hans Rosling may have had a few alternative thoughts.

In 1921, as mentioned above he went to Spitsbergen on an expedition - one of several GA Presidents to have visited this place - perhaps I need to plan a visit during my Presidency. 
Is there a GA Branch in Longyearbyen?

Carr-Saunders served as Director of the LSE from 1937 to 1957.
His early publications used demographic data in a way that hadn't been done before.
He was knighted in 1946/7, around the time he served as GA President.

His Presidential lecture was on the theme of the teaching of Geography in Colonial Colleges, and started with him explaining how he was not a geographer - an unusual opening gambit for a President, although not unprecedented...

The address was published in 1948.

He founded the British Sociological Society in 1951.

This image from the LSE library was taken in Cumbria in 1964, to which Carr Saunders retired.
He is pictured with his wife Teresa in the middle, and Julian Huxley on the left.

He died in 1966 in Cumbria.
One obituary gives the actual circumstances which sound characteristic of him from what I have read...

He died on the night of 6 October 1966 after trying, at the age of eighty, to push his car uphill following a breakdown at Thirlmere in his beloved Lake District.

Here's a description of him from Professor Maurice Freedman:


His GA obituary was written by fellow and former GA President Michael Wise.

He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Glasgow, Columbia, Natal, Dublin, Liverpool, Cambridge, Malaya, Grenoble and London, and was made honorary fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, the University College of East Africa, and LSE.


I added reference to his GA Presidency to the Wikipedia page, as I have with all those who have Wikipedia pages. - this describes him as a demographer ,and focusses on his work in the area of population - he also influenced Charles Elton, a biologist


Presidential Address
Obituary: Wise, M. J. “Obituary: SIR ALEXANDER CARR-SAUNDERS.” Geography, vol. 52, no. 1, 1967, pp. 81–81. JSTOR,

Carr-Saunders as one of the original 'sociologists':

Some further images of him:
Images from Flickr library of LSE:

Biography from the British Academy:

His most famous book is still available to purchase from all good bookshops.

If anyone has further information on Carr-Saunders, please get in touch.


There are remarkably few early videos or audio of GA Presidents on YouTube since some very early ones you may remember.
Here's an extract from a radio programme where he described his strong faith in God.

Thanks to Brendan Conway for this additional information on a link to the modern day LSE.

1950: New Sheffield HQ - official opening