In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Economic Historical Geography

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Regional Science and its Offshoots
  • Regional Restructuring
  • Economic Decline and Deindustrialization
  • Urbanization and Industrialization
  • Industrial Districts and Networks
  • Suburbanization
  • Housing, Real Estate, and Development
  • Labor and Management in a Changing Economy
  • Getting By: Class, Gender, and Race
  • Service Industries
  • Resource Industries
  • Infrastructure, Environment, and Technology

Geography Economic Historical Geography
Robert Lewis, Nick Lombardo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0146


Economic historical geography is the study of relationship between economic processes, space, and place over time. Although it has roots in a long tradition of regional economics and commercial geographies, most economic historical geographic work dates from the 1970s and the rise of political economy to prominence within geography and the social sciences generally. There are only a handful of people who would identify first and foremost as economic historical geographers. Accordingly, most work in the field is carried out by scholars trained in other aspects of geography and in related fields who seek to understand the impact of economic processes and the character of economic relations across space and time. For this reason, economic historical geography is genuinely interdisciplinary. Other than geography, the two main disciplines that it feeds off of and contributes to are economics and history. Given the political and theoretical persuasion of most economic historical geographers since the 1970s, the latter has been more central to the subdiscipline than the former. The main contribution of history to economic historical geography has been a high regard for detailed analyses centered on archival materials, and the importance of economic agents of all types as place makers. Economics, on the other hand, has been central to questions of location theory, industrial district formation, and regional change. Other academic areas that have shaped (and been shaped by) economic historical geography are sociology, political science, and, more recently, environmental and urban studies. Most work in economic historical geography centers on the post-1750 period. Interest has focused on the rise and subsequent fluctuating fortunes of industrial capitalism, both in western Europe and North America as well as other parts of the world, especially those areas that were incorporated into Europe’s colonial system. Much of the economic historical geography work written in English has focused on a small number of countries and places. Not surprisingly, studies of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom dominate the research. Similarly, cities such as Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and London have been key places for scholars to examine the changing dynamics of economic historical geography. Today, despite this concentration, the field of economic historical geography is extremely eclectic, with scholars undertaking a wide range of work on a number of topics and locales.


The interdisciplinary nature of economic historical geography is reflected in the diversity of journals that publish relevant work. While no subdisciplinary specific journal exists, publications from history, geography, and urban studies all routinely feature scholarly research on themes of historical economic geography, including business and work relations, locational patterns, and city and regional development. Dealing with a range of temporal and geographical contexts, these journals cover economic themes throughout history. Studies of firms, business networks, and actors are found in Business History Review and Business History. Reflecting the subdiscipline’s origins, economic historical geography scholarship is often published in journals such as the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Economic Geography, and Journal of Historical Geography. The prominence of cities and urban economics as research subjects leads scholars to routinely publish interesting work in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and Urban Geography. Similarly, urban history’s substantial and meaningful overlap on these topics is evident in the pages of the Journal of Urban History, Planning Perspectives, and Urban History.

  • Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

    This is the flagship national journal for American geographers and one of the discipline’s leading publications. The Annals publishes articles representing the breadth and scope of the discipline, including economic historical geographies dealing with a variety of time periods and regions.

  • Business History.

    This history journal mainly features studies of 19th and 20th century firms from the English-speaking world. Articles featured here deal with a range of pertinent research issues on business practices and organizations.

  • Business History Review.

    This is a wide-ranging journal that publishes research about a variety of historical and geographical contexts. Articles explore the history of businesspeople, individual firms, and business networks.

  • Economic Geography.

    Considered the premier publication for the subdiscipline of economic geography, this journal routinely features work that is historical in nature. Economic historical geography published here covers a range of scales, spaces, and economic processes.

  • International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

    IJURR is a multidisciplinary journal that often publishes work by historical economic geographers. Focused on cities and urban regions, this is a well-respected source of work on urban economic geographies of the past.

  • Journal of Historical Geography.

    This is a flagship publication for the subdiscipline of historical geography. With no specific thematic, temporal, or geographical focus, this journal routinely publishes investigations into issues of economic historical geography.

  • Journal of Urban History.

    A key journal publishing scholarly work on urban history, this publication examines cities and urban regions across space and time. Featured work contributes to wider understandings of urban economic historical geography.

  • Planning Perspectives.

    Dealing with the history of city planning and issues related to urban development, this is a largely interdisciplinary publication. Planning Perspectives features work by historians, planners, geographers, and architects.

  • Urban Geography.

    This is the most prominent journal for the subdiscipline of urban geography. It often deals with economic and historical aspects of cities.

  • Urban History.

    Concentrating on the historical analysis of cities, scholarly work on issues of urban economic historical geography is frequently published here. From both historians and historical geographers, articles deal with economic geographies of cities at a variety of scales.

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