Socialist Geography in England: J. F. Horrabin and a Workers' Economic and Political Geography

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This paper examines the life and geographical writings of the English socialist J.F.(“Frank”) Horrabin (1884–1962) and his attempts to construct a socialist geography. Horrabin was an active socialist in the Labour Party, Fabian Society, and other leftwing groups and very involved in working-class education through the Plebs League and National Council of Labour Colleges. He was also a journalist, cartoonist, and gifted cartographer. His 1923 text An Outline of Economic Geography, which sold in large numbers and was translated into nine other languages, attempted to provide workers with an account of economic (and political and historical) geography that used bourgeois “pure geography” but put it within a socialist and historical–materialist framework. Unlike Germany and some other countries, England did not have a strong Marxist theoretical tradition, and Horrabin's approach does not develop theory (though it did attract the admiration of the German Marxist Karl Wittfogel). Rather, it sets out to be engaged in practical political education. Horrabin's work was developed within a particular context, but his geographical writings (and pioneering political cartography) exemplify one way of linking geography with political practice, and this paper examines these relationships. Many of Horrabin's concerns find echoes in current radical geography, and his work deserves belated recognition and a place in the history of geography.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol England

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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