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This article addresses and connects two areas of controversy within contemporary geography: the parochialism of contemporary human geography and the gulf between university and non-university geography. It is argued that we can find the cause of the latter phenomenon in the origin of the former, namely in academic geography's unwillingness to re-imagine the ‘global claim’ that it has inherited from its imperial past. This difficulty has created the conditions for the representation of popular geography as intrinsically dated, as politically suspect and/or as mere ‘traveller's tales’. It is suggested that geography cannot escape the burden of its global claim. Rather it needs to critically engage this formerly imperial paradigm and, in so doing, re-ignite geography's role in public debate and as public knowledge.