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‘Partially provided’: geography at the University of Toronto, 1844–1935

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In universities, as in everyday life, there is a fundamental need for geographical knowledge, even when no formal departments exist to provide instruction. This need was true in the University of Toronto during the decades before Griffith Taylor was appointed in 1935 to the first university Chair in geography in English-speaking Canada. Using matriculation and annual university course examinations, university calendars and the papers of President Falconer and Professors James Mavor and Harold Innis, I trace the development of geography at the University of Toronto from the mid-nineteenth century to the arrival of Taylor. Courses taught in selected aspects of physical and human geography in the Departments of Geology, Political Economy and History are particularly significant. Underlying this instruction, and also the desire to establish a geography department, was an acute awareness of the fundamental importance of geography to help understand a large regionally complex homeland, and a wider world.

Keywords: Canada; Griffith Taylor; Harold Innis; James Mavor; University of Toronto; Université de Toronto; education; histoire de la géographie; history of geography; éducation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3 ( ), Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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