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1. Place of the Year 2014 nominee spotlight: Ukraine

With only one more week left until we announce Place of the Year 2014, we’d like to spotlight another one of the places on our shortlist: Ukraine. The country entered the news early in 2014 when a referendum held in Crimea resulted in the peninsula uniting with Russia. As the twenty-first edition of the Atlas of the World notes, Crimea currently remains under Russian control, though this union is not internationally recognized.

For a little more information about Ukraine, take a look below at the eight facts we compiled about the country’s history, places, and people.

1. According to OxfordDictionaries.com, the origin of the name “Ukraine” is “from Old Russian ukraina ‘border region,’ from u ‘at, beside’ + kraĭ ‘edge, border.’”

2. Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, has been an important settlement since the Middle Ages, when it was the capital of early Slavic civilization, Kievan Rus.

Kyiv_at_night
Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, at night. By Anton Molodtsov/Tony Wan Kenobi. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

3. Out of all the countries in Europe, Ukraine is second only to Russia in geographic size, with an area of 233,089 square miles, or 603,700 square kilometers.

4. The most common religion in Ukraine is Ukrainian Orthodox.

Nova_Kakhovka_Orthodox_Cathedral
Orthodox cathedral in Nova Kakhovka. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

5. An overwhelming 78% of the country’s population is ethnically Ukrainian, with the next largest ethnic group in the country being Russian (17%).

6. Prypiat, Ukraine remains a ghost town to this day as a result of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 that left the city uninhabitable.

Swimming Pool Hall 4 Pripyat by Timm Suess. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Swimming Pool Hall 4 Pripyat by Timm Suess. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

7. Although he is often grouped with Russian authors like Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol was born in Velyki Sorochyntsi, modern-day Ukraine, and is ethnically Ukrainian and Polish.

Ivanov_gogol
Nikolai Gogol by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1847. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

8. Ukraine has been independent since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Currently, Ukraine’s government is a multiparty republic, and Petro Poroshenko is president.

Do you think Ukraine should be Place of the Year? Cast your vote!


The Place of the Year 2014 shortlist

Don’t forget to vote and follow along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December to see which location will join previous Place of the Year winners.

Image credit: Flag of Ukraine by UP9. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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2. Windows on the past: how places get their names

Standing underneath the monstrous Soviet statue of “Motherland Calls” looking out over the mighty Volga River, I could understand why the city should have been renamed, rather unimaginatively, Volgograd “City on the Volga”. Between 1925 and 1961 it had been called Stalingrad, and was site of one of the most ferocious battles in the Second World War. By 1925, Josef Stalin was the Communist Party General Secretary, and the trend to rename cities and towns in his honor had begun. Since he had been chairman of the local military committee which had organized the defense of the city in 1919 against the White Russian armies, why not name this city after him? But in the years following his death in 1953, Stalin began to fall from grace and many places named after him were renamed. So what was Stalingrad called before 1925? Tsaritsyn. Something to do with the Tsar, probably, and given this name when it was founded as a fortress in 1589. This is a tempting assumption, but it is an assumption too far; toponymy is prone to such traps. Tsaritsyn is actually a Tatar name meaning “Town on the (River) Tsaritsa” from the Turkic sary su, “Yellow River.” It was given this name because of the golden sands of the Tsaritsa, at the point where it flows into the Volga.

So rivers have played a part in two of Volgograd’s names. Rivers attracted people because they provided fish to eat and water to drink, and facilitated movement and communication. People needed to differentiate between their settlements so they began to give them names: “river” (Rijeka in Croatia), “river mouth” (Dartmouth in England), “fast-flowing” (Bystrytsya in Ukraine and Bystrzyca in Poland), “white water” (Aksu in China, Kazakhstan, and Turkey), the “yellow river” (China).

In due course, something more creative was needed, and somebody trying to curry favor suggested naming their settlement after its leader. Leaders, at all levels, liked this idea and it spread rapidly. It helped to be royal (Victoria appears at least 31 times in 19 different countries), be a person of great power or influence (Washington), someone who had achieved some conspicuous feat (Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut), or explored new territory (Columbus). During the age of colonialism, some senior administrators and generals achieved comparative immortality by having places named or renamed after them, notably in the British Empire (Abbottābād).

A partial view of Aksu Stream nearby Waterfall Kuzalan in Dereli district of Giresun province, Turkey by Zeynel Cebeci. CC-BY-SA-4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
A partial view of Aksu Stream nearby Waterfall Kuzalan in Dereli district of Giresun province, Turkey by Zeynel Cebeci. CC-BY-SA-4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Russian and Soviet leaders were keen to project power or to intimidate. So in 1783, Count Paul Potemkin built a fortress at Vladikavkaz, which he called Vladet’ Kavkazom (“To have command of the Caucasus”). The name is now taken to mean “Ruler of the Caucasus”. In the same way, Vladivostok, also founded as a military post, has the name “Ruler of the East”. Founded in 1818 by the Russians to spread fear amongst the Chechens, Groznyy, capital of Chechnya, was given the name “Awesome” or “Menacing”. As recently as 2008 Vladimir Putin, the present Russian president, conferred the name “Peak of Russian Counter-Intelligence Agents” on a previously unnamed peak in the Caucasus Mountains.

There is no shortage of saints’ or religious leaders’ names throughout the world, particularly in California, Central and South America, and the Caribbean as a result of the earlier Spanish and Portuguese presence. Some may have been founded or sighted on a saint’s feast day (St. Helena), because they were the personal saint of the founder (St. Petersburg in Russia). or because the saint was thought to have been martyred there (St. Albans in England).

Possibly the three most important elements of toponymy are languages — living and dead — history, and geography. Numerous modern names in Europe are derived from their Latin names, since they were within the Roman Empire, and some of these Latin names had Celtic origins (Catterick and Toledo). Many names appear to have barely changed over the centuries (Lincoln and Civitavecchia) and thus their meaning can be deduced with little difficulty. Others, however, might appear to have an obvious meaning, but in tracing their history, it may be found that the origin or present meaning is not as anticipated (New York). It is sometimes the case that the original and modern forms are almost identical, but the meaning of a word has changed. The modern “field” is taken to mean an “enclosed piece of land” whereas the Old English feld meant “open land”. Place names are a window on the past. For example, Scandinavian names in England indicate where the Norwegian and Danish population was concentrated a millennium ago. Birkby, from Bretarby “Village of the Britons”, shows that this was a village inhabited by Britons rather than Anglo-Saxons.

The descriptive element of geography has a role: points of the compass (West Indies, East Anglia), the presence of ports, bridges, or fords (Oxford), the color or shape of a mountain (Rocky Mountains), even market day (Dushanbe “Monday” in Tajikistan).

Toponymy is a bit like astronomy — there is always something more to discover. There is probably no inhabited place on earth without a name. Yet the origin and meaning of some of the best known names are unknown. London is a case in point.

Some places like to draw attention to themselves by having unusual names: Halfway, Scratch Ankle, Truth or Consequences, Tombstone (all in the USA); or by having a name so long that virtually nobody can either remember it or pronounce it. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales has 58 letters, and the Maori name of a hill on the North Island of New Zealand, Taumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateauripūkakapikimaungahoronukupōkaiwhenuakitanatahu, has 84 letters, the world’s longest place name. Bangkok makes do with Bangkok, but a native of the city might give you its full name, all 60 words of it in English.

Have you voted for Place of the Year 2014? If not, vote now, and follow #POTY2014 to find out which place wins on 1 December.


The Place of the Year 2014 shortlist

Heading image: Monument in Volgograd – Motherland by alex1983. CC0 via Pixabay.

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3. Place of the Year 2014 nominee spotlight: Scotland [quiz]

As voting on the Place of the Year shortlist continues, we’d like to spotlight a second contender in the race – Scotland. Scotland drew the world’s attention this year as a referendum was held for the country’s independence in September 2014. Test your knowledge of the country by answering the following questions.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  


The Place of the Year 2014 shortlist

Keep voting and following along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December to see which location will join previous Place of the Year winners.

Image credit: Largs Pencil by Dave souza. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

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4. The Story of Money from bartering to bail out

storyofmoneyThe Story of Money written by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura is a humorous, wide-ranging tale about the evolution of money, starting with what people did before money was invented, exploring why it came into being and how money systems developed before coming right up to date with a discussion of modern day bank crashes and their consequences.

Although satisfying and curious facts about (for example) money’s relationship to the evolution of writing, the everyday use of official IOUs even in the 21st century and the remarkably tiny total volume of gold that exists on planet Earth pepper the conversational text, Jenkins presentation of these nuggets is unusual; rather than short, sharp fact boxes, or framed individual paragraphs (writing styles which are very common in non-fiction for children), he weaves a story together creating sustained texts over each 2-3 page chapter (each with their own funny title, echoing Victorian novels).

This slim hardback volume, ideal for upper primary aged children, is richly illustrated throughout with Satoshi Kitamura’s quirky and slightly wonky comic strip style images; they bring their own brand of humour to an enjoyable, approachable economics text which manages to make things as foreboding as inflation, deflation and taxation come to life.

mapsandmoneyinside

The Story of Money is a digestible and entertaining introduction to many aspects of pecuniary history which offers up plenty of starting points for both practical and philosophical discussions about the value of money. An index and short bibliography add to the book’s utility both at home and in the classroom. Prepare to finish it feeling surprised: Surely there aren’t many other economics books which end by reminding us that there’s a great deal more to life than accumulating as much money as possible?

****************

A numismatist was selling low value world currency at a charity table-top sale we recently visited and I took the opportunity to by a bag of coins for £5 (yes, the girls and I did see the irony at using money to buy… money).

mapsandmoney2

I threw in a few chocolate coins for good measure and then we set about investigating where our coins came from.

mapsandmoney1

On a cheap wall map we highlighted the countries we had coins from, noting those countries which we had coins for but which no longer existed (e.g. Yugoslavia), and also those countries who have currencies are now something other than that which we had coins for (for example we had lots of pre-Euro-era European coins). Some coins also opened up new stories in history for the girls; we had several coins from former UK colonies which referred to their ‘Emperor’.

mapsandmoney

That £5 I spent opened up so much exploration; from what coins are made out of, to the sometimes exquisite art on them, via the history they reflect as well as the geography they open up, I was quite amazed at how much interest and enjoyment we got out of a small coin collection (to say nothing of the very tactile and romantic experience of handling coins that have somehow landed up on your kitchen table even though they were made 1000s of miles away, sometime more than 100 years ago – what stories led them into our hands we wondered?).

Whilst mapping our money we listened to:

  • Money makes the world go round sung by Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in Cabaret
  • Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (every child’s education ought to include _that_ guitar riff, right?)
  • Money, Money, Money by Abba
  • Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong (though I also like the Flying Lizzards version)
  • Other activities which go well with reading The Story of Money include:

  • Designing your own coin. The Royal Mint recently ran a UK-wide competition for the design of a new £1 coin. Whilst the competition is now closed you could still use their “Hints and Tips” as a starting point for designing a coin. There was also a recent bitcoin design competition, and a United States Mint competition – just keep your eyes peeled and maybe another such competition which you could enter will turn up.
  • Cleaning coins at the same time as gaining a little bit of scientific knowledge: use electrolysis to make tarnished coins shiny!
  • Creating a Chinese Money Tree, or collecting coins from your birth year.
  • What are your favourite activities for helping your kids learn about money?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Story of Money from the publisher.

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    5. Place of the Year 2014 nominee spotlight: Brazil [Infographic]

    With the recent announcement of our Place of the Year 2014 shortlist, we are spotlighting each of the contenders. First up is Brazil.

    Brazil brought the world’s soccer fans together this year, as it hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup in 12 different cities across the country. Learn more about this lively country in the infographic below:

    Place of the Year 2014 nominee: Brazil

    Download the infographic in jpg or PDF format.

    Do you think Brazil should be Place of the Year for 2014? Vote below, and keep following along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December to see which location will join previous winners.


    The Place of the Year 2014 shortlist

    Headline image: Amazon11. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT). CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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    6. Announcing the Place of the Year 2014 shortlist: Vote for your pick

    Thanks to everyone who voted over the few weeks as we considered our 2014 Place of the Year longlist. Now that the votes are in, we’ve narrowed the nominees down to a shortlist of five, and we’d love your thoughts on those as well. You can cast your vote using the buttons and read a bit about each place and why they made the list below.


    The Place of the Year 2014 shortlist

    Scotland

    • The highest peak in the United Kingdom is Ben Nevis, which is located in Scotland and measures 4,409 feet or 1,344 meters.
    • The Scottish referendum, held in September 2014, drew a staggeringly high percentage of the population and resulted in Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

    Ukraine

    • Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe.
    • Crimea, a peninsula in the south of Ukraine, was universally recognized as part of Ukraine until a referendum held in March 2014 resulted in Crimea voting to unite with Russia, a union that is not universally recognized and has caused controversy in Ukraine and the rest of the world.

    Brazil

    • Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country.
    • Brazil was the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

    Ferguson, Missouri

    • Ferguson is part of St. Louis County in Missouri, about twelve miles away from the county’s namesake city.
    • The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, and the protests that followed, sparked a worldwide conversation about race relations in summer 2014.

    Gaza

    • The Palestinian Authority was given control of the Gaza Strip by former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2001.
    • Gaza has been the site of a great many disputes between Israel and Hamas. Most recently, the region saw fifty days of violence stretch through July and August of 2014.

    Keep following along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December to see which location will join previous winners.

    Image credit: Old, historical map of the world by Guiljelmo Blaeuw. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    The post Announcing the Place of the Year 2014 shortlist: Vote for your pick appeared first on OUPblog.

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    7. Place of the Year 2014: the longlist, then and now

    As voting continues on the longlist for Place of the Year 2014, we decided to take a look at the past and present of each of the nominees. Check out the images in the slideshow to see, and make sure to vote for your Place of the Year below.

    If you have another ideas for what you think Place of the Year 2014 should be, please post it in the comments section. Keep following along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December to see which location will join previous winners.

    What do you think Place of the Year 2014 should be?

    Featured image credit: The Ortelius World Map by Abraham Ortelius, 1570. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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    8. Ripe for retirement?

    In 1958, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the US ambassador to the United Nations, summarized the role of the world organization: “The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace.  Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous.”  Some 30 years later another ambassador expressed a different view. “In the developing countries the United Nations… means environmental sanitation, agricultural production, telecommunications, the fight against illiteracy, the great struggle against poverty, ignorance and disease,” remarked Miguel Albornoz of Ecuador in 1985.

    These two citations sum up the basic dilemma of the United Nations.  It has always been burdened by high expectations: to keep peace, fix economic injustices, improve educational standards and combat various epidemics and pandemics. But inflated hopes have been tempered by harsh realities. There may not have been a World War III but neither has there been a day’s worth of peace on this quarrelsome globe since 1945. Despite all the efforts of the various UN Agencies (such as the United Nations Development Programme) and related organizations (like the World Bank), there exists a ‘bottom billion’ that survives on less than one dollar a day. The average lifespan in some countries barely exceeds thirty. According to UNESCO 774 million adults around the world lacked basic literacy skills in 2011.

    Given such a seemingly dismal record, it is worth asking whether the UN has outlived its usefulness. After all, the organization turns 69 today (October 24th, 2014), a time when many citizens in the industrialized world exchange the stress of daily jobs for leisurely early retirement. Has the UN not had enough of a chance to keep peace and fix the world’s problems? Isn’t the obvious conclusion that the organization is a failure and the earlier it is scrapped the better?

    The answer is no.  The UN may not have made the world a perfect place but it has improved it immensely. The UN provides no definite guarantees of peace but it has been – and remains – instrumental for pacifying conflicts and enabling mediation between adversaries. Its humanitarian work is indispensable and saves lives every day. In simple terms: if the UN – or the various subsidiary organization that make up the UN – suddenly disappeared, lives would be lost and livelihoods would be endangered.

    Henry Cabot, Jr. By Harris & Ewing. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

    In fact, the real question is not whether the UN has outlived its usefulness, but how can the UN perform better in addressing the many tasks it has been charged with?

    The answer is twofold. First, the UN needs to be empowered to do what it does best. Today, for example, one of the most pressing global challenges is the potential spread of the Ebola virus. Driven by irrational fear, politicians in a number of countries suggest closing borders in order to safeguard their populations. But the only realistic way of addressing a virus that does not know national borders is surely international collaboration. In practical terms this means additional support for the World Health Organization (WHO), the only truly global organization equipped to deal with infectious diseases. But the WHO, much like the UN itself, is essentially a shoestring operation with a global mandate. Its budget in 2013 was just under 4 billion dollars. The US military spent that amount of money in two days.

    Second, the UN must become better at ‘selling’ itself. Too much of what the UN and its specialized agencies do around the world is simply covered in fog. What about child survival and development (UNESCO)? Environmental protection (UNEP) and alleviation of poverty (UNDP)? Peaceful uses of atomic energy (IAEA)? Why do we hear so little about the UN’s (or the International Labour Organization’s) role in improving workers’ rights? Does anyone know that the UNHCR has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice (out of a total of 11 Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to the UN, its specialized agencies, related agencies, and staff)? It’s not a bad CV!

    We tend to hear, ad nauseam, that the 21st century is a globalized one, filled with global problems but apparently lacking in global solutions. What we tend to forget is the simple fact that there exists an organization that has been addressing such global challenges – with limited resources and without fanfare – for almost seven decades.

    Indeed, it seems that in today’s world the UN is more relevant than ever before. At 69 it is certainly not ripe for retirement.

     Featured image credit: United Nations Flags, by Tom Page. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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    9. Place of the Year 2014: behind the longlist

    Voting for the 2014 Atlas Place of the Year is now underway. However, you still be curious about the nominees. What makes them so special? Each year, we put the spotlight on the top locations in the world that make us go, “wow”. For good or for bad, this year’s longlist is quite the round-up.

    Just hover over the place-markers on the map to learn a bit more about this year’s nominations.

    Make sure to vote for your Place of the Year below. If you have another Place of the Year that you would like to nominate, we’d love to know about it in the comments section. Follow along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December.What do you think Place of the Year 2014 should be?


    Image Credits: Ferguson: “Cops Kill Kids”. Photo by Shawn Semmler. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Liberia: Ebola Virus Particles. Photo by NIAID. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Ukraine: Euromaiden in Kiev 2014-02-19 10-22. Photo by Amakuha. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Colorado: Grow House 105. Photo by Coleen Whitfield. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Nauru: In front of the Menen. Photo by Sean Kelleher. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Sochi: Olympic Park Flags (2). Photo by american_rugbler. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Mount Sinjar: Sinjar Karst. Photo by Cpl. Dean Davis. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Gaza: The home of the Kware family after it was bombed by the military. Photo by B’Tselem. CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Scotland: Vandalised no thanks sign. Photo by kay roxby. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Brazil: World Cup stuff, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (15). Photo by Jorge in Brazil. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

    Heading image: Old Globe by Petar Milošević. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    10. Announcing Place of the Year 2014 longlist: Vote for your pick

    With the end of 2014 approaching and the publication of the 21st edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World, we’re considering the most noteworthy places from the past year with our annual Place of the Year (POTY) campaign.

    We’ve compiled a long list of ten places that stood out to us in 2014, and you can vote for your favorite below. Additionally, we’d love to receive nominations that are not included on this long list, and those can be submitted via the comments section. Follow along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December.


    What do you think Place of the Year 2014 should be?

    As can be seen in the video we put together of a few  of our past winners, Places of the Year have been as geographically varied as Warming Island and Mars, so feel free to be as imaginative as you’d like with your nominations. We will post the short list on November 3, and the Place of the Year 2014 will be announced on December 1. In the interim, be on the lookout for more information on this year’s nominees as well as past winners with maps, videos, and more.

    Image credit: World map made with natural earth data, Eckert 4 projection, central meridian 10° east. CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    11. What is the role of governments in climate change adaptation?

    By Kai A. Konrad and Marcel Thum


    Adaptation to climate change is currently high on the agenda of EU bureaucrats exploring the regulatory scope of the topic. Climate change may potentially bring about changes in the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, flooding or thunder storms, which in turn may require adaptation to changes in our living conditions. Adaptation to these conditions cannot stop climate change, but it can reduce the cost of climate change. Building dikes protects the landscape from an increase in sea level. New vaccines protect the population from diseases that may spread due to the change in the climate. Leading politicians, the media and prominent interest groups call for more efforts in adaptation.

    But who should be in charge? Do governments have to play a leading role in adaptation? Will firms and households make the right choices? Or do governments have to intervene to correct insufficient or false adaptation choices? If intervention is necessary, will the policy have to be decided on a local level or on a national or even supranational (EU) level? In a recent article we review the main arguments for government intervention in climate change adaptation. Overall, we find that the role of the state in adaptation policy is limited.

    In many cases, adaptation decisions can be left to private individuals or firms. This is true if private sector decision-makers both bear the cost and enjoy the benefits of their own decisions. Superior insulation of buildings is a good example. It shields the occupants of a building from extreme temperatures during cold winters and hot summers. The occupants – and only the occupants – benefit from the improved insulation. They also bear the costs of the new insulation. If the benefit exceeds the cost, they will invest in the superior insulation. If it does not pay off, they will refrain from the adaptation measure (and they should do so from an efficiency point of view). There is no need for government intervention in the form of building regulation or rehabilitation programmes.

    In some other cases, adaptation affects an entire community as in the case of dikes. A single household will hardly be able – nor have the incentive – to build a dike of the appropriate size. But the local municipality can and should be able to so. All inhabitants of the municipality can share the costs and appropriate the benefit from flood protection. The decision on the dike could be made on the state level if not at the municipal level. The local population will probably have a long-standing experience and superior knowledge about the flood events and its potential damages. The subsidiarity principle, which is a major principle of policy task assignment in the European Union, suggests that the decisions should be made on the most decentralized level for which there are no major externalities between the decision-makers. In the case of the dike, the appropriate level for the adaptation measure would be the municipality. Again there is no need for intervention from upper-level governments.

    floods

    So what role is left for the upper echelons of government in climate change adaptation? Firstly, the government has to help in improving our knowledge. Information about climate change and information about technical adaptation measures are typical public goods: the cost of generating the information has to be incurred once, whereas the information can be used at no additional cost. Without government intervention, too little information would be generated. Therefore, financing basic research in this area is one of the fundamental tasks for a central government.

    Secondly, the government has to provide the regulatory framework for insurance markets. The economic consequences of natural disasters can be cushioned through insurance markets. However, the incentives to buy insurance are insufficient for several reasons. For instance, whenever a major disaster threatens the economic existence of a larger group of citizens, the government is under social pressure and will typically provide help to all those in need. By anticipating government support in case of a disaster, there is little or no incentive to buy insurance in the market. Why should they pay the premium for private insurance, or invest in self-insurance or self-protection measures if they enjoy a similar amount of free protection from the government? If the government wants to avoid being pressured for disaster relief, it has to make disaster insurance mandatory. And to induce citizens to the appropriate amount of self-protection, insurance premiums have to be differentiated according to local disaster risks.

    Thirdly, fostering growth helps coping with the consequences of climate change and facilitates adaptation. Poor societies and population groups with low levels of education have the highest exposure to climate change, whereas richer societies have the means to cope with the implications of climate change. Hence, economic growth – properly measured – and education should not be dismissed easily as they act as powerful self-insurance devices against the uncertain future challenges of climate change.

    Kai A. Konrad is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance. Marcel Thum is Professor of Economics at TU Dresden and Director of ifo Dresden. They are the authors of the paper ‘The Role of Economic Policy in Climate Change Adaptation’ published in CESifo Economic Studies.

    CESifo Economic Studies publishes provocative, high-quality papers in economics, with a particular focus on policy issues. Papers by leading academics are written for a wide and global audience, including those in government, business, and academia. The journal combines theory and empirical research in a style accessible to economists across all specialisations.

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    Image credit: Flooding, July 2007, by Mat Fascoine. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    12. Countries of the World Cup: Germany

    Today is the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and our highlights about the final four competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. The final two teams, Germany and Argentina, go head-to-head on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.

    Like many of its European neighbors, Germany is a country that loves football, and is one of the most competitive football-playing nations in the world. Attesting to that is their success in the semi-finals in this year’s Cup.  Here are eight interesting facts you might not have known about the country that bruised Brazil’s ego.

    1000px-Flag_of_Germany.svg

    1. Like FIFA host country Brazil, Germany also elected its first female leader in recent years when Angela Merkel became Chancellor in 2005.
    2. In addition to bringing mankind the likes of Albert Einstein and Johan Gutenberg, inventor of the first printing press in Europe, Germany provides 20.6% of the world’s motor vehicles and 17% of our pharmaceuticals.
    3. Uranium was first discovered by a German chemist, Markin Klaproth, in 1789 and boasts the fourth largest industrial output (from mining, manufacturing, construction, and energy) in the world.
    4. Germany had a rough go of things for a while after World War II with its division into East and West factions, as well as the Cold War. The two were reunited on 3 October 1990 and adopted West Germany’s official name, the Federal Republic of Germany.
    5. Deutschland is a leading member of the European Union as well as the 17-member Eurozone, the economic and monetary union of nations that utilize the Euro as their sole form of currency.
    6. In terms of religion, Germany is mostly a Protestant and Roman Catholic country with a representation of 34% of the population.
    7. Although a leading producer of nuclear power (Germany ranks sixth in the world for 4.1% of global production), following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the country has begun phasing out its nuclear power production.
    8. Germany is a primary refugee destination, ranking first in Europe and fourth in the world after Pakistan, Iran, and Syria.

    Oxford’s Atlas of the World — the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.

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    Image credit: Flag of Germany. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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    13. Countries of the World Cup: Netherlands

    As we gear up for the third place finalist match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup today — the Netherlands face the host country Brazil — we’re highlighting some interesting facts about one of the competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. Germany (tomorrow’s country highlight) and Argentina go head-to-head on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.

    The Netherlands, located in the western end of Northern Europe is widely known for its rich Dutch culture. The population is 83% Dutch, with a smaller percentage made up of Indonesian, Turkish, and Moroccan ethnicities. The nation has two official languages: Frisian, spoken mainly by inhabitants of the northern province of Friesland, and Dutch.
    1280px-RotterdamMaasNederland

    The country has a vast history, dating back earlier than the 16th century when it saw a multitude of foreign rulers including the Romans, the Germanic Franks, the French, and the Spanish. After building up a great overseas empire, the Dutch lost control of the seas to England in the 18th century, and were under French control until 1815. After remaining neutral through World War I, and being occupied by Germany in World War II, they went on after the wars to become active in West European affairs.

    In 1957, the Netherlands became a founding member of the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union, and continues to be a leader in industry and commerce. Exports currently account for over 50% of the country’s GDP and include natural gas, machinery and electronic equipment, and chemicals. A highly industrialized country, it is also a major trading nation as it imports many of the materials their industries require.

    With a constitutional monarchy, the Netherlands saw its Queen Beatrix abdicate the thrown in 2013 in favor of her son Prince Willem Alexander. She had served a 33-year reign.

    Oxford’s Atlas of the World — the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.

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    Image credit: A panorama of the Erasmus Bridge and the River Meuse in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Photo by Massimo Catarinella. CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    14. Countries of the World Cup: Argentina

    As we gear up for the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re highlighting some interesting facts about the final four competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. Argentina and the Netherlands battled it out in a semi-final match on Wednesday 9 July; Argentina pulled through after a penalty shootout. The team will go head-to-head with Germany on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.

    Argentina, a two-time World cup winner reached its fifth final when it defeated the Netherlands. The last time it had advanced that far was 24 years ago in 1986. To celebrate their achievement, here are a few facts to think about until then next Cup.

    1280px-002_Buenos_Aires_desde_el_cielo_(Estadio_de_River)

    1. In 2007 Cristina Fernández De Kirchner was the first directly elected woman president in Argentina. She succeeded her late husband, Néstor Carlos Kirchner, who had previously served for four years. She was later reelected in 2011.
    2. The country had a large indigenous population prior to European colonization; however 86% of Argentina’s population is now of European ancestry.
    3. Argentina is South America’s second largest nation after Brazil, and the world’s eighth largest country. It is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world.
    4. Spain took control of Argentina in the 16th century and continued its reign until 1816, when the country won back its independence. Argentina later suffered from instability and periods of military rule.
    5. The World Bank classifies Argentina as an “upper-middle-income” developing country. Its form of currency is the Argentine Peso which is equivalent to 100 centavos.
    6. In 1991, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay set up an alliance, Mercosur, aimed at creating a common market. The agreement’s main purpose is to facilitate free trade.
    7. Roman Catholicism accounts for a whopping 92% of the country’s population (Pope Francis was born and raised there). Protestantism and Judaism tie at a distant second making up 2% each of the population.

    Oxford’s Atlas of the World – the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.

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    Image credit: Buenos Aires desde el cielo (Estadio de River). By Elemaki. CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    15. Countries of the World Cup: Brazil

    As we gear up for the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re highlighting some interesting facts about the final four competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t caught onto World Cup fever, the winner of the World Cup is near! Brazil and Germany faced off on Tuesday, 8 July. The shocking game left Germany the victor, with Argentina and the Netherlands battling it out on Wednesday 9 July. Argentina pulled through after a penalty shootout. The third place finalist will be determined on Saturday, 12 July with the final two teams going head-to-head on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.

    The Federative Republic of Brazil, also known by the spelling Brasil, the world’s fifth largest country with a population of over 199 million, has the honor and distinction of hosting the World Cup this year, a fact that had this fútbol-centric nation even more hyped than usual.

    Brazil World cup

    A large country of over 3 million square miles, the area contains three main regions. Manaus, one of the host cities, has high temperatures all throughout the year. A tropical climate, rainfall is normally heavy, but lucky for players and cheering fans, the weather tends to be a bit drier from June through September.

    Brazil is a leading economy in South America, described as a “rapidly industrializing economy.” You might not know that is the world’s top producers of products including cars, paper, aircrafts, and even materials ranging from diamonds to tin. With coffee as it’s leading export, agriculture employs 16% of the population. A major farming nation, products also include bananas, coca, rice, sugarcane, and maize.

    With the Amazon, the world’s second largest river, in its backyard, forestry is a major industry although the fear that destroying the rainforests can accelerate global warming is a real concern. On a positive environmental note, Brazil is the second highest producer of hydroelectricity in the world, accounting for 12.3% of total world production.

    Politically, the nation sets an example for progress in gender equality, having elected its first female president, Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party, in 2010. It’s government is a Federal Republic, having first declared itself an independent empire in 1822 after originally being claimed by Portugal in 1500. After periods of material rule from the 1930s, civilian rule was restored in 1985 with a new constitution adopted in 1988.

    Oxford’s Atlas of the World – the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.

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    Image credit: Photo by Digo_Souza>, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

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    16. Do immigrant immigration researchers know more?

    By Magdalena Nowicka


    The political controversies over immigration intensify across Europe. Commonly, the arguments centre around its economic costs and benefits, and they reduce the public perception of immigrants to cheap workforce. Yet, increasingly, these workers are highly skilled professionals, international students, and academics. Their presence transforms not only labour markets but also the production of knowledge and, in the end, it changes the way we all perceive immigrants and immigration.

    US American scholars were first to draw attention to how immigrant scholars influence the academic field. The historian of migration Nancy Foner claimed a decade ago that the increasing group of students and faculty who study and work abroad — immigrants to the United States — heavily change the way immigration is perceived in social sciences. Immigrant scholars — according to Herbert J. Gans, a German-born American sociologist — contributed to the paradigm shift in American migration studies, from assimilationist to retentionist approach. They did so, because they were ‘insiders’ to the groups they studied; they were immigrant researchers researching immigrants.

    A century ago, public interest (and funds) fueled studies on immigration by sociologists, demographers, economists and historians. The results of their studies were widely spread by journalists, novelists and mass entertainment industries. Now, budget cuts in higher education, and the increase of impact-seeking funding of the European Union, foster the concern about the societal benefits of social sciences. Paradoxically, the public interest in research on immigrants seems to fall, and academics apparently lose their capability of influencing broad publics and the politics in Europe, the boats on Lampedusa being a symbol of this problem.

    Visa Application

    For scholars who reply to short-term concerns of national public policy, the urgent question is the effectiveness of transfer of knowledge between academic and other systems that is driven by the hope for formulating better policies. Some scholars are yet reluctant to actively participate in public debates because they see their scientific objectivity in danger. The position of those scholars researching immigration who are immigrants themselves is no less ambivalent: they may play the ‘ethnic card’ to secure funding for research and access to people whom they want to study. Financial reasons may compel many to do research in their native country and they also meet the suspicion of fellow academics that tend to suspect they might lack scientific distance and objectivity.

    What societal roles are available for immigrant researchers researching immigrants? Too often we look for answers to this question by tracking the processes of policy decision making, by investigating the “big-P”-politics. We are used to thinking of production of ideas and texts as separate from the impact we think they will have. Yet the way that knowledge is being negotiated during the production of texts is a key to understanding the role migration researchers studying immigrants play for the society.

    Let us imagine a research situation, an interview, which is undoubtedly the most widely applied technique for conducting systematic social inquiry: a researcher typically asks questions and listens carefully to the stories the respondent tells. While one of them may say less and the other more, they interact. Interviews are interactional, and during this situation, both the researcher and the researched subject negotiate the meaning they assign to norms, values, ideas, other people, their behaviour, etc. Let’s assume both parties in this situation are immigrants. From my personal experience as an interviewer and immigrant, I recall multiple research encounters during which my interview partners prompted me to confirm their views: “you surely know, you are also an immigrant” or “you do understand me, you are also from Poland”. They presume that because of our common origin, we have a lot in common, that being an immigrant might bring us together, foster mutual understanding of problems, or even make us share the same norms and values.

    But common origin does not produce ‘common individuals’, and each migration trajectory is different. It matters that I am born in Warsaw in a middle class family, have university education and work as a professor at a German university while my research subjects come from rural areas in Poland, left school early and perform manual jobs in United Kingdom. Each time I ask a question and they answer it, each time I prompt them — seemingly impersonally and in a highly controlled fashion — to continue narrating, my interview partners and I question the latent national and ethnic categories of commonality. Unintentionally, in the course of such research encounter, when confronted with misunderstandings or incomprehension, we revisit our gendered, ethnic, class, or professional identities.

    For most researchers, such experiences are common and obvious. But they reflect on them in a self-referential fashion, addressing the issue to colleagues subscribing to journals on methodology of qualitative research. They aim at improving the quality of research but the meaning of this self-reflection is deeper and should be communicated to wider audiences.

    It matters that when the researcher is an immigrant herself: it influences the research process, the access to research subjects and funding, and the way results of the studies are interpreted (because the researcher is sympathetic, or empathetic, to particular problems of her respondents). More importantly, immigrant immigration researchers are capable and predisposed to reveal the artificiality of fixed categorisations assigning people to places on the map and positions in social hierarchies. When they do so, they show us a possibility for new, better, modes of societal integration. In countries like Germany that have long been shaped by low-skilled immigration and public discourses around it, there is a minor but growing interest in the perspectives of immigrant researchers. Through stronger engagement in dialogue with wider audiences, the immigrant researchers can accelerate this trend. This much needed change of perspective has a chance of becoming mainstream if immigrant researchers talk about their work and research experiences with more self-confidence.

    Prof. Dr. Magdalena Nowicka is from Humboldt-University in Berlin. She is a co-author of the paper ‘Beyond methodological nationalism in insider research with migrants‘, which appears in the journal Migration Studies.

    Migration Studies is an international refereed journal dedicated to advancing scholarly understanding of the determinants, processes and outcomes of human migration in all its manifestations, and gives priority to work presenting methodological, comparative or theoretical advances.

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    Image credit: Visa application. By VIPDesignUSA, via iStockphoto.

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    17. Where In The World: How One Class Used Google Maps to Explore the Vanishing Cultures Series

    Throughout April, we are exploring how Jan Reynolds’ Vanishing Cultures series can be used in the classroom to teach about the environment, geo-literacy, global citizenship, and nonfiction. Today, we want to share how one school has integrated geo-literacy with digital and visual literacy.

    Michael Willis and the Kaleidoscope Team at Williston Central School in Williston, Vermont helped their 3rd and 4th grade classroom build a map on Google Maps of the cultures featured in the books. Through this project, students were able to investigate topics and themes in the Vanishing Cultures series, practice deriving information from other formats and develop visual literacy skills, and gain rich social studies/ geography content knowledge.

    The Google Maps assignment is an exciting way to engage reluctant or struggling readers, facilitate the participation of visual learners and English Language Learners, or provide an extension opportunity for ready or advanced learners. The 3rd and 4th grade students hope that in addition to deepening their own knowledge about traditional cultures, their project provides useful and valuable information for others.

    From educator, Michael Willis: My 3rd and 4th grade team wanted to get an author in to share their experiences with our young writers.  Ideally we wanted a local person and sure enough Jan Reynolds, who lives in Vermont, was available.  First we hit up our library as well as the others in our area and got our hands on Jan’s Vanishing Cultures series.  We read aloud her books, visited her website, and then Jan came.

    She shared a movie about her work and travels with our whole team in the auditorium and then spent time answering questions in smaller groups.  It was during one of the small presentations that Jan mentioned how great it would be to use Google Maps to highlight her book locations.  I thought it would be a great project for our students, and they were motivated to do it by the idea that the project could be shared with other students who read Jan’s books.

    We used Google Maps to plot out where in the world Jan’s Vanishing Cultures books take place, and put together this map.

    Map

    Williston Central School Google Earth Map for Vanishing Cultures series

    Here’s what the students had to say about the project:

    What was it like doing the Google Earth Project?

    Grace – I thought that it was really fun because we were working with a famous author.  We had to get all of her books and look up where she had been using Google Earth.

    Isabelle – We dropped pins on the locations using the facts and map information on the inside covers of her books.  Doing this project motivated us to have to read her books and learn about the cultures that she visited.  It made me appreciate how lucky we are to have the things we have.

    Logan – The map project was really interesting.  It helped me understand how many different places Jan had been.  I didn’t know that there were cultures vanishing from the Earth.  It made me want to learn more about the cultures.  The books were helpful because she had really been to visit the people, talk to them, and learn how they live.

    Addie – We used the summaries and the content from the books to add a brief description to the pins which marked the places.  This project motivated us because we wanted to help others learn.  It felt special because we were the first ones to do this and actually get published!  Plus, I didn’t even know these cultures existed!

    Myleigh – The motivating part of the project was that I don’t usually get to explore the world. How often do people get to learn about this kind of thing?  It was almost like traveling the world reading Jan’s books.

    What do you think is the purpose of Jan’s books?  What do they help you realize?

    Sean – Her purpose was to teach children about the Vanishing Cultures and what is happening to them.  I think Jan’s message was not that they need our help because they have been surviving for a long time.  She was telling us that we should respect them, their way of life, and to respect their land.  I learned that they are just like everyday people.  To them, I bet we would look like the outsiders.  Everyone has traditions that they do.

    Addie – We are lucky to have so many resources to use.

    Grace – It made me realize how different these cultures are from us

    Isabelle – It also made me realize that we all are not that different.  We may have different stuff and live in different parts of the world, but we all are people.

    Grace – We can help other cultures by protecting the regions where they live

    Addie – We realized that while our cultures are different, we shouldn’t force them to disappear because we all have something to learn from each other.  We could be more conscious of our waste and our pollution and that could help them keep their culture and survive

    Isabelle – I think that it is important to respect different cultures because it’s how they live.  The Celebrations book helped me learn that different cultures celebrate different holidays

    What was it like having Jan visit?

    Myleigh – It was really cool to see Jan’s presentation and to hear her describe her trips first hand.  It really helped me put myself in her shoes and understand what she was going through.  When I was hearing her use such descriptive language it felt like I was right there with her.

    Katrina – I think that since she came it really helped us understand that you should appreciate what you have – even though the people in the other cultures don’t have a lot they still seemed happy.  The people in those cultures work hard to live off the land and work with nature by using their resources. It really helped me learn about cultures that I didn’t know about.

    For more resources on the Vanishing Cultures series, check out:

    How are you using the Vanishing Cultures series in your classroom? Share your thoughts, experiences, and strategies that have worked in your school and community! Post a comment below or email Lee & Low at curriculum@leeandlow.com.

     

     


    Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, children's books, classroom projects, close reading, common core standards, digital literacy, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, environmentalism, geography, geoliteracy, reading comprehension, visual literacy

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    18. Beyond “Did you know…”: Teaching Geo-Literacy Using the Vanishing Cultures Book Series

    JillJill_Eisenberg Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

    Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia

    Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia

    Last week on the blog we spotlighted the work of Jan Reynolds, an author and explorer who has written nonfiction for young readers about cultures across the globe. If we had read the Vanishing Cultures series when I was a classroom teacher, my students would have been competing with each other over who knew the most outrageous fact. Did you know the Tiwi, an aboriginal tribe from an island off the coast of Australia, eat mangrove worms fresh? Did you know the Inuit from the Hudson Bay build rock piles that are stacked to look like men in order to scare caribou toward the real Inuit hunters?

    My students loved to play the “did you know…” game. That became a popular sentence starter in our classroom. Students would scramble for the latest book or periodical on animals, prehistoric times, and exotic locales. The peregrine falcon, megalodon, and the giant panda were unshakable favorites.

    Yet, we don’t want students to know “just facts” as if they are mini-encyclopedias. We aspire for our students to wonder and to investigate how our world works, how we are all connected to our environment and other humans halfway around the globe, and how our actions here affect others way over there.

    The Common Core brings a refreshed spotlight to the nonfiction genre in children’s books, challenging publishers, educators, librarians, and parents to present children with high interest, high quality texts. What a time to engage students’ senses, sustain their wonder, and teach them geo-literacy!

    National Geographic affirms, “with the rapid pace of change in the 21st century, it is more important than ever that young people understand the world around them.” It has adopted the concept of “geo-literacy,” and even gone so far as to create a community to support and cultivate “geo-educators.”

    Vanishing Cultures: Himalaya

    Vanishing Cultures: Himalaya

    Enjoyed in classrooms around the nation, Jan Reynolds’ collection on at-risk traditional cultures is even more significant and striking today than when the series was first published. The persistent popularity of the Vanishing Cultures series speaks to its captivating power to make geo-literacy learning personal and tangible. This collection supports geo-literacy learning because each book challenges students to examine:

    • the characteristics of each culture
    • what makes this featured culture unique
    • how this group of people has adapted to survive in its environment
    • what challenges this group of people faces
    • the modern human impact (positive and negative) on this traditional culture and the environment
    • why the author would want to share this story with children and create a whole series on this topic

    When we educate children about other cultures and geo-literacy more broadly, we are implanting the idea that we learn in order to make better, more informed decisions. Before our students become adults in positions of power, we want them to have practice in pausing and thinking how their choices to construct their community could disturb the environment of another community or animal species.

    The Vanishing Cultures books encourage students to reason and reflect critically and deeply about how humans affect other humans and why we all benefit from diversity. As classrooms around the country can attest, Jan Reynolds’ books will not only spark enthusiasm that we hope ignites into lifelong careers and hobbies, but also conversation on what information we need to make decisions that will shape our and others’ health, environment, and well-being.

    Vanishing Cultures: Down Under

    Vanishing Cultures: Down Under

    Classroom Ideas for Comparing and Contrasting Between Vanishing Cultures Books and Teaching Geo-Literacy

    (Reading Standards, Integration of Knowledge & Ideas, Strand 9)

    (Writing Standards, Research to Build & Present Knowledge, Strand 7 and 9)

    1. How are these cultures similar and different from each other? What actions do these families take in both books to protect their ways of life?
    2. Compare how the challenges of each culture are similar or different.
    3. Compare how the children in each book demonstrate their pride in their culture. Why is it important for the children to feel proud of who they are and their way of life?
    4. What is the author’s purpose in starting each book with the parents telling their child a story from long ago? How does this affect the tone of and set the mood in the series? How does this opening support the central idea?
    5. After reading two or more of the Vanishing Cultures books, what common features or characteristics does a Vanishing Culture book have? If you were to write a book about your family’s culture, what kinds of things happen in a Vanishing Cultures book? What are some things that will not happen in a Vanishing Cultures book? What central ideas and lessons will be in the book?
    6. Have students create a chart to compare different aspects of life across two or more cultures. Write the name of each cultural group being compared on the top of the chart, and list the topics for points of comparison down the left side. Here are some possible topics: Food, Clothing, Climate, Geography, Important Animals, Homes, How Children Help (Chores), Roles of Men & Women, Family Life, How People Have Fun, Beliefs, Means of Transportation, Challenges Faced Today, Celebrations, Honoring Loved Ones. Have students record appropriate information as they read and re-read the texts.
    7. One elementary class created the “Around the World with Jan Reynolds” project on Google Earth. Explore where each of the books takes place. Compare the political map with the satellite map. Reflect on how geography has helped or hurt the survival of these ancient cultures. Students can create their own maps of the different cultures at National Geographic’s MapMaker’s 1-Page Maps.

    Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, common core standards, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, environmentalism, geography, geoliteracy, guided reading, Multiracial, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, vanishing cultures

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    19. There are no words to describe…

    …just how much this kid loves Paddle-to-the-Sea.

    Paddle-to-the-Sea

    “A bumpy line of buildings stretched like castles along the horizon. They were grain elevators at Port Arthur and Fort William filled with mountains of grain which trains had brought from the plains of western Canada. The ships now passing Paddle would carry the grain to other lake ports and other lands…”

    (She decided to draw stalks of wheat to represent the grain. She’s charting Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes in blue.)

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    20. If the World Was a Village

    When the book If the World Was a Village by David J. Smith came out in 2002, I was intrigued.  The author imagined the world as a village of 100 people and then he showed how many would have enough to eat, safe places to live, money to spend and how many would have less.  The book is visually appealing and makes the sharing of the world's resources accessible to young readers.

    A second edition of the book will come out in February, 2014.  Order your copy now!

    Check out David Smith's website, Mapping.com, for lots of free info on geography. 


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    21. African American demography [infographic]

    In celebration of Black History Month, Social Explorer has put together an interactive infographic with statistics from the most recent Census and American Community Survey. Dig into the data to find out about current African American household ownership, employment rates, per capita income, and more demographic information.

    Take a sneak peak below and visit Social Explorer Presents Black History Month for the full, interactive infographic.

    se-blackhistorymonth-PDF_r1-oupblog

    Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change. In addition to its comprehensive data resources, Social Explorer offers features and tools to meet the needs of demography experts and novices alike. From research libraries to classrooms to government agencies to corporations to the front page of the New York Times, Social Explorer helps the public engage with society and science.

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    22. Non-Fiction Monday: My Pop Up City Atlas by Jonathan Litton and Stephen Waterhouse

    pop up atlas 1The adage “Books can take you anywhere” is beautifully exemplified by My Pop-Up City Atlas by Jonathan Litton (@JonathanLitton) and Stephen Waterhouse (@SWIllustrator), a thrilling, whistle-stop tour through 70 cities around the world.

    Using pop-ups and a whole host of paper-engineering whizzery to bring to life exotically coloured urban scenes from cities both well known and surprising, this book has given us the dream ticket to travel the globe from the comfort of our sofa and duvets.

    city2

    This book is no long, dry list of capital cities. In fact, it places locations together by type, creating interesting juxtapositions and taking you travelling via unexpected routes. For example you could travel London-Athens-Luxor-Xi’an-Dawson City (a historical cities tour), or Vatican City-Mecca-Varanasi-Salt Lake City (a religious cities tour). Perhaps Helsinki-San Fransico-Honolulu-Sydney-Cape Town (a coastal cities tour) is more your cup-of-tea. By grouping cities together by type the book explores answers to a question posed on its opening page, “Why do people live in cities?”, and what could have been a boring list of facts instead becomes a story with options and opportunities.

    The 3-D city scapes are great fun, with lots of illustrative details partially hidden underneath and beside so that the views of the city are rich from which ever angle you look. We’ve enjoyed looking for photos which show the same city and seeing how closely the illustrations match real life; indeed I think the publishers, Templar, have missed a trick here in that they could have made this an internet-linked book (a little like many of Usborne’s non-fiction) as the facts and images have definitely left us hungry to find out more, amazed and intrigued by the facts and vistas inside this book’s covers.

    city1

    “Further reading” (online or in a suggested bibligraphy) could also have provided background to the various statements throughout the book which are stripped of any (in its broadest sense) political commentary; mention is made of the Aral Sea and how it has shrunk but the causes of this change are not even hinted at. Likewise it is noted that the Dalai Lama used to live in Lhasa without any indication of why this is no longer the case. Some (adult) readers may feel it is better to leave such things out, but I believe facts work best when they are contextualised and linked to a bigger narrative – precisely why I think the themed grouping of cities works so well in this book.

    A well produced, engagingly presented, and exciting book, My Pop-Up City Atlas will make young readers curious and no-doubt spark some wanderlust, quite possibly in their parents as well!

    There’s an interesting interview with the book’s illustrator, Stephen Waterhouse here, on Illustration Cloud.

    After reading My Pop-Up City Atlas we too wanted our own city to pop up at home and decided the best way to go about this was to use building blocks. But to give things a twist we first put our plain wooden blocks in the oven!

    citybuilding1

    Once warm (about 10 minutes at 160C, starting from a cold oven), we illustrated our blocks with wax crayons, drawing windows, doors and other architectural features.

    citybuilding2

    The warmth of the wooden blocks made the wax melt ever so slightly, creating a lovely feeling when colouring the blocks, and also an interesting effect with the oily wax melting slightly into the wood. Whilst the blocks were warm, it was easy to work them simply by holding them in a dishcloth. If they cooled too much in the time it took for us to decorate them, we just put them back in the oven for a couple of minutes.

    citybuilding3

    Once our set of blocks was fully decorated, we laid down roads on the kitchen table, using masking tape…

    citybuilding4

    And then it was time to start building architectural gems!

    citybuilding5

    In no time at all an entire customised city had popped up in our kitchen. We used wooden blocks we already had (you quite often see them in charity shops), but I did order some more interesting shaped wooden pieces from Woodworks Craft Supplies (who also supply lovely wooden peg doll blanks).

    Whilst decorating our blocks and building our city we listened to:

  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants (YouTube link)
  • Barcelona by Freddie Mercury (YouTube link)
  • Vienna by Ultravox (YouTube link)
  • London Calling by The Clash (YouTube link)
  • New York, New York by Frank Sinatra (YouTube link)
  • Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley (YouTube link)
  • Rotterdam or Anywhere” by The Beautiful South (YouTube link)
  • Jackson by Johnny Cash & June Carter (YouTube link)
  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading My Pop-Up City Atlas include:

  • Building your own city online. Here’s such an activity from the BBC on the Cbeebies website, whilst this site enables you to build a city and practise lots of maths skills at the same time .
  • Taking part in the Future City Competition (US only, unfortunately), a great cross-curriculum hands-on activity by the looks of it.
  • Creating an outdoor play city with bricks (here’s how we did it), creating a linocut city or paper city (here’s how we did it), or reading a range of picture books which focus on urbanisation (here’s my curated list of urban lanscapes over time in picture books).

  • What books and songs about cities do you and your family love?


    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of My Pop-Up City Atlas from the publishers.

    nonfiction.mondayEvery Monday is a celebration of all things non-fiction in the online children’s book world. If you’d like to read more reviews of children’s non-fiction books, do take a look at the dedicated children’s non-fiction blog: http://nonfictionmonday.wordpress.com/

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    23. Ice time

    vsi banner

    By Jamie Woodward


    On 23 September 1840 the wonderfully eccentric Oxford geologist William Buckland (1784–1856) and the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz (1809–1873) left Glasgow by stagecoach on a tour of the Scottish Highlands. The old postcard below provides a charming hint of what their horse-drawn jaunt through a tranquil Scottish landscape might have been like in the autumn of 1840. It shows the narrow highway snaking through a rock-strewn Hell’s Glen not far from Loch Fyne. This was the first glacial fieldtrip in Britain. These geological giants were searching for signs of glacial action in the mountains of Scotland and they were not disappointed.

    iceage

    Image from edinphoto.org.uk. Used with permission.

    This tour was an especially important milestone in the history of geology because, for the first time, the work of ancient glaciers was reported in a country where glaciers were absent. Agassiz wasted no time in communicating these findings to the geological establishment. The following is an extract from his famous letter that was published in The Scotsman on 7 October 1840 and in The Manchester Guardian a week later:

    “… at the foot of Ben Nevis, and in the principal valleys, I discovered the most distinct morains and polished rocky surfaces, just as in the valleys of the Swiss Alps, in the region of existing glaciers ; so that the existence of glaciers in Scotland at earlier periods can no longer be doubted.”

    These discoveries initiated new debates about climate change and the extent to which the actions of glaciers had been important in shaping the British landscape. These arguments continued for the rest of the century. In 1840 Buckland and Agassiz had no means of establishing the age of the glaciation because the scientific dating of landscapes and geological deposits only became possible in the next century. They could only state that glaciers had existed at “earlier periods”.

    At the end of the previous century, in his Theory of the Earth (1795), Scotsman James Hutton became the first British geologist to suggest that the glaciers of the Alps had once been much more extensive. He set out his ideas on the power of glaciers and proposed that the great granite blocks strewn across the foothills of the Jura had been dumped there by glaciers. This was several decades before Agassiz put forward his own grand glacial theory. Hutton did not speculate about the possibility of glaciers having once been present in the mountains of his homeland.

    Following the widespread use of radiocarbon dating in the decades after the Second World War, it was established that the last Scottish glaciers disappeared about 11,000 years ago at the close of the last glacial period. Many of the cirques of upland Britain are now occupied by lakes and peat bogs which began to form soon after the ice disappeared. By radiocarbon dating the oldest organic deposits in these basins, it was possible to establish a minimum age for the last phase of glaciation. A good deal of this work was carried out by Brian Sissons at the University of Edinburgh who published The Evolution of Scotland’s Scenery in 1967.

    Geologists now have an array of scientific dating methods to construct timescales for the growth and decay of glaciers. The most recent work in some of the high cirques of the Cairngorms led by Martin Kirkbride of Dundee University has argued that small glaciers may have been present in the Highlands of Scotland during the Little Ice Age – perhaps even as recently as the 18th century. These findings are hot off the press — published in January 2014. Kirkbride’s team employed a relatively new geological dating technique that makes use of the build-up of cosmogenic isotopes in boulders and bedrock exposed at the Earth’s surface.

    Photograph from Tarmachan Mountaineering

    Photograph from Tarmachan Mountaineering. Used with permission.

    So in 2014 we have a new interpretation of parts of the glacial landscape and a debate about the climate of the Scottish mountains during The Little Ice Age. This latest chapter in the study of Scottish glaciation puts glacial ice in some of the highest mountains about 11,000 years later than previously thought. The Scottish uplands receive very heavy snowfalls – the superb photograph of the Cairngorms shows this very clearly – and many snow patches survive until late summer. But could small glaciers have formed in these mountains as recently as The Little Ice Age? Some climate models with cooler summers suggest that they could.

    This latest work is controversial and, like the findings of Agassiz and Buckland in 1840, it will be contested in the academic literature. Whatever the outcome of this new glacial debate, it is undoubtedly a delightful notion that only a century or so before Buckland and Agassiz made their famous tour, and when a young James Hutton, the father of modern geology, was beginning to form his ideas about the history of the Earth, a few tiny glaciers may well have been present in his own backyard.

    Jamie Woodward is Professor Physical Geography at The University of Manchester. He has published extensively on landscape change and ice age environments. He is especially interested in the mountain landscapes of the Mediterranean and published The Physical Geography of the Mediterranean for OUP in 2009. He is the author of The Ice Age: A Very Short Introduction. He tweets @Jamie_Woodward_ providing a colourful digital companion to The Ice Age VSI.

    Jamie Woodward will be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival on Saturday 29 March 2014 at 1:15 p.m. in the Blackwell’s Marquee to provide a very short introduction to The Ice Age. The event is free to attend.

    The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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    Image credits: (1) With permission from edinphoto.org.uk (2) With permission from Tarmachan Mountaineering

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    24. What does the economic future hold for Spain?

    By William Chislett


    The good news is that Spain has finally come out of a five-year recession that was triggered by the bursting of its property bubble. The bad news is that the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at a whopping 26%, double the European Union average.

    The scale of the property madness was such that in 2006 the number of housing starts (762,214) was more than that of Germany, France, and Italy combined. This sector, to borrow the title of a novel by Gabriel García Márquez, was a Chronicle of a Death Foretold. There are still an estimated more than one million new and second hand unsold homes.

    The excessive concentration on the property sector, as the motor of an economy that boomed for a decade, created a lopsided economic model and fertile ground for corruption. When the sector crashed as of 2008 and house prices plummeted, 1.7 million people lost their jobs in construction out of a total of 3.7 million job losses in the last six years, households were left with mortgages they could not pay and property development companies unable to service their bank loans. This, in turn, severely weakened parts of the banking system which had to be rescued by the European Stability Mechanism with a €42 billion bailout programme. Spain exited the bail-out in January, but bad loans still account for more than 13% of total credit, up from a mere 0.7% in 2006.

    Spain has emerged from recession thanks largely to an impressive export performance, achieved through an “internal devaluation” (lower unit labour costs stemming from wage cuts or a wage freeze and higher productivity). As a euro country, Spain cannot devalue. Merchandise exports rose from €160 billion in 2009 to €234 billion in 2013, an increase equivalent to more than 7% of GDP. This growth has been faster than the pace of powerhouse Germany, albeit from a smaller base. Exports of goods and services rose from 27% of GDP in 2007 to around 35% last year. The surge in exports combined with the drop in imports and a record year for tourism, with 60 million visitors, turned around the current account, which was in surplus for the first time in 27 years. In 2007, the current account recorded a deficit of 10%, the highest in relative terms among developed countries.

    Unemployment is the most pressing problem. The depth of the jobs’ crisis is such that Spain, which represents 11% of the euro zone’s economy and has a population of 47 million, has almost 6 million unemployed (around one-third of the zone’s total jobless), whereas Germany (population 82 million and 30% of the GDP) has only 2.8 million jobless (15% of the zone’s total). Germany’s jobless rate is at its lowest since the country’s reunification, while Spain’s is at its highest level ever.

    Mariano Rajoy

    Young Spanish adults, particularly the better qualified, are increasingly moving abroad in search of a job, though not in the scale suggested by the Spanish media which gives the impression there is a massive exodus and brain drain. One thing is the large flow of those who go abroad, especially to Germany, and return after a couple of months; another the permanent stock of Spaniards abroad (those who stay beyond a certain amount of time), which is surprisingly small. According to research conducted by the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain’s main think tank, between January 2009 and January 2013, the worst years of Spain’s recession, the stock of Spaniards who resided abroad increased in net terms by a mere 40,000, which is less than 0.1% of Spain’s population, to 1.9 million. These figures are based on official Spanish statistics cross-checked with data in the countries where Spaniards reside. The number of Spaniards living abroad is less than one-third the size of Spain’s foreign-born population of 6.4 million (13.2% of the total population). Immigrants in Spain are returning to their country of origin, particularly Latin Americans.

    Spain’s crisis has also resulted in a long overdue crackdown on corruption. There are around 800 cases under investigation, most of them involving politicians and their business associates. Spain was ranked 40th out of 177 countries in the 2013 corruption perceptions ranking by the Berlin-based Transparency International, down from 30th place in 2012. Its score of 59 was six points lower. The nearer to 100, the cleaner the country. Spain was the second-biggest loser of points, and only topped by war-torn Syria. The country is in for a long haul.

    William Chislett, the author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know, is a journalist who has lived in Madrid since 1986. He will be talking on his book at the Oxford Literary Festival on 29 March. He covered Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London and was later the Mexico correspondent for the Financial Times (1978-84). He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, which has published three books of his on the country, and he has a weekly column in the online newspaper El Imparcial. He has previously written on Spanish unemployment and Gibraltar for the OUPblog.

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    Image credits: (1) Spanish Falg By Iker Parriza. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (2) Mariano Rajoy By Gilad Rom. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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    25. In memoriam: Harm de Blij

    Oxford University Press is saddened to hear of the passing of Harm de Blij on Thursday, 27 March 2014. De Blij was a giant in geography and had an illustrious career as a teacher, researcher, writer, public speaker, and TV personality. He was passionate, and one of those people who brought out the best in those around him.

    “I know that was certainly true for me,” noted Dan Kaveney, Executive Editor-Higher Education. “When I was with Harm I always felt like a better and more capable person than I am. I worked just a little bit harder and more carefully to live up to his standard, and feel very fortunate to have had him as a colleague and a friend.”

    “Harm was one of the most upbeat misanthropes I have ever known, and I’m very glad that I did,” added Tim Bent, OUP’s Executive Trade Editor. “He was in my office once and spotted the Longerich biography of Heinrich Himmler on a shelf. De Blij said that he had been out walking with his father in the Hague one day in 1943 and that they had seen Himmler drive by in his staff car; Himmler apparently was visiting the former homes of deported Jews and picking out art to steal. Harm always knew how to lend personal and historical depth to his geography.”

    Former OUP Editor Ben Keene remarked, “Harm was one of my favorite authors to work with at OUP and in fact the first that I managed on my own, many years ago. I learned so much from him and still remember our first lunch when he ordered steak with a glass of red wine and asked the waitress to hold the green beans.”

    Harm de Blij was the John A. Hannah Professor of Geography at Michigan State University. He authored 30 books, including Why Geography Matters, The Power of Place, and Physical Geography.

    Harm de Blij
    1935 – 2014

    deBlijHarm4

    Image courtesy of deblij.net

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