Atlases & Almanacs as Sources of Geographic Information

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  • 0:04 What Are Atlases & Almanacs?
  • 0:52 Different Types of Atlases
  • 1:55 Using Almanacs
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Just like any other profession, geographers have specialized tools to help them. While they also rely on technologies like satellite imagery and advanced surveying tools, many geographers also use almanacs and atlases in their daily work.

What Are Atlases & Almanacs?

Every field has its specialized tools, and geography is no exception. Sure, you may not be using a calculator as much as if you were an engineer or a chisel as much if you were a sculptor, but that doesn't mean that you're left without help. Instead, while studying geography, you have two different important resources that are of great utility: atlases and almanacs. The use of an atlas is fairly obvious to a geographer. After all, there are collections of various maps, ranging from road atlases to topographical atlases. Since much of geography deals with physical terrain, having a group of maps to help with that is obviously very important. But what about almanacs? If you're like a lot of people when they hear that word, you probably think of a bunch of old men around a country general store when you hear the word 'almanac.' However, these books are so much more than a guide to the best fishing and planting days.

Different Types of Atlases

Several different types of atlases exist, to go along with the several types of maps that atlases contain. For most non-specialists, the most ubiquitous is the road atlas, which shows different roads and streets through a given region. However, these can be useful to geographers as well, as they show settlement patterns, population behaviors, and population densities. However, while the average weekend warrior may stop at using only a road atlas, geographers have many more such books at their disposal.

Political atlases, which are collections of maps that show the status of boundary lines between states and other political jurisdictions, help answer crucial questions as well. In fact, competing maps can help to highlight disputes between jurisdictions. However, the maps in an atlas don't have to be the subject of human interaction with the land in order to be useful. In fact, topographical maps, which are maps showing changes in elevation, help geographers determine best routes for civil engineers. In fact, even atlases showing different landforms across a given region can help geographers assisting to plan land-use policy, ranging from urban expansion to additional farmland.

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