Abstract

The interfaces between disciplines blossom out from time to time as major fields of development, growing at times into subjects in their own right, on other occasions as less formal areas of interdisciplinary activity. At other times these appear to be frontiers rather than interfaces, shunned by all but the colonizers of the pioneer fringe as each of the subjects involved draws in on it self, seeking strength through a focus of activity within the core of its academic field.

At the beginning of the century, the study of geomorphology was developing from an intellectually sound basis in the work of G. K. Gilbert and others who had been able to gain an adequate understanding of landscape development from their exploration of the American west. In addition, at the school and under- graduate level, W. M. Davis devised a clever abstraction of reality which he called the Geographical Cycle. Whatever later abuse may have been heaped on Davis, his approach was timely and effective and aided the creation of an interesting and stimulating subject, widely taught within the curriculum of both geography and geology for perhaps a quarter of a century. For a number of reasons, the study of geomorphology gradually declined in the geology curriculum in the United Kingdom and many countries in Europe, and in geography in the United States. This abandonment of geomorphology has been paralleled by a corresponding decline in the relative significance of the subjects at University level. The connection is unlikely to have been a direct, causal one, but it is suggested that the neglect of geomorphology is one symptom of a general withdrawal from the frontiers of a subject, and that as the discipline becomes more restricted in scope, so its attraction to a wide group of potential students declines. After all, in the United Kingdom the withdrawal from geomorphology has been matched by a neglect of geophysics and by repeated emphasis of the virtues of the central concern of a ‘pure’ geology. In the same way, in the United States, geography lost interest in field evidence as well as turning its back on geomorphology, and sought strength from the core material of cultural landscape and natural region. This neglect of the intellectual ground between geography and geology has been to the disadvantage of the subjects themselves, and has seriously affected progress in geomorphology. Here is a most difficult topic, one in which it is extremely easy to make major errors of interpretation which then persist un- checked for decades. Through neglect by at least one of the adjacent subjects, the number of people that might have been involved in geomorphological research has been cut almost by half. Further, when geomorphology is introduced into teaching or applied in research by those who do not treat it as a main concern, it is often treated superficially and inaccurately, its complexities unrecognised

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