Gerry Kearns has written a review of The Birth of Territory for Society and Space. My sincere thanks to Gerry, and Veronica della Dora, who commissioned the review. The review is available open access, so I won’t quote from it here. It’s a detailed, lengthy and very generous review. Likening it to studies by Clarence Glacken, David N. Livingstone and Derek Gregory is a considerable honour. I won’t pick up on lots of small issues of nuance and complexity in the review, but will clarify one thing that I think is important.
The point is not about land itself, but about understanding territory as land. If we understand territory as land, then I think it is hard to trace the specificity of territory. Territory is much more than land, as I try to show. But territory is obviously related to land, and that I do try to discuss in depth, as Gerry notes. For me then, the two conceptual markers for the inquiry are not ‘land and power’ (as Gerry suggests) but ‘power and place’. I know that these are complicated terms, and I have no wish to reduce those complexities, but we are fortunate in having excellent historical studies of both concepts – by Edward Casey and Michael Mann. I was therefore able to situate my inquiry alongside studies such as those. I think there are clearly related terms to power and place in Greek and Latin thought – I don’t believe there are with territory. With land, I’m less sure – it’s a much more complicated concept than we give it credit for, I think we too quickly collapse it into rent and to my knowledge there is no study comparable to Casey or Mann that interrogates it in depth. (I will go back to the Keith Tribe book noted by Gerry, which I don’t reference in the study.) I’d like to see more work on land – and we also need more on terrain, as Gerry notes. I’m considering doing work on both at some point.
I’m very grateful to Gerry for the review (as I was to Tom Conley yesterday) – authors need other authors to take the time to engage with their work, to point out problems, highlight ambiguities, and point to future directions for work. At their best – as Gerry does at the end – they indicate how books might be used, rather than just read.