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Friedrich Ratzel

Friedrich Ratzel (August 30, 1844 August 9, 1904) In 1886, he accepted an appointment at Leipzig Univer-
was a German geographer and ethnographer, notable for sity. His lectures were widely attended, notably by the
rst using the term Lebensraum (living space) in the inuential American geographer Ellen Churchill Semple.
sense that the National Socialists later would. Ratzel produced the foundations of human geography in
his two-volume Anthropogeographie in 1882 and 1891.
This work was misinterpreted by many of his students,
creating a number of environmental determinists. He
1 Life published his work on political geography, Politische Ge-
ographie, in 1897. It was in this work that Ratzel in-
Ratzels father was the head of the household sta of the troduced concepts that contributed to Lebensraum and
Grand Duke of Baden. He attended high school in Karl- Social Darwinism. His three volume work The History
sruhe for six years before being apprenticed at age 15 to of Mankind[1] was published in English in 1896 and con-
apothecaries . In 1863, he went to Rapperswil on the tained over 1100 excellent engravings and remarkable
Lake of Zurich, Switzerland, where he began to study the chromolithography.
classics. After a further year as an apothecary at Moers
Ratzel continued his work at Leipzig until his sudden
near Krefeld in the Ruhr area (18651866), he spent a
death on August 9, 1904 in Ammerland, Germany.
short time at the high school in Karlsruhe and became
Ratzel, a scholar of versatile academic interest, was
a student of zoology at the universities of Heidelberg,
a staunch German. During the outbreak of Franco-
Jena and Berlin, nishing in 1868. He studied zoology in
Prussian war in 1870, he joined the Prussian army and
1869, publishing Sein und Werden der organischen Welt
was wounded twice during the war.
on Darwin.
After the completion of his schooling, Ratzel began a
period of travels that saw him transform from zoolo- 2 Writings
gist/biologist to geographer. He began eld work in the
Mediterranean, writing letters of his experiences. These
letters led to a job as a traveling reporter for the Klnische Inuenced by thinkers like Darwin and zoologist Ernst
Zeitung (Cologne Journal), which provided him the Heinrich Haeckel, he published several papers. Among
means for further travel. Ratzel embarked on several ex- them is the essay Lebensraum (1901) concerning
peditions, the lengthiest and most important being his biogeography, creating a foundation for the uniquely Ger-
1874-1875 trip to North America, Cuba, and Mexico. man variant of geopolitics: Geopolitik.
This trip was a turning point in Ratzels career. He stud- Ratzels writings coincided with the growth of German in-
ied the inuence of people of German origin in America, dustrialism after the Franco-Prussian war and the subse-
especially in the Midwest, as well as other ethnic groups quent search for markets that brought it into competition
in North America. with Britain. His writings served as welcome justica-
tion for imperial expansion. Inuenced by the American
He produced a written work of his account in 1876,
Stdte-und Kulturbilder aus Nordamerika (Prole of geostrategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, Ratzel wrote of aspi-
Cities and Cultures in North America), which would rations for German naval reach, agreeing that sea power
help establish the eld of cultural geography. Accord- was self-sustaining, as the prot from trade would pay for
ing to Ratzel, cities are the best place to study people be- the merchant marine, unlike land power.
cause life is blended, compressed, and accelerated in Ratzels key contribution to geopolitik was the expan-
cities, and they bring out the greatest, best, most typ- sion on the biological conception of geography, without
ical aspects of people. Ratzel had traveled to cities a static conception of borders. States are instead organic
such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and growing, with borders representing only a temporary
Richmond, Charleston, New Orleans, and San Francisco. stop in their movement. It is not the state proper that is
Upon his return in 1875, Ratzel became a lecturer in the organism, but the land in its spiritual bond with the
geography at the Technical High School in Munich. In people who draw sustenance from it. The expanse of a
1876, he was promoted to assistant professor, then rose to states borders is a reection of the health of the nation.
full professor in 1880. While at Munich, Ratzel produced Ratzels idea of Raum (space) would grow out of his
several books and established his career as an academic. organic state conception. This early concept of leben-


sraum was not political or economic, but spiritual and 6 References

racial nationalist expansion. The Raum-motiv is a his-
torically driving force, pushing peoples with great Kul- [1] The History of Mankind by Professor Friedrich Ratzel,
tur to naturally expand. Space, for Ratzel, was a vague MacMillan and Co., Ltd., published 1896
concept, theoretically unbounded. Raum was dened by
where German peoples live, where other weaker states
could serve to support German peoples economically, 7 Sources
and where German culture could fertilize other cultures.
However, it ought to be noted that Ratzels concept of
Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds.
raum was not overtly aggressive, but theorized simply as
(1905). "Ratzel, Friedrich". New International En-
the natural expansion of strong states into areas controlled
cyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
by weaker states.
The book for which Ratzel is acknowledged all over the
world is 'Anthropogeographie'. It was completed be- 8 Further reading
tween 1872 and 1899. The main focus of this monumen-
tal work is on the eects of dierent physical features
Dorpalen, Andreas. The World of General
and locations on the style and life of the people.
Haushofer. Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., New York:

3 Quotations Martin, Georey J. and Preston E. James. All Pos-

sible Worlds. New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc:
A philosophy of the history of the human race,
worthy of its name, must begin with the heavens and Mattern, Johannes. Geopolitik: Doctrine of National
descend to the earth, must be charged with the con- Self-Suciency and Empire. The Johns Hopkins
viction that all existence is onea single conception Press, Baltimore: 1942.
sustained from beginning to end upon one identical
law. Wanklyn, Harriet. Friedrich Ratzel, a Biographical
Memoir and Bibliography. Cambridge, Cambridge
Culture grows in places that can adequately support University Press: 1961.
dense labor populations.

9 External links
4 Writings
German Wikisource has original text related to this
Other notable writings besides those mentioned above article: Friedrich Ratzel (German)

Wandertage eines Naturforschers (Days of wander-

ing of a student of nature, 187374)

Vorgeschichte des europischen Menschen (Prehis-

tory of Europeans, 1875)

Die Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (The

United States of North America, 187880)

Die Erde, in 24 Vortrgen (The Earth in 24 lectures,


Vlkerkunde (Information on peoples, 1895)

Die Erde und das Leben (The Earth and life, 1902)

5 See also
Carl Ritter

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