Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

R. Way, "A Geography of Spain and Portugal" (Book Review)

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (1963), 40, (2), 119


BRIEFER NOTICES Ruth Way's A Geography of Spain and Portugal (Methuen, London, 1962, xi+362 pp., 42S.), a new volume in Methuen's Advanced Geographies, is the (first full-scale work on the subject to be published in English' but, both as a contribution to the series and to geographical literature, it is very disappointing. The author has followed a standard geographical approach to regional study, systematic chapters on the physical, historical and economic geography of Iberia as a whole being followed by descriptions of its major regions, a pattern leading to some repetition. There are two substantial, but rather unco-ordinated, appendices on Spanish and Portuguese possessions overseas. The book is a useful collection of up-todate facts but much of it, notably in the regional chapters, is of a purely descriptive character and it lacks the discernment and originality of analysis which can be reasonably expected from (twelve years' intensive research into Iberian geography'. More disturbing are the relatively numerous misleading statements and internal inconsistencies. In part, this may be the outcome of infelicity of expression (is the meseta (universally flat' (p.-II)?). In places there seems to be confusion on fundamental points. For example, the mesas of the meseta are attributed to (subaerial denudation under semi-arid conditions' (p. 12) but are later specifically ascribed to (aeolian action' (p. 273); do all the coastal plains of Iberia have a (moderately humid climate' (p. 19)?; did horticulture produce (the bulk of Iberian foodstuffs' in Moslem times (p. 86)? Such lack of precision extends to the maps which are in many respects inadequate. Those accompanying regional chapters. add nothing to what is available in a good atlas; there is much variation in the depiction of relief; most of the earlier maps lack both scale and key. More serious is the over-generalized and inaccurate representation of land utilization (fig. 23) which does not agree with the cross-section shown in fig. 24, nor with the pattern of distribution on maps of such crops as wheat, maize, the vine and the olive. The map of industry is a poor sketch-map lacking detailed data and precise presentation; that of geographical influence on early settlement has a curious (conjectural' "distribution of former woodland. Despite these shortcomings, the book contains a good deal of useful material, though this is too frequently presented in gazetteer fashion (for example, in the accounts of the towns in the various regional chapters and in the chapters on coasts and rivers). The numerous photographs are clear and add materially to an appreciation of the landscapes they illustrate. But the bibliography is inadequate for a book at this level. Is it not extraordinary that there are many references to 119 Copyright (c) 2004 ProQuest Information and Learning Company Copyright (c) Liverpool University Press

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