Regional Synthesis – Perspectives in Human Geography (UPSC)

In this article, You will read Regional Synthesis – Perspectives in Human Geography for UPSC (Geography Optional).

Regional Synthesis

Regional Synthesis is an advanced form of Areal Differentiation. It was supported by the followers of Areal Differentiation. Regional Synthesis is a part of the process of Areal Differentiation.

As in Areal differentiation, importance is given to the study of the region. In Region Synthesis, importance is given to “process to study region” i.e. it explains how the region should be studied.

The word, ‘synthesis’, means a “complex whole made up of a number of parts unified”.

So the Regional Synthesis means analysis of integration and interrelation of all the phenomenon i.e physio-cultural, socioeconomic and geopolitical; in a region to bring about the real and genuine picture of the region.


  • Region has been defined as “a differentiated segment of Earth’s surface” as advocated by Whittlesey.
  • Region is a dynamic concept, which has been defined differently.
  • It keeps on changing. e.g. Areas such as NCR, Rural areas, Urban areas have changing boundaries
  • Vidal de la Blache calls areas of similar physical and cultural characteristics as pays
    • e.g. Climatic regions such as equatorial regions consisting of the Amazon basin, Congo basin are areas of similar physical characteristics
  • From a wider perspective, it may be defined as “an area that is differentiated from other areas according to specified criteria”
    • e.g. the equatorial region is different from the savannah region or tundra region on the basis of climate and vegetation
    • e.g. Wheat region and rice regions are demarcated on the basis of rainfall, water availability, soil, etc.

Attributes of Region

Herbertson (1905) was the first to divide the earth into major natural regions on the basis of Climate Parameter –

  • Regions have Locations e.g. Wheat Region, Industrial Region, Climatic Regions, etc.
  • Regions have spatial extent e.g. Definite area of a region
  • Regions have boundaries e.g. NCR
  • Regions may be formal or functional
  • Regions are hierarchically arranged
  • Regions have transitional boundaries i.e. No clear demarcation of boundaries
    • e.g. Zone between Equatorial region and Savannah in Africa

Classification of Region

  • Physical Regions
    • Landform regions, climatic regions, air masses, ecosystems, etc
  • Cultural Regions
    • Population regions such as UP,
    • Linguistic regions e.g. Kannada Region,
    • Religious regions e.g. Hindu Hamlets

What is Regional Synthesis?

Regional Synthesis is a method used for regionalization to synthesize means bringing together variables and integrating them into a new coherent picture.

  • For example, per capita income, literacy rate, mortality rate, health facilities are rationally analyzed, synthesized, and integrated to form a region called a backward area
  • The backward area cannot be defined according to a single variable such as literacy or health rather by a synthesis of multiple variables
  • Similarly, language, ethnicity, customs, rituals, religion are synthesized to form a cultural region
  • The development of Regional Synthesis required topical specialism in geography to contribute towards the regional paradigm
  • To study any specific region, it is essential to conduct Regional Synthesis
  • A regional Synthesis is an approach that views geography as a synthetic study of relationships between human society and the environment
    • e.g. During the study of Indo-Gangetic plains, Attributes such as Rainfall, Soil, Topography as well as Culture are taken into consideration
  • It is based on a multi-disciplinary approach and studies the diverse Physical and Cultural phenomenon and their interactions
  • Fenneman propounded that Geography deals with overall interaction between various subjects & gave the circumference of Geography as shown-
regional synthesis fenneman
  • This circumference of Geography contains interactions such as
    • Geology and Physiography/Geomorphology consisting of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Rock types, etc
    • Biology and Bio-Geography consisting of Flora, Fauna, etc
    • Economics and Commercial/Economic Geography consisting of economic resources, industry, trade, etc
  • A multidisciplinary approach is being followed to study any particular region with the attributes of the circumference
  • Regional Synthesis implies that geography is an integration of various sister disciplines like Geology, meteorology, etc
  • All parameters are studied in an integrated way and values are deciphered from sister disciplines of geography

An American Geographer, J.L Berry, explains the regional synthesis through the geographical matrix. In Geographical Matrix, there are three dimensions:

  • 1st: Rows represent attributes
  • 2nd: Columns represent locations
  • 3rd: Time

In this matrix, each cell has a geographical fact.

The following diagram shows the basic features of the Berry geographical matrix of the Delhi Region (in this matrix we considered matura location as part of the Delhi region).

Berry geographical matrix

As per Berry geographical matrix, there are ten approaches to do regional analysis and same are listed below:

  1. Cells within rows show the spatial distributions of geographical features. In the above geographical matrix, the first geographical feature is temperature.
  2. Cells within the column show the localized geographical features. In the above geographical matrix, New Delhi localized regional analysis variables are temperature, rainfall, and humidity.
  3. Spatial variation can be studied by comparing two rows
  4. Areal differentiation can be studied by comparing two column
  5. Study of sub-matrix
  6. Study of spatial variation by comparing the same row through time which is temporal-spatial covariation. Example caparison of the present-day temperature of New Delhi with 100 years ago temperature.
  7. We can get sequence occupancy of a particular location by comparing the same column through time.
  8. Comparing a row with another row across the time dimension
  9. Comparing a column with other columns across the time dimension.
  10. The comparison and study of sub-matrix across the time dimension

Importance of Regional Synthesis is the current time

  • Global temperature rise is not a sudden phenomenon and it is not uniform worldwide. By using regional synthesis analysis one can easily get a trend of temperature rise region-wise.
  • It helps to study of sequence occupance of region
  • Regional Synthesis help to analyze the regional disparity within and with another region by comparing the economic variable across the temporal analysis.

Note on Regional Synthesis/Model Answer

The concept of Geography as a regional synthesis was propounded by Fenneman in 1919, which was further supported by Richard Hartshorne & his disciples as it was a part of Areal Differentiation. According to Hartshorne, Geography is an integrative & synthetic science.

According to the Oxford Human Geography dictionary, the word synthesis means ” a complex whole made of a number of parts unified”.

According to James Cunant, every science is an integrated whole which is the result of interconnection between various concepts, experiments, field surveys, and observation. Geographers are like any other scientist identified not so much by the phenomenon, they study Geography as by the integrating concept and processes they stress.

The concept of regional synthesis is not very old. The American, British and German Geographers did vigorous exercises to define the philosophy, scope, and methodology of geography. The objective of this philosophical concept was to define the subject of geography and to determine its area & scope and to suggest a suitable methodology for geographical research.

The subject matter of Geography, in general, is shared by many sister disciplines like Anthropology for tribal studies, meteorology, geology, ocean sciences, biology, and so on.

Regional Synthesis UPSC

Some geographers argue that the geographers’ task is to study the regions and places with the set objective to explain their peculiarities and to make a synthesis of the new regions.

  • e.g. peculiarities in Equatorial climates such as rainfall, dense vegetation, fauna, etc.
  • e.g. Geologists deal with lithology & rock structure, therefore Geographers focus on Geomorphology.

Similarly, biologists study the plants and animal’s taxonomy while Geographers are concerned with the spatial distribution of Biogeography through maps.

Therefore, Geographers deal with Numerous phenomena at the same time, and the main task is to make a synthesis of a phenomenon where atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere & biosphere converge.

  • e.g. theorists like Koppen used vegetation and precipitation for their climatic classification.

In the same manner, soil classifications are based on humidity and aridity. Geographers deal with an overall interaction of biotic and abiotic phenomena both in space and time observed in the biosphere.

Relevance of Regional Synthesis: Regional Synthesis is one of the dynamic approaches to understand the various dynamic phenomenon associated with physical and human earth which further provides assistance to both demographic and regional planners, geomorphologists, climatologists to synthesize their knowledge for the overall benefit of human society and its prosperity.

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