In his classic study, The Geography behind History, W. Gordon East tests the hypothesis that ‘Human thought and action have their springs, not in a spatial vacuum, but in some definite geographical milieu, which defines in varying degrees the character and orbit of human effort’. Using a variety of historical trends and incidents as evidence, he concludes that the physical elements of geography, which are here termed 'physiography', have exerted a significant influence on human behaviour throughout history. The basic purpose of this thesis is to provide a more detailed test of East's hypothesis, by undertaking a case study of the influence of physiography on the distribution, structure and content of agricultural education in Queensland between 1874 and 1905.
In this introduction, definitions of some key terms are first provided. The historical, and often very heated, controversy concerning the concept of physiographic determinism is then examined. This debate forms a necessary theoretical background, though it is emphasized that the thesis is concerned with the influence of physiography on human behaviour, not with the much more vexed question of ultimate control or determination. In the next section, a theoretical background for the study is proposed. Finally, a brief outline of the argument of the thesis through the various chapters is undertaken.