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Terra incognita: Women on Royal Geographical Society-supported expeditions 1913-1970

Evans, Sarah L.

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Sarah L. Evans


Women’s expeditionary work, in common with women’s geographical work more broadly, has been comparatively understudied within the history of geographical thought and practice, and within the wider discipline, until relatively recently (Domosh 1991a, 1991b; Rose 1993; Maddrell 2009a). This thesis, completed for a Collaborative Doctoral Award between the University of the West of England, and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), charts this terra incognita, and presents a reconstructed historical geography of women’s participation in RGS-supported expeditions between 1913 and 1970, taking as its start date the permanent admission of women to the Fellowship of the RGS. Building on earlier substantive feminist research into women’s historic geographical and expeditionary work (Maddrell, 2009a), it presents a systematic survey of all applications for RGS support during this period, drawing on a range of sources from across the RGS archives and collections. Prior to this doctoral study, this material had not been investigated for this purpose or in great depth, nor was there a complete record of the RGS’s support of expeditionary work during this period: this thesis presents a new and original database which can be used to research these questions.

Drawing on these original findings, and on the extensive literatures around feminist historical geography, feminist epistemologies, the historiography of geographical thought and practice, as well as the recent literature on mobilities, this thesis investigates how women negotiated the networks in, around, and beyond the RGS to gain support for their expeditionary work. In particular, it highlights the importance of women-focused networks and familial-social networks for gaining this support. It also uses their participation in and embodied experiences of RGS-supported expeditions, including their expeditionary (im)mobilities and expeditionary relationships, to complicate existing understandings of expeditions as a male-dominated space, form, and practice of geographical knowledge production, thereby investigating the relationships between gender, subjectivity, and expeditionary knowledge production. Finally, it
considers the dissemination and reception of their expeditionary knowledges within the spaces of the RGS.


Evans, S. L. Terra incognita: Women on Royal Geographical Society-supported expeditions 1913-1970. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Keywords women, Royal Geographical Society, expedition, exploring
Public URL
Award Date May 1, 2015


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