Introduction to part IV

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Social Sciences


Arguably Geographical Information Systems (GIS) originated in the 1960s with the Canadian Land Inventory (CLI) that was designed as a computer system to catalogue and study Canada’s environment. Similarly ESRI, the dominant player in GIS software since the 1970s, started as a not-for-profit environmental consultancy that developed ArcInfo for internal purposes. 1 Environmental research has thus been fundamental to the development of GIS in the mainstream as well as in academic history. The reasons for this are two-fold: first, environmental phenomena are well-suited to a GIS-style data model that combines spatial data, representing where features are, with attribute data that represent what the features are. Second, many of the questions asked in environmental studies tend to be explicitly geographical - why are things happening in these places? Why are they not happening in other places? What else is happening in these places? How did these places change over time?.

Publisher's Statement

© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Ian Gregory, Don DeBats and Don Lafreniere. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315099781

Publication Title

The Routledge Companion to Spatial History