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August Meitzen (1822 – 1910) was a German geographer widely acknowledged as the founder of rural settlement geography. Meitzen was the Prussian special commissioner for land consolidation, concerned with redrawing property lines so as to reduce farm fragmentation.
In this capacity, he traveled over much of the German countryside, becoming familiar with the agarian landscape. Not content to study only the field and cadastral patterns, he also gave detailed consideration to village types and folk architecture.
He attended the first annual national meeting of German geographers in 1881 and read a paper on rural house types. Not an academician, Meitzen was nevertheless named honorary professor at the University of Berlin for many years.
His classic work, which provided a scholarly foundation for the study of agricultural landscapes, was published in four volumes in 1895. This work’s English title is Settlement and Agrarian Character of the West and East Germans, of the Celts, Romans, Finns, and Slavs.
Meitzen, more than any other scholar, was responsible for introducing the theme of cultural landscape into geography, and it was he who first proposed that landscape, particularly the relic forms, possessed diagnostic potential.