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Wittfogel, Karl (1896–1988)

  • By: Jessey Gilley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Karl August Wittfogel was a well-known German American historian and a sinologist. Concerned primarily with humanity's relationship with nature, his work influenced geography, anthropology, and urban studies. The environmental historian Donald Worster credits Wittfogel with pointing out that nature was not passive but formed a strong force in shaping the history of humanity. Wittfogel is also known for his early Marxist thought and his later critique of Marxism.

Wittfogel was born in Woltersdorf, Germany, and received his PhD from the University of Frankfurt in 1928. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was an active communist and an avid critic of fascism. When Hitler gained power in Germany in 1933, Wittfogel became a target of the Nazis. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp until international ...

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