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  A description of a cultural landscape at a particular point in time: in effect, a horizontal \'slice\'. The use of cross-sections as a working methodology in historical geography was popularized by H.C. Darby\'s classic Historical geography of England before  AD1800 (1936), which used \'a sequence of cross-sections taken at successive periods\' to represent \'reconstructions of past geographies\', a device which owed much to Macaulay\'s famous description of the landscape of England in 1685 in his History of England (1849). At the time, Darby subsequently recalled, \'the method of cross-sections [was] hailed as being essentially geographical as opposed to historical\' — largely because it so clearly lent itself to cartographic representation — but drawing such boundaries soon became problematic since, as Darby himself recognized, \'the moment we ask “Why does this landscape look like it does?” that moment we are committed to something more than mere description or mere cross-section\' (see Darby, in Finberg, 1962). Hence in his later compilation, A new historical geography of England (1973), Darby employed an intercalation of cross-section and vertical theme to try to capture stabilities and transformations and to combine description and explanation (see also sequent occupance).

But this pragmatic response raises many more questions than it answers. Darby\'s approach and its derivatives assumed a homogeneous time — and, indeed, treated time as an external system of coordinates such that changes in landscapes at successive points \'in\' time could be organized into a chronological sequence \'authored\' by vertical themes — whereas more recent arguments about the social construction of time (and space) and the co-existence of multiple temporalities within cultural landscapes strongly suggest that the cutting of cross-sections (and the identification of vertical themes) is a much more complex and contentious manoeuvre. At the very least, \'cross-sections\' ought not to be treated as equilibrium states: cultural landscapes contain forms and traces of residual, dominant and emergent processes, so that their interpretation requires a heterogeneous concept of time capable of recovering these different process-domains and their varying scales of operation (see time, geography and). (DG)

References Darby, H.C., ed., 1936: Historical geography of England before  AD 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Darby, H.C., ed., 1973: A new historical geography of England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Finberg, H.P.R., ed., 1962: Approaches to history: a symposium. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Macaulay, T.B. 1849: The history of England from the accession of James II. London: Longman Green.



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