QMRG History

In 2005 we started an attempt to document our group history.We had some very useful contributions, and after extensive search of

QMRG History Log

After some hunting through old issues of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Area; QMRG committee structures were traced back to 1969. We certainly have not captured all people who were on the committee over the years, and possibly not got dates quite correct; however, if you see and error or emission, then please email Alex Singleton who compiled the spreadsheet.

You can view the timeline here; or download from github.


Further historical details were also supplied by:

From Dave Martin:

I was a committee member from 1992 to 1994 while Andrew Lovett was secretary/treasurer and Robin Flowerdew was chair; Secretary/Treasurer from 1994 to 1998 while Stewart Fotheringham was chair and Chair from 1998 to 2001 with Nina Bullen as secretary.

Christine Dunn edited the Catmogs for almost the entirety of that time, up until our unsuccessful negotations to get them taken on and published by Sage, which we handed over to the new committee in 2001.

It was when I overlapped as secretary with Robin as chair sometime in the mid 90s that we had the idea for the ‘Methods in Human Geography: a guide for students doing a research project’ text that was first published in 1997 (all proceeds to QMRG) and of which the second edition has appeared this year.

From Dave Unwin:

This is a timely and vaguely interesting venture, well in tune with what I call the current ‘narcissistic tendency’ in writing in UK geography. I wonder if the group can get a formal history assembled in time for Bob Baker et al’s retrospective on the IGU’s role in quantitative modelling for the Brisbane regional meeting next summer?

I was Treasurer/Secretary of the group 1974-1976 when, if memory serves me rightly, Peter Taylor was Chair. I was then Chair from 1976-1979, followed by CATMOG editor from 1979 to 1982. Records were never well kept, and I regret that retirement and maybe five office and two house moves since those days means that I don’t have much by way of documentation to offer. Most of what follows is from an increasingly unreliable memory.

First, I don’t know much about the start of the group, but names that were important as prime movers are Stan Gregory and Barry Garner, perhaps also Brian Robson and Peter Haggett. I know that colleagues at Bristol and Cambridge won’t object if I point out that in the history of ‘quantitative geography’ in UK the so-called ‘Cambridge/Bristol Axis’ was significant, but there was an orthogonal ‘axis’ (for convenience let’s call it ‘London/Manchester’) developed around the quantitative work done by climatologists like Percy Crowe, Stan Gregory and Tony Chandler. I grew up on this second axis. Stan, in particular, was extremely influential both by his book (1963) and his quiet but effective encouragement to all the (then) young Turks. I have no doubt he could provide much of the early detail. Percy Crowe’s name won’t mean much to folk nowadays, but at lot of the early work shows his influence. His review of the Cambridge/Bristol magnum opus ‘Models in Geography’ is a masterpiece of what I believe might now be called ‘deconstruction’.

In my time, the group did several things of which three stand out. First, we had regular, almost pedagogic meetings around specific areas of interest at a frequency of around two a year outside of the annual conference. The notion was that we were all on the same learning curve and so shared experiences freely. I am delighted that this pedagogic tradition seems to have been resuscitated by colleagues in Leeds and elsewhere in some of the recent meetings. One of the most ‘interesting’ of all those I helped organize was joint with the RSS Applied Stochastic Processes Research Organisation (good acronym). It was held in Swansea and some of the big names were present (Besag, Mead, even a young Noel Cressie). Robin Flowerdew is right, they were some aggressive moments, but if you’ve ever attended an RSS meeting, at which this kind of thing is the norm, you’d understand that this was more a clash of cultures than it was of substance.

In those years there weren’t as many Study Groups in IBG as now is the case, ‘quantification’ was fashionable, but GIS hadn’t really been named, so membership was quite high, around 450 I think. Certainly meetings were well attended and I am sure that most will have been reported in the pages of the-then-fledgling magazine ‘Area’.

Second, Peter Taylor drove the development of the CATMOG series, originally suggested in a Newcastle pub during one of the above meetings. Despite the traditional bookshops not liking them, these were a great academic, if not commercial, success and in their time were very influential. Memory is that Peter edited the first four or five, then Ron Johnston did another six or seven, and that from 79-82 I took the series to round about number 20. Given WWW and the evident need to educate our GIS-totting graduate students in proper analysis, I have often thought that the group could do more to follow this through. Some of the series strike me as superb examples of good pedagogy (for example Stu Daultry on ‘PCA’, Rob Ferguson on ‘regression’, and Dixon and Leach on ‘questionnaires’. CATMOGs did much for the group outside of UK — when I was editor my friends in France (qv) used to call me ‘L’homme du CATMOG’.

Third, largely on Stan Gregory’s prompting after he had been a guest at a meeting of the French Groupe Dupont (d’Avignon, naturellement), in 1978 we made contact with French and German quantitative geographers in the first of what became the ‘European Colloquium’ series. This was held in Strasbourg in 1978 and the UK contingent was funded by the pre-Thatcher ‘Social SCIENCE Research Council’ to the tune of £2025. Research Report RB 16/22 contains my thoughts on the entire affair, as do the meeting reports in Area (10, 337-344 and 11, 164-166). Fifteen or so UK delegates attended and somewhere I have a treasured slide of ‘team GB’ assembled like a victorious football club. From memory some of the other attendees were Batty, Hepple, Johnston, Collins, Evans, Harris, Thrift(?), Bennett, Wrigley, and John (Kings) Thornes, but I can check this if you’re interested. Given the almost negligible official support, my view is that the series of meetings that has flowed from this first contact have been extremely valuable. A tongue-in-check ‘analytical’ summary of the first 21 years of the series presented as a plenary at the Durham meeting is posted at http://www.cybergeo.presse.fr/durham/unwin/unwin.html. ‘Cybergeo’ itself came out of the contacts, as did the ‘Journal of Geographical Systems’. Sales of wine and whiskey haven’t done too badly either! At a personal level, I have greatly valued the now extended friendships, especially with colleagues in France and Germany but also within UK, that have come out of these meetings. Also at a personal level, setting up the first meeting is one of the most rewarding of the ‘jobs’ that I undertook during my 40 or so years in academic geography.

From Robin Flowerdew:

I joined the IBG and the QMSG in the early seventies, when ‘quantitative methods’ were still trendy, and QMSG  was one of the biggest of the Study Groups.  I think the CATMOGs were established at about this time.  Peter Taylor, Dave Unwin and Ron Johnston were leading figures in QMSG, and a high priority was to develop links with statisticians.  I attended a disastrous joint meeting at Swansea where several naive Geography contributions were torn apart by aggressive criticism from the statisticians.
I was on the Committee of QMSG 1981-84 (when Neil Wrigley and Bob Bennett were officers) when the group published the still impressive volume, Quantitative geography: a British view (edited by Wrigley and Bennett) whose editorial introduction includes a brief history of QMSG.  I was Chair 1992-95 when QMSQ got a boost from the rise of GIS though perhaps the Group never took GIS into its remit as much as it could, resulting in the formation of a separate GIS Research Group.

From Martyn Senior

1. Committee Members

Names of past Committee Members can be traced from records in AREA which used to publish Study Group reports and those names annually. The earliest issue I have is AREA Volume 4 Number 1 (1972) [see pages 72-3 with committee members identified inside the back cover]. This seems to have stopped in the 1990s, so the latest issue I can find with apparently comprehensive lists of Committee
Members is AREA Volume 26 Number 2 (June 1994) [see page 217]. Subsequent study group reports give some further details, but the publication of these in AREA appears to finish with Volume 27 Number 4 (December 1995) [see pages 394-5].

2. CATMOG editors

As far as I can recall, and aided by details in AREA, the editors of CATMOG
have been ( A ? indicates uncertainty about the year)

Peter Taylor ?1975-?1978
Ron Johnston ?1978 -?1980
Dave Unwin ?1980-?1982
Tony Gatrell ?1982-1988
Martyn Senior 1988-1994
Christine Dunn 1994-



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