Skip to main content


The Geography of Cornwall

Module titleThe Geography of Cornwall
Module codeGEO1413
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Katie Orchel (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module encourages you to develop an integrated geographical imagination by studying the geography of Cornwall. The module takes a broad sweep of history, looking at the importance of physical geography, geomorphological processes, patterns of human settlement, culture and economic development. The content is designed to ensure that you have a holistic understanding of geography that includes the physical and human environment, incorporating geomorphology along with attention to the economy, politics, society and culture. The module introduces core concepts that resonate across the university curriculum including ideas about place, landscape, territory, scale and region. Attention is paid to highlighting the importance of ideas in shaping what we see and how we think about geography and places. The module includes a fieldtrip*, an assignment to write a research report and student-led presentations.

*Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to teach the core ideas and principles of geography by focusing on Cornwall. We look at the changing physical and social landscape in Cornwall as a way to think about the processes of change that take place over very long periods of time. We also highlight the importance of our philosophical perspective in shaping what we see in the landscape. The module will outline how our understanding of core concepts like place, landscape and region have changed over time. We will also consider how perceptions and experiences affect our understanding of and approaches to investigate places. The module starts by looking at the geology and geomorphology of Cornwall before going on to look at the changing pattern of human settlement and the development of local culture. The module covers the history of important political struggles over the incorporation of Cornwall into the English and British state and how these struggles may have led to greater levels of devolution for Cornwall today and a distinct Cornish identity. This focus on Cornish identity will be linked to changes in the economy with a focus on maritime trade, the development of mining, the growth of tourism and current debates about regional policy and the new sustainable economy. The module will also raise questions about the way in which Cornwall is represented in art and tourism, and the impact this has on people and place. By the end of the module you will have a sense of the key challenges facing Cornwall and the potential to make a difference via public policy and creative interventions in place. You will also have a broad understanding of human geography and the importance of integrating economic, political, socio-cultural factors in your research.

The module is designed to help you feel a closer connection with the place where you will live and study for the next three years. By understanding the geography of Cornwall, you will be better positioned to connect your learning to observation and experience in everyday life. The module will also stimulate ideas about further research that you might want to do in future. The module should fire up your geographical imagination by demonstrating the power of an integrated approach to analysis via the focus on Cornwall.

In addition, you will develop the skills to:

  • Present academic ideas in a clear and concise oral format in class.
  • Work as part of a group to develop a presentation to be given in class.
  • Develop your own research skills by gathering data about geographical development in a particular place, integrating the material and presenting it in a clear and concise written format for coursework.
  • Mobilise your own emotional connection to Cornwall that will help you make sense of your own experiences and observations while you live and work in the county.
  • Appreciate the benefits of integrating physical and human geography in our analysis.
  • Understand how ideas change and how to apply contemporary issues to geographical approaches.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe in detail the history of Cornwall including its physical geography, geomorphological development, human settlement, cultural change, economy, politics and connections to other locations
  • 2. Analyse the ways in which Cornwall is shaped by non-local processes and actors including the role of the British state, corporations, public policy, tourists and the Cornish diaspora
  • 3. Articulate the way that human culture develops as a complex process over time, using Cornwall as an example
  • 4. Identify the way in which these processes of change have played out in a particular Cornish town over time
  • 5. Articulate the way in which Cornwall is variously represented, and the implications of image for action
  • 6. Describe the range of policy options now being developed to shape future development in Cornwall

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Explain how geography is an integrated discipline that can include a range of processes operating at a range of space-time scales
  • 8. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of raw data in order to develop an analysis of a particular place
  • 9. Describe the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches for issues of sustainability
  • 10. Include physical and human processes in analysis of change

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 11. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 12. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Incorporate a range of data in order to develop a rich analysis of geographical development
  • 14. Work as part of a group to develop a presentation and summarise key ideas

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction
  • Understanding the Cornish landscape: the very big picture
  • The historical geography and cultural development of Cornwall
  • Early settlement and Tudor Cornwall
  • Maritime Cornwall
  • Fieldtrip to the Porthcurnow Telegraph museum*
  • The mining economy and emigration
  • The role of religion in Cornwall
  •  The changing economy of twentieth century Cornwall and beyond
  • (Re)-imagining Cornwall and its identity
  • Facing the future

There will be weekly workshops to prepare and provide feedback for coursework ideas as well as listening to student-led presentations about the core concepts being taught on this module.

*Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Lectures (11 x 1 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Workshop (11 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Seminar (11 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Fieldtrip (1 x 8 hours)* *Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules
Guided independent study109Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessment


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop on the coursework report1 hour1-14Oral staff and peer feedback
Student-led group presentations to clarify key ideas underpinning the module5 sessions, each for 1 hour9 -12, 14Oral staff and peer feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Exam (to be replaced with essay style exam in case of Covid restrictions) 601 Hour1-13Written
Report401000 words1-13Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Exam (to be replaced with essay style exam in case of Covid restrictions)Exam1-13August Assessment Period
ReportReport1-13August Assessment Period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the original assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • On the geology and geomorphology of Cornwall:
    • Scourse, J.D. and Furze M.F.A. (1999)(Eds.) The quaternary of west Cornwall, Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, p. 62-73.
    • Knight, J. and Harrison, S. (2013) ‘A land history of men’: The intersection of geomorphology, culture and heritage in Cornwall, southwest England. Applied Geography, 42, 186-194.
  • On the historical geography of Cornwall:
    • Kain, R. (1999) Historical Atlas of South-West England. Exeter: Exeter University Press.
    • Payton, P (1993) (Ed) Cornwall since the War: The contemporary history of a European region. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
    • Payton, P (1996) Cornwall: A history. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
    • Payton, P. (2005) The Cornish overseas: a history of Cornwall’s ‘Great Emigration’. Fowey: Cornwall Editions Limited.
    • Payton, P. Kennerley, A. and Doe, H. (2014) (Eds) A Maritime history of Cornwall. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
    • Marsden, P. (2011),  The Levelling Sea: The Story of a Cornish Haven in the Age of Sail. HarperPress.
  • On ideas about place from the perspective of both physical and human geography:
    • Cresswell T. (2015) Place: An introduction [second edition]. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
    • Clifford, N.  Holloway S.L. Rice S.P. and Valentine G. (Eds) Key concepts in Geography [second edition]. London: Sage.
    • Hoskins, W. G. (1969) The making of the English landscape. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    • Trudgill S. and Roy A. (2003) (Eds) Contemporary meanings in physical geography. London: Arnold.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Cornwall, integrated geographical analysis, geomorphology, geo-analysis, cultural geography, historical geography, economic geography, political geography, maritime economy, mining in Cornwall, representation, public policy in Cornwall, Cornish futures, sustainability.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date