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Geography is a discipline that is not well understood in North American society. At the elementary school level, one thinks of geography as the subject matter that deals with countries, rivers, and mountains. Memorizing the names of these is seen as onerous and useless. Advanced studies in geography on the other hand frequently focus upon the relationship between human beings and their environment. This is known, in professional terminology, as the "man-land" tradition of geographic studies. Other approaches are the spatial and the behavioral traditions. All can be applied from a social, economic, political, or environmental perspective. Geographical studies of Mennonites have been done nearly exclusively within the man-land tradition. Consequently, it is not surprising that geographic scholars have analyzed all the major Mennonite settlement endeavors in the Americas. No major study has been done on the early settlements in Prussia and the Ukraine, nor of the African and Asian Mennonites.

The earliest major geographic settlement study in the Americas was done by Annemarie A. Krause. Her interest in Mennonites was stimulated when an article she read in the 1930s mentioned the migration of the Manitoba Mennonites to Paraguay. Her doctoral field work in the 1950s finally allowed her to observe their new agricultural and socioeconornic landscape. Although they had been forced to become subsistence farmers, they managed to survive. Geographic isolation required them to set up socioeconomic support systems ranging from schools to hospitals to local governments.

Probably the best known geographical studies of Mennonite settlements are those of John H. Warkentin and Harry L. Sawatzky. Warkentin's study of the beginnings of the East and West Reserves in Manitoba is a classic study and describes in great detail the difficulties of being the first settlers in the Canadian West. In the 1920s many Mennonites migrated to Mexico where they encountered an unfamiliar semiarid tropical environment. This has been investigated by H. L. Sawatzky. Both studies strongly emphasize the relationship of the people to the land and explore in great detail the religious and traditional life in the new environments. In a 1980s article Sawatzky similarly examined the settlements of some of these Mexican Mennonites who migrated to Belize in the late 1950s. His analysis showed they still had not mastered the tropical environment, partly because they would not take any advice from indigenous agricultural practitioners. An earlier study by Jerry A. Hall had pointed out the same problem. In the late 1970s a major study by Walter Regehr linked the subsistence problem of the Indians in the Paraguayan Chaco in part to the Mennonite colonies there. The emphasis again was the man-land tradition. Other studies mentioned in the bibliography below have examined Mennonites from a behavioral perspective, but these have all focused on rural settings. Little geographical analysis has been done on the urban Mennonites, a void that should be corrected in the future.


De Lisle, David. "The Spatial Organization and Intensity of a Culture in the Mennonite Villages of Southern Manitoba." Ph.D. diss., McGill U., 1975.

Hall, Jerry A. "Mennonite Agriculture in a Tropical Environment: an Analysis of the Development and Productivity of a Mid-latitude Agricultural System in British Honduras." Ph.D. diss., Clark U., 1973.

Hecht, Alfred and J. W. Fretz. "Food Production Under Conditions of Increased Uncertainty: the Chaco (Mennonite) Example," in Interpretations of Calamity, ed. K. Hewitt. Allen and Unwin, 1983): 162-80.

Hecht, Alfred. "The Agricultural Economy of the Mennonite Settlers in Paraguay: Impact of a Road." Ekistics 42, no, 248 (1976): 42-48.

Krause, Annemarie A. "Mennonite Settlement in the Paraguayan Chaco." Ph.D. diss., U. of Chicago, 1952).

Landing, James F. "The Spatial Organization of an Amish-Beachy Amish settlement: Nappanee, Indiana." Ph.D. diss., Pennsylvania State U., 1967.

Murdie, Robert A. "Cultural Differences (Mennonite) in Consumer Travel." Economic Geography 41 (1965): 211-33.

Regehr, Walter. "Die Lebensräumliche Situation der Indianer im Paraguayischen Chaco." Basler Beiträge zur Geographie, Heft 25. Ph.D. diss., Basel, 1979.

Sawatzky, Harry L. "Mennonite Colonization in Mexico: a Study in Survival of a Traditional Society. Ph.D. diss., U. of California, Berkeley, 1967.

Sawatzky, Harry L. "Deutsch-Mennonitische Kolonisierung in Belize, C.A. 1957-1985." Jahrbuch für Ostdeutsche Volkskunde (1986): 404-44.

Warkentin, John H. "The Mennonite Settlements of Manitoba." Ph.D. diss., U. of Toronto, 1960.

Warkentin, John. "Canadian Geographers and Their Contributions to Mennonite Studies." Journal of Mennonite Studies 1 (1983): 106-18.

Author(s) Alfred Hecht
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hecht, Alfred. "Geography." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 24 Jun 2022.

APA style

Hecht, Alfred. (1989). Geography. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 332-333. All rights reserved.

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