The goal of spatial analysis (should you find yourself wondering) is to study the relationships between human behavior and geography. The premise of this sort of work is that "where" matters - that the human past can't be fully understood without understanding its geographical context.
Conducting spatial analysis means working in a variety of different ways:
- It means counting.
- It means measuring.
- It means calculating.
- It means combining layers of information.
- It means reconstructing networks.
- It means identifying patterns.
- (It means lots of other things, too.)
While spatial analysis can get mind-bogglingly complicated, it exists to help us understand ideas we can more or less easily wrap our minds around: clustering, dispersion, connectivity, and correlation.
That last word is crucial. Spatial analysis excels at helping us understand correlations between pieces of geographic information. Mapping helps us visualize and analyze those patterns and connections.
These processes rarely determine causality. Instead, they prepare us - students of history - to generate better answers to "why" questions than we would have had we committed the folly of leaving location out of the story.