Halford Mackinder

Delice Bette | August 12, 2022


Halford John Mackinder (Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, 15 February 1861 – 6 March 1947) was a British geographer and politician. He is best known for his political Heartland theory.

At the time, his birthplace of Gainsborough was a small port and trading town located on the River Trent. The son of physician Draper Mackinder and Fanny Anne Mackinder, he grew up the eldest in a family of six children. His father was concerned with health problems and their publicity. Successful as he was he published about it but the family was not very rich.

Mackinder was taught by a French governess and by the time he was nine years old spoke French very well. His interest in geography was piqued at an early age because his family members had an interest in going abroad and travel was no stranger to the family.

Before he could study at Oxford University he was at the Grammar School at Gainsborough and Epsom College. Epsom College had a reputation for intensive skills practice and Mackinder excelled in essay writing, languages, presentation and ”environmental sciences”. It was also here that his interest in historical geology was piqued. In 1880 he and a friend, Thomas Walker, won a five-year ”Junior Studentship” in the physical sciences.

As a student at Oxford, Mackinder became inspired by Michael Sadler and Henry Nottidge Moserly. These were two leading figures in Britain in the struggle for recognition of geography as an independent field of study.

Mackinder became a member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1886. In the same year he was appointed to teach physics and economic history. In 1887 Mackinder wrote his first article ”On the Scope and Methods of Geography”, and in June of the same year he was appointed Reader in Geography at Oxford University.

Mackinder is also sometimes characterized as an “environmental determinist” because he espoused the belief that physical and social geography are a unit and cannot be separated from history.

In 1889, Mackinder married Emilie Catherine Ginsburg. He would devote twelve more years after this to teaching geography at universities.

Later he would travel to the United States to lecture at major universities there. In 1892 he was appointed ”Principal of Reading College”, at the University of Oxford. Here he made his contribution in founding the ”School of Geography”.

In addition to being a geographer, Mackinder was also an avid mountaineer and organized an ascent of Mount Kenya. In 1896 he received permission to travel to Kenya. The purpose of the trip was to map unknown territory. On June 8, 1899, the expedition departed from Marseilles. On June 28, the participants arrived in Zanzibar. The expedition members suffered many setbacks, such as diseases. But the expedition was very successful, especially in naming unknown species. Upon returning in the fall, Mackinder began living separately from his wife.

His first book was “Britain and the British Seas” (1902). After this he would devote himself to writing various articles and books. But none can surpass the fame of ”The Geographical Pivot of History” and ”Democratic Ideals and Reality” with the resulting ”Heartland Theory”.

Mackinder was also director of the London School of Economics. Since 1913 he was president of the ”Geographical Association” and in 1916 he was elected president there. He was a member of Parliament from 1910 to 1922.

After World War I, Mackinder was concerned about the postwar talks (which would lead to the Treaty of Versailles) on border formation in postwar Europe. He tried to get his advice on this – as many small states as possible in Eastern Europe so that Russia could not gain power in this area – accepted.

In 1923 he obtained a chair in geography at the University of London, but the crowning glory of his work was receiving the Charles P. Daly Medal from the American Geographical Society three years before his death.

Over het bereik en de methoden van aardrijkskunde

”On the Scope and Methods of Geography” is a descriptive article on the genesis of geography in Britain. In this article, Mackinder lays out four issues that can guide the understanding of his later formulated work. For example, he states in it:

Groot-Brittannië en de Britse zeeën

Mackinder”s first book. In it he describes the political condition of Britain. His view of geography and politics is evident in the topics of his book such as ”Position of Britain”, ”Strategic Britain” and ”Imperial Britain”. In this book, he argued that there are four world powers that owe their political power to power on land, namely: France, Germany, Russia and the United States, and one world power owes its power to rule by sea: Britain.

Heartland Theory

Mackinder”s most cited work is without doubt his political ”Heartland Theory” (translation: heartland theory). This theory originally dated from the beginning of the twentieth century and was described by Mackinder as early as 1904, in his article ”The Geographical Pivot of History” (translation: the geographical pivot of history), at the time when Russia occupied most of the Eurasian continent and was designated by him as the center of world history.

The Heartland theory, in a nutshell, boils down to the following:

Britain originally had a rich maritime history. A colonial history that sent British ships around the world made Britain a great maritime power: “Britannia rules the waves”.

However, technological development was also increasing and new techniques were introduced which meant that moving about the country by means of steam trains, for example, was becoming increasingly easier and quicker. Mackinder assumed that in the near future Britain”s political power might be diminished. In a world where this acquired political power was due to a maritime fleet, and land-based connections would become stronger, continental countries such as Russia would gain more political power. Britain would be unable to get a grip on these continental areas and thus see its political power diminish. Mackinder pointed out that before, civilizations from this continental area had succeeded in dominating others.

In 1919 Mackinder published his book “Democratic Ideals and Reality” in which he described his ideas about the geographical factors and influences exerted in politics and on the history of states. Mackinder further deepened the ”Heartland Theory” described in 1904: he saw the Eurasian continent as a “Heartland” with the center of this continent located in Eastern Europe.

“Een zegevierende Romeinse generaal had, toen hij de stad binnenreed, te midden van alle hoofse pracht en praal van een ”Triomf”, achter zich op de strijdwagen een slaaf die hem in het oor fluisterde dat hij sterfelijk was. Wanneer onze staatslieden in gesprek zijn met de verslagen vijand, zou een luchtige cherub hen van tijd tot tijd deze spreuk moeten influisteren: Wie Oost-Europa regeert, regeert het Heartland; wie het Heartland regeert, regeert het World Island; wie het World Island regeert, regeert de wereld.” ~ H.J. Mackinder

Mackinder thus made a connection between geography and politics in this work. The “geopolitics,” however, would not be named under this term until later.

Between the publication of the aforementioned “The Geographical Pivot of History” and “Democratic Ideals and Reality,” Mackinder wrote other pieces related to geography and political power, all of which recur to varying degrees in the all-encompassing “Democratic Ideals and Reality.

However, none of these articles would surpass the prominence of the “Heartland Theory” as described in “The Geographical Pivot of History” and in “Democratic Ideals and Reality

Mackinder wrote his ”Heartland Theory” from the point of view that Britain was a world power and needed to maintain this position. Another geographer from this time but belonging to the ”hostile” German camp was strongly impressed by Mackinder”s work: Karl Haushofer (1869-1946). What Mackinder feared was for Haushofer a wishful thinking.

“Wie Oost-Europa regeert, regeert het Heartland; wie het Heartland regeert, regeert het Wereldeiland; wie het Wereldeiland regeert, regeert de wereld.”

Reasoning further, this was explained in Germany as follows: if Germany had dominion over the ”Heartland”, they would have dominion over the ”World Island” which would mean that Germany would be a hegemonic power.

Because the Germans had lost territory, especially in the east, due to the Treaty of Versailles, this led to great dissatisfaction among the German population. According to their own view, they had simply had to give up ”too much”. Politicians, especially after the appearance of Adolf Hitler on the political stage, were eager to capitalize on this. They justified their own expansionism and even the Holocaust with their own propaganda. It cannot be said that the publication of Mackinder”s Heartland Theory has had a direct influence on this but it has been a very suitable breeding ground for the Germans that has served their wish to recapture the former German territories in Eastern Europe from another powerful world power (Russia).


  1. Halford John Mackinder
  2. Halford Mackinder
  3. ^ Edmund W. Gilbert, British Pioneers in Geography (Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1972), p. 141.
  4. ^ Sloan, Geoffrey R. (1 January 1988). Geopolitics in United States Strategic Policy, 1890–1987. St. Martin”s Press. p. 6. ISBN 9780312019549.
  5. ^ H. J. Mackinder, “On the Scope and Methods of Geography”, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Mar. 1887), pp. 141–174; J. F. Unstead, “H. J. Mackinder and the New Geography”, Geographical Journal, Vol. 113 (January–June 1949), pp. 47–57.
  6. Halford John Mackinder, Chap. 3 (The Seaman’s Point of View), in Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, U.K.: Constables and Company Ltd., 1919), pp.88.
  7. Sequeira, Tenente-coronel Jorge Manuel Dias. «As Teorias Geopolíticas e Portugal». REVISTA MILITAR (em inglês). Consultado em 18 de dezembro de 2019
  8. a b c d «Geopolítica: Teorias do Heartland e do Rimland». educacao.uol.com.br. Consultado em 18 de dezembro de 2019
  9. H.J. Mackinder, “A Journey to the Summit of Mount Kenya, British East Africa”, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 15, No. 5 (May, 1900), pp. 453-476
  10. ^ H.J. Mackinder, On the Scope and Methods of Geography, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Marzo, 1887), pp. 141-174; J. F. Unstead, H. J. Mackinder and the New Geography, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 113, (Jan. – Jun., 1949), pp. 47-57
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.