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The Geographical Pivot of History.

The Geographical Pivot of History

By Sir Halford Mackinder

Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor

More than 100 years ago, on January 25, 1904, British geographer Halford Mackinder delivered this address to the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was subsequently published and became one of the most consequential and prophetic addresses of the 20th century.

Mackinder identified the "pivot area" of world politics as the northern-central core of Eurasia, and warned that a state or alliance of states that controlled this region could bid for a world empire. Geography, demographics, and the revolution in land transportation pointed to Russia, Germany, and a Sino-Japanese alliance as possible contenders for world hegemony.

In his address, Mackinder reviewed the history of nomadic invasions of Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East launched from the pivot region, including the Mongol conquests in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the subsequent expansion of sea power-based empires beginning in the 15th century. Technology gave sea powers an advantage during what Mackinder called the "Columbian epoch," but that was changing at the dawn of the 20th century.

Mackinder warned, "The oversetting of the balance of power in favour of the pivot state, resulting in its expansion over the marginal lands of Euro-Asia, would permit the use of vast continental resources for fleet-building, and the empire of the world would then be in sight."

This geopolitical threat of a Eurasian-based land power using the resources of the continent to become a dominant sea power was the foundation of Mackinder's seminal book, Democratic Ideals and Reality (1919), and manifested itself in the two world wars and the Cold War of the 20th century.

Mackinder's geopolitical theories, first set forth in this address, influenced a generation of global scholars and world statesmen.
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Author:Sempa, Francis P.
Publication:American Diplomacy
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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