Sunday, May 3, 2009

Halford McKinder and the Geographical pivot of history

The Eurasian landmass, a simplistic explanation on its seeming, is the pivot of world history.Seaboards of the Indian and Pacific oceans are the kets to dominance.This is geographical determinism and for that reason it is a relatively simplistic explanation. Mackinder's article began as a 1904 lecture to the Royal Geographical scoiety in London. The pivot for world dominance remains Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with the "why" for this trhesis conspicuously absent. There are 4 surrounding regions of the Eurasian landmasas and these correspond to the four great religions.This correspondence is not fortuitous,but according to his thesis a function of geography:

  • Two monsoon lands in the East, the home of Buddhism. They face the Pacific Ocean

  • The land in the south facing the Indian Ocean, the home of Hinduism

  • The 3rd marginal region watered by the Atlantic- Europe- to the West the home of Christianity

  • The most fragile the Middle East and home of Islam-thinly peopled and deprived of moisture within the proximity of Africa (in l904).


.. Nature in large measure controls :

Similarly, the Dutch-American strategist Nicholas Spykman saw the seaboards of
the Indian and Pacific oceans as the keys to dominance in Eurasia and the
natural means to check the land power of Russia.
Before he died in 1943, while
the United States was fighting Japan, Spykman predicted the rise of China and
the consequent need for the United States to defend Japan. And even as the
United States was fighting to liberate Europe, Spykman warned that the postwar
emergence of an integrated European power would eventually become inconvenient
for the United States. Such is the foresight of geographical determinism.
But perhaps the most significant guide to the revenge of geography is the
father of modern geopolitics himself—Sir Halford J. Mackinder—who is famous not
for a book but a single article, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” which
began as a 1904 lecture to the Royal Geographical Society in London
. Mackinder’s
work is the archetype of the geographical discipline, and he summarizes its
theme nicely: “Man and not nature initiates, but nature in large measure
His thesis is that Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia are
the “pivot” around which the fate of world empire revolves
. He would refer to
this area of Eurasia as the “heartland” in a later book. Surrounding it are four
“marginal” regions of the Eurasian landmass that correspond, not coincidentally,
to the four great religions, because faith, too, is merely a function of
for Mackinder. There are two “monsoon lands”: one in the east
generally facing the Pacific Ocean, the home of Buddhism; the other in the south
facing the Indian Ocean, the home of Hinduism.
The third marginal region is
Europe, watered by the Atlantic to the west and the home of Christianity
. But
the most fragile of the four marginal regions is the Middle East, home of Islam,
“deprived of moisture by the proximity of Africa” and for the most part “thinly
peopled” (in 1904, that is).

This Eurasian relief map, and the events playing out
on it at the dawn of the 20th century, are Mackinder’s subject, and the opening
sentence presages its grand sweep:

"When historians in the remote future come to look back on the group of centuries through which we are now passing, and see them fore-shortened, as we to-day see the Egyptian dynasties, it may well be that they will describe the last 400 years as the Columbian epoch, and will say that it ended soon after the year 1900. "

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