The Pivot of History

Courtesy Reuters

FIFTY years ago Halford John Mackinder delivered a lecture on "The Geographical Pivot of History" before the Royal Geographical Society in London. Supported by five diagrams, it was published by the Society in April 1904,[i] together with comments by several students of geography. Probably few who read the lecture in 1904 guessed that Figure 5, bearing the caption "The Natural Seats of Power," would become one of the most famous maps of our time. It embodied one of the most thought-provoking views of the world in the twentieth century and has exercised profound influence on foreign affairs and on history.

On his Mercator-projection Mackinder had boldly shifted the conventional European center and showed the Americas on the edge of each side of Africa, Europe and Asia. In this manner he indicated that he saw the world "as a whole." Enclosing this novel picture with an earth-girdling oval, he made his message dramatic by

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