Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947): An Author, Politician and Explorer, Halford Mackinder Helped to Put Geography on the National Stage in Britain

Geographical, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947): An Author, Politician and Explorer, Halford Mackinder Helped to Put Geography on the National Stage in Britain


What was his background?

Halford John Mackinder was born in the market town of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, on 15 February 1861. The eldest of six children, he was educated at Epsom College and later Christ Church College, Oxford. Mackinder's background was conducive to learning; his father, Draper, was a doctor, and while the family were by no means well off, they spent much of their income on the children's education. Having had the benefit of a French governess, Mackinder was at ease with the French language by the age of nine. His father ran the local medical practice and contributed much to the understanding of public-health issues in the area. He had also travelled in France and encouraged his eldest son to think scientifically about things.

While Mackinder's father was keen for him to follow in his footsteps and study medicine, the lure of travel and exploration proved too great and he chose to study geography instead.

Why is he famous?

A champion of geography throughout his life, Mackinder was very keen to get the discipline onto the national stage, making it a mainstream subject in school and universities. In 1895, he helped found the Oxford School of Geography, and was also involved in founding the London School of Economics (LSE), of which he went on to be a director between 1903 and 1908.

Mackinder was also an explorer, author, politician and diplomat. In 1899, he organised and led an expedition to Mount Kenya. Ar the time, only the glaciers leading up to the main peak had been reached. After training in the Alps, he arrived in Zanzibar in June of that year with two Italian guides. Although they had many setbacks, including tribal conflicts and disease, they managed to reach the base of the main peak. …

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