Mackinder, Halford John, 1861-1947

Alternative names
Birth 1861-02-15
Death 1947-03-06

Biographical notes:

Sir Halford John Mackinder was born on the 15 February 1861 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England. He was educated at Gainsborough Grammar School; Epsom College, and Christ Church, Oxford. After leaving Oxford he read for the bar at the Inner Temple in London and qualified as a barrister in 1886.

In 1885 Mackinder became a lecturer for the Oxford university extension movement - formed to give educational opportunities to people unable to attend a university - and he lectured throughout the country on what he called 'the new geography' (his concept of geography as a bridge between the natural sciences and the humanities).

Accounts of Mackinder's lectures reached the Royal Geographical Society, and in January 1887 he addressed the Society on "The Scope and Methods of Geography". A few weeks later the University of Oxford, with financial assistance from the Society, decided to establish a readership in geography and in July 1887 Mackinder was appointed to the post (which he held until 1905). In 1899 the University and Society collaborated again when they established the School of Geography, the first of its kind at a British university, and Mackinder became the first director. In the same year he organised and led an expedition to East Africa, where he made the first ascent of Mount Kenya.

The Oxford university extension movement had been particularly successful at Reading and in 1892 Christ Church, Oxford elected Mackinder to a studentship and offered his services to Reading. A college was opened at Reading in the same year and Mackinder was its principal until 1903. He then became director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, a constituent body of the University of London. Mackinder resigned from this post in 1908 (although he continued as reader in economic geography until 1925) and began the next phase of his career. After two attempts to enter Parliament (for Warwick and Leamington in 1900 as a Liberal, and for Hawick Burghs in 1909 as a Unionist) Mackinder was elected as Unionist (Conservative) member for the Camlachie division of Glasgow in January 1910. He continued to represent Camlachie until he was defeated in 1922 by a Labour candidate.

In 1919 Mackinder went to southern Russia as British high commissioner and was knighted on his return in 1920. He served as Chairman of the Imperial Shipping Committee (1920-1945) and of the Imperial Economic Committee (1926-1931) and he was made a privy councillor (an honorific office) in 1926. Among the other honours he received were the Patron's Gold Medal, Royal Geographical Society of London (1946), and the Charles P. Daly Medal, American Geographical Society of New York (1943).

Mackinder died at his home in Dorset on the 6 March 1947.

From the guide to the Notebooks and Journals of the Rt. Hon. Sir Halford John Mackinder, 1899, (The Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House)


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  • Notebooks 19th century


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  • Kenya, Mount (Kenya) Discovery and exploration (as recorded)
  • Kenya, Mount (Kenya) Description and travel (as recorded)