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Project information

Project team

Oliver Krause

Duration of project

02/2020 – 01/2023

Funded by

German Research Foundation

Further information

Dr Oliver Krause
Tel. +49 341 600 55-196

Travelling imaginations – Perception, adaption and popularization of Halford J. Mackinder’s Heartland theory

The project explores the international and interdisciplinary distribution of the geopolitical Heartland theory by British geographer Halford J. Mackinder in the first half of the 20th century. The reception, adaptation and distribution of the theory are analyzed as processes of popularizing a global spatial order.

The project studies the Heartland theory of British geographer Halford J. Mackinder as an example of a space-related imagination that, in the first half of the 20th century, had transcontinental and interdisciplinary effects. The theory predicts a global spatial order. The order’s centre is the resource-rich and difficult-to-access northern part of the Asian continent, which is referred to as Heartland. Mackinder presumed that once the Heartland was equipped with transport infrastructure – an effort already underway at the beginning of the 20th century – it would become the basis of a new territorial power. In his eyes, this power would pose a threat to the sea-based hegemony of the British Empire. The theory, thus amounting to a geopolitical dystopia, was published by Mackinder in three versions (1904, 1919, 1943), which were perceived, adapted and popularised across various countries and disciplines. In the course of that reception and adaptation, the global spatial order imagined by Mackinder developed lives of its own, leaving the regional context and Mackinder’s authorship behind.

The project’s goal is to use the example of the Heartland theory to show how and why (geo)imaginations of global spatial orders can veer away from their original context and become sources of evidence and explanations for different contexts, available to various users. The project’s hypothesis is that in the process central roles are played by a complex translation between the media “text” and “map” (visualisation), and by interdisciplinary reception (history).