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The Christian Faith and the Financial Crisis
Part Two: The Financial Crisis (3)


a) Halford Mackinder

The LSE was established in 1895 on an initiative of the Fabian Society after a conversation over breakfast which involved Sidney and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw. From the earliest stage, their fellow Fabian, Halford Mackinder, was involved. Mackinder was already well-established in the academic world, in Oxford and in Reading, in the field of geography. He could be said to have pioneered the study of geography as an academic subject. But what interested him in particular was what later became known as 'geopolitics'. Geopolitics treated the world as a unit - according to Mackinder: 'There is no complete geographical region either less than, or greater than, the whole of the earth's surface.' Later, in 1942, in the course of the Second World War, he declared: 'today, for the first time, the habitat of each separate human being is this global earth.' We can recognise in this what is now called 'globalisation'. (2)

(2) My account of Halford Mackinder is largely taken from Angela Clifford's introduction to Albrecht Haushofer: Moabite Sonnets, Belfast, Athol Books, 2001

Mackinder was director of the LSE from 1903 to 1908. He was also, together with the Webbs, one of the group called 'The Coefficients', which brought together Fabians and Liberal Imperialists in a common belief in the possibility of a rational organisation of British society and of what were understood to be Britain's wider international interests. Mackinder is best known for his theory of 'The Heartland' - the view that Europe and Asia together could be understood as an island with, at the heart of it, a vast tract of territory covering most of Russian and Western China which could hold the key to world domination. Britain dominated the world by sea, but any power that controlled this 'pivot area' as he also called it could challenge Britain's supremacy.

Mackinder put a great deal of energy into popularising this idea, giving lectures in schools and colleges throughout the country. The fear was that the country most likely to gain control or influence in this Heartland and make good use of it against British interests was Germany. Germany already enjoyed good relations with the Austrian and Ottoman empires, which brought it to the borders of the Russian empire. It thus became a vital foreign policy necessity to prevent Germany from developing similar good relations with Russia. The Coefficients also included - in addition to H.G.Wells, who used his membership as material for his novel The New Machiavelli - the liberal Imperialists Grey, Haldane and Milner, who could be described as the theorists and architects of Britain's alliance with France and Russia against Germany and ultimately Britain's entry into the First World War and the peculiarly vindictive policy that was meted out to Germany at Versailles.

It may be worth noting that the hero of The New Machiavelli, published in 1911, three years before the beginning of the First World War, takes the imminence of a war with Germany as a matter of course. His reasons, apart from the desirable invigorating effect on British political morality, is not that Germany is wicked but rather that, travelling on the continent, he has been impressed by how well, and efficiently, Germany is managing its affairs compared to Britain. Although nothing is said about German military ambitions its very competence is seen as a threat. It may be noted that Mackinder had a German disciple, Klaus Haushofer whose thinking had considerable influence on Hitler, especially on the foreign policy ambitions outlined in Mein Kampf, but that really is another (very interesting) story.

I mention Mackinder - on the Fabian not the free market side of LSE history - because, although the inter-relation between economics and war is not the theme of this talk, I would like it to be present throughout as a ghost in the reader's mind.