ABSTRACT. The purpose of this essay is two-fold: to update, thus possibly to improve, Halford Mackinder’s original heartland thesis, and once attempted, to shift placement of the heartland from Eurasia to North America. The author continues strongly to support Mackinder’s heartland thesis. Four parts complete this essay: first, a brief outline of methodology that will enlist two international-relations models, geopolitics and realism, both separate approaches but each useful to facilitating a discussion; second, a critique and updating of Halford Mackinder’s original Eurasian heartland thesis meant to make the thesis itself more applicable; third, an assertion by the author that North America represents a more suitable fit for Mackinder’s heartland premise, the US version possessing more of the appropriate features than does the Eurasian version; and fourth, several conclusions will follow relative to this updating of the heartland portrayal. The author will conclude that: (1) Mackinder’s Eurasian heartland simply does not pass the test of logic and history. Its central and isolated position has not brought wealth and security; its resources are not sufficient to dominate the World Island; potentially hostile nations encircle it; and most of its rimlands are controlled either by the United States or by American allies and trading partners. Nothing remarkable affixes to the Russian core; its importance roughly equals that of the other Great Powers of the continent’s periphery. (2) North America provides the only suitable fit for Mackinder’s thesis. It more than fulfills all of the original heartland descriptions: an isolated and distant continental center with an area united internally, blessed with resources for a vibrant economy, and poised for a hegemonic leadership beyond America onto most areas of Eurasia and its periphery. (3) Thus, two strategic regions, the North American heartland plus the entire Eurasian World Island, are together pertinent to global stability and prosperity. This revised structure clarifies Mackinder’s first design by continuing to recognize the strategic importance of Eurasia while also showing the significance of the United States as a Great Power player equal to the Great Powers of Eurasia but from a distant location in isolation and in the role of balancer among the strategic powers on Eurasia. (4) The whole Eurasian continent will continue being a platform for strategic relationships because it holds roughly two/thirds of global lands, peoples, and wealth and because the leading states, China, Germany, Russia, and Japan, reside within or near the continent, with the United States intervening yet still aloof as an offshore Eurasian balancer. In sum, an updated but still correct heartland theory; wrong application – better North America and not Eurasia.

Keywords: heartland; Mackinder; geopolitics; realism; North America; Eurasia

How to cite: Kelly, Phil (2017), “Recognizing the North American Heartland: A More Suitable Fit for Mackinder’s Thesis,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 9(1): 215–240.

Received 21 February 2017 • Received in revised form 2 April 2017
Accepted 3 April 2017 • Available online 25 April 2017


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