On 25 January 1904, the director of the London School of Economics, Halford J.Mackinder, gave a lecture on ‘The geographical pivot of history’ at the Royal Geographical Society. Seventeen years earlier, Mackinder had introduced the teaching of geography at the University of Oxford, and in this 1904 lecture he was seeking ‘a formula . . . express[ing] certain aspects . . . of geographical causation in universal history’ (Mackinder 1904, 421). He contended that the vast zone of continental and arctic drainage of Central Asia, had long been the geographical pivot of history and would remain the ‘pivot of the world’s politics’. As a consequence of this geographical legacy, he opined that the history of Europe was ultimately subordinate to that of Asia.

In the same year the first steam trawlers had entered the White Sea (Barents Sea) in search of new fishing grounds. The expedition is a reminder that the British fishermen had steadily moved from the South Coast and Essex fishing villages to exploit the North Sea. The White Sea explorations were a natural extension of British imperialism on the high seas. It is significant that an expedition to this pristine marine ecosystem in 1907 was mounted from the Lowestoft Fisheries Laboratory (founded in 1902).

The world dominance of the British fishing fleet at this time may be gauged from the following statistics