George, Hereford Brooke
- R. S. Rait
- , revised by Robin A. Butlin
Hereford Brooke George (1838–1910)
George, Hereford Brooke (1838–1910), historian and geographer, born at Bath on 1 January 1838, was the eldest of the three children (two daughters and a son) of Richard Francis George, a surgeon, and his wife, Elizabeth Brooke. He entered Winchester College as a scholar in 1849, and was elected to a fellowship at New College, Oxford, in 1856. He obtained first classes in both classical and mathematical moderations in 1858, a second class in the final classical school in 1859, and a second class in the final mathematical school in 1860. He graduated BA in 1860 and proceeded MA in 1862. Having been called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 6 June 1864, he practised on the western circuit until 1867, when he returned to New College as tutor in the combined school of law and history. He was ordained in 1868, but never undertook parochial work.
After the separation of the law and history schools at Oxford in 1872 George became history tutor of New College; he retained that post until 1891, and remained a fellow of New College until his death. He was active in reorganizing the work of the university, and played a prominent part in the establishment of the system of inter-collegiate lecturing and in the business of the local examinations delegacy. He was also a reformer in college matters, and his participation there is described in his New College, 1856–1906 (1906). He was one of the first members of the Oxford University volunteer corps, and was a leader of the university Kriegspiel (war-games) Club, of which Halford Mackinder was also a member. His writing and teaching were concerned mainly with military history (in which he was a pioneer at Oxford), and the relations between history and geography, especially in the British empire. He lectured on geography in the modern history school at Oxford. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and took an active interest in its affairs.
George's major publications include Battles of English History (1895), Napoleon's Invasion of Russia (1899), The Relations of Geography and History (1901), Historical Evidence (1909), The Historical Geography of the British Empire (1904), and Genealogical Tables Illustrative of Modern History (1874). These were works of synthesis, showing an erudite and critical mind though little research into original or documentary sources. In The Relations of Geography and History (1901) his view is mildly environmentally deterministic, and emphasizes strategic aspects of geographical conditions as experienced in the Khartoum campaign and the South African War.
George's Historical Geography of the British Empire was first published in 1904, and had reached a seventh edition by 1924; revisions of the work after his death in 1910 were undertaken by R. W. Jeffery, fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. It reviews the geographical and historical contexts of the development of the British empire, and is written with a confident view of the manifest destiny of Britain's power and position in the world, describing imperial growth as spontaneous, albeit fed by international rivalry and commercial opportunity. He stresses the heterogeneity and flexibility of the British imperial administrative system, and confidently asserts the justifiability of the British empire and robustly and jingoistically rebuffs criticism by Britain's opponents.
George was a pioneer climber and alpinist from 1860, having first visited Switzerland in that year, when he met Leslie Stephen at Zermatt and they climbed up to the Riffel by the Gorner glacier. He joined the Alpine Club in 1861 and edited the first three volumes of the Alpine Journal (1863–7). He accompanied Stephen in 1862 on the first ascent of the Jungfraujoch, and was also on the first ascent of the Gross Viescherhorn, and of the Col du Tour Noir in 1863 with Christian Almer as guide. This shed light on the relative positions of the heads of the Argentière, Tour, and Salène glaciers. In 1866 he published The Oberland and its Glaciers. He was a founder of the Oxford Alpine Club.
George inherited a moderate fortune from his father, and was director of the West of England and South Wales Bank, though he took no active part in its management. The bank failed in 1880, which not only injured him financially, but also involved him and his fellow directors in an abortive trial for irregularities in keeping the accounts. In 1870 he married Alice Bourdillon (d. 1893), the youngest daughter of William Cole Cole of Exmouth; they had two sons. George died at his home, Holywell Lodge, Oxford, on 15 December 1910.
- A. O. P., ‘In memoriam: H. B. George’, Alpine Journal, 25 (1911), 530–36
- GJ, 37 (1911), 325–6
- R. A. Butlin, ‘Historical geographies of the British empire’, Geography and imperialism, 1820–1940, ed. M. Bell, R. Butlin, and M. Heffernan (1995), 151–88
- C. Oman, Memories of Victorian Oxford and some early years (1941)
- B. W. Blouet, Halford Mackinder: a biography (1987)
- R. Symonds, Oxford and empire: the last lost cause? (1986)
- D. I. Scargill, ‘The RGS and the foundations of geography at Oxford’, GJ, 142 (1976), 438–61
- Hist. U. Oxf., vols. 6–7
- F. W. Maitland, The life and letters of Leslie Stephen (1906)
- King's Cam., letters to Oscar Browning
- photograph, Alpine Club, London [see illus.]
Wealth at Death
£682 15s. 7d.: resworn probate, 24 Jan 1911, CGPLA Eng. & Wales