It’s been an unusual time to take over the reins at Geographical. My first issue as editor (April) was sent to the printers just before we all began working from home. Now, ensconced in kitchens, corridors and attics, we choose cover lines, discuss ideas and debate headlines via Zoom, seeing more of each other in tracksuits than we ever anticipated. So too are many of our contributors holed up inside – a rarity for our peripatetic freelancers who are more likely to be found atop mountains, within caves or floating down rivers than twirling idly on an office chair.
What’s surprised me most is that, bar a few tweaks to the schedule, as various trips around the world have been called off, the lockdown has not yet made producing a magazine impossible – far from it. The many tools the internet offers make it easy to stay connected and, where once a printing house would have involved hundreds of workers painstakingly setting out type in close proximity, today machines churn out print at the touch of button.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we don't suffer a sense of dislocation as we carry on living behind closed doors. Daily chats over lunch about world affairs are less common and we simply don’t see many new faces. That’s why we believe that what we offer is more relevant today than ever before.
Geographical is available as a monthly print magazine, delivered straight to your door. It costs £9.50 for three months, or £38 for a year. If you’re looking for a way to expand your horizons while staying indoors, we do hope you will consider joining us. The stories we tell aren’t those you'll find in any other publication – we believe we offer a view of the world that might otherwise be missed.
Geographical has a long and prestigious history. Born in 1935, the magazine was founded by the English diplomat Michael Huxley (whose photograph still looks over the Geographical office – we hope he’s not getting too lonely). According to an article in the 1985 edition, celebrating 50 years (during which the magazine continued to print throughout the second world war despite facing shortages of paper and government censorship), Huxley’s editorial policy was centred on the belief that it was the facts of geography which controlled man’s activities in the world. His aim was to provide readers with ‘an understanding of the world that no other periodicals can give’.
Overleaf in that edition was a signed letter from Prince Phillip, who – rather nicely summing up the overarching point of such a magazine – wrote that: ‘If we do not understand what we are doing to the Earth we will not be able to prevent it from being destroyed.’
It’s very much in that vein that will still operate today (although our approach to advertisements is certainly a bit different – safe to say a colour spread promoting Rothmans kingsize, ‘the best tobacco money can buy’, won’t be found within our pages today). Our aim is to bring readers stories from every corner of the globe, told though the lens of geography – stories that inform, entertain and often amaze.
Recently, we have covered topics as far-ranging as the dengue fever epidemic in Southeast Asia, a farming revolution in Japan, the ‘jellification’ of the oceans, the high-tech solutions protecting Africa’s wildlife, the strange and sometimes deadly abalone trade, the state of British national parks, the significance of lithium to the green transition, the curious world of the mini-state and much much more. We seek to ask difficult questions – our most recent long-read focuses on hunting as a conservation tool, questioning whether culling animals can ever be justified – and to raise perspectives that may otherwise go unheard.
Our writers are award-winning journalists, photographers, explorers and adventurers. In our opinion column we regularly feature academics at the cutting edge of their fields and our ever-popular geopolitics column has recently been taken over by the author Tim Marshall.
As the official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) we also bring readers all the news from the Society, dipping into its phenomenal archives to share stories from the past and to celebrate the explorers who opened the eyes of our ancestors to the magnificence of the Earth.
Going forward, we aim to bring even more voices to our pages – from leading climate scientists, cartographers, and marine biologists, to Antarctic explorers, daredevils and wanderers. In doing so, we believe that we can help prove that geography really is the most important subject when it comes to understanding today’s complex and fragile world.
Over the past 85 years, Geographical has built a community of people, fascinated by geography and ever-curious about the world. We would love to have you along for the ride.
Katie Burton is the editor of Geographical