Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics Hardcover – 9 July 2015
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'A fresh and original insight into the geopolitics behind today's foreign policy challenges' -- Andrew Neil
"Compels a fresh way of looking at maps - not just as objects for orientation or works of art, but as guideposts to the often thorny relations between nations" -- The New York Times
'Crisply written and brilliantly argued' -- Dame Ann Leslie
'An essential and detailed reflection of the geopolitical dynamics that exist globally' --Dr Sajjan M. Gohel
"Sharp insights into the way geography shapes the choices of world leaders." -- Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
"A timely reminder of the importance of geopolitics ... A good bluffer's guide for the members of the newly elected Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committees" -- Keith Simpson MP, summer reading list recommendations
"Marshall's latest book explains how politics is nothing without geography, in his crisp and compelling style ... What he really excels at is capturing the psychology of nations and giving maps a power that politicians must tame." -- Top Ten Holiday Reads - Dan Lewis, Stanfords, WorldTravelGuide.net
"Difficult to put down… Marshall succeeds in making lucid a complex topic."-- Chris Tilbury, Prospect
"There are few foreign correspondents in the current British media who can present an overview of a political situation quite like Tim Marshall … in Prisoners of Geography he presents this knowledge and experience quite brilliantly. It's a cleverly written book and underlines what makes Tim Marshall such an effective voice on world affairs" -- retroculturati.com
"A very good idea, very well executed -- and (perhaps as one expected) very entertainingly written" --Professor Anthony Glees, Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies (BUCSIS), The University of Buckingham
"Shows the ways geography shapes not just history but human destiny... In an ever more complex, chaotic and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geo-politics. Marshall is not afraid to ask tough questions and provide sharp answers." -- Adam LeBor, Newsweek
"Remarkable and stimulating ... an eye opener in every sense. I now understand in ways that I never did before how much impact physical geography has on political reality. Within these pages you will find a heady mixture of accurate analysis and almost poetic description. ... If you are worried about the dumbing down of news but want to find out for yourself what lies behind the international headlines, this book would be a great place to start." -- Richard Littledale, blogger
"A reminder of the salience of geography in international affairs... . Ideologies may come and go but, says Marshall, who served a long stint as diplomatic editor of Britain's Sky News, such geopolitical facts of life endure." -- Daniel Dombey, Financial Times
"a timely reminder that despite technological advances, geography is always there, often forcing the hand of world leaders." -- Mark Cooper-Jones, Geographical
"Very useful … a highly accessible introduction to the geopolitics of every region on Earth. Considering that there are so many 'popular economics' and 'popular history' books out there, it's good to see a 'popular geography' or 'popular geopolitics' book" -- BMIResearch.com
"An introduction to geopolitics and geo-strategy … worth reading as a commentary on the subject"-- Army Rumour Service review
"An exceptional work, well-researched, argued and documented ... a treasure of information to satisfy the specialist researcher into contemporary geopolitics and offers a riveting insight to the general reader or student.... It is all covered in this magnificent book, which I highly recommend." --Nehad Ismail, writer and broadcaster
About the Author
He has written for newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, Independent and Daily Telegraph, and is the author of Shadowplay: The Overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic (a bestseller in former Yugoslavia) and "Dirty Northern B*st*rds!" and Other Tales from the Terraces: The Story of Britain¹s Football Chants. He is the founder and editor of TheWhatandtheWhy.com
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I only gave it four stars because despite being very informative and concise it still feels a bit short. For teh more interested student I feel sure that there is a lot more to learn about how geography has shaped the form and decisions of states over the centuries.
Crimea is a price western countries are willing to pay to make Ukraine pro-western anti-russian. If Putin calculated this response I don’t understand how it was in Russia’s interest as it makes NATO military bases in Ukraine more probable and much closer to Moscow.
False accusation of new Ukrainian leadership in attempts to ban Russian language. Any such thing has never made a law, not more a ground to “protect Russian nationals” than any stupid thing said by countless marginal and far-left/right politicians in Europe alone. Ukraine has 0 far-right parties in its parliament, 0 representation - very easy to check. Now compare that the rest of Europe.
Stopped reading after the first chapter as I am not sure what to expect of depiction of the situation in other parts of the world I don’t have first hand knowledge of.
The author has an incredible grasp of world affairs and our history. It made me wish I had spent more time in this area and has given me a thirst to spend more time in future.
It has turned me into even more of a dinner bore as I am now able to explain the background behind many of the current world conflicts with such confidence that I go unchallenged!
I read the book on Kindle so had the maps in black and white and didn't benefit from the full colour versions but it was still a great read. I am tempted to get hold of the colour printed version and look at some of the chapters again, and share with my family, it was that good in my view.
Much of the book, however, is a description and interpretation of world political events, especially in the post World-War II period, providing a useful reminder of events which may have slipped from our memory. This description in my view, shows the importance of political ideology and nationalism, rather than geography in influencing these events.
A Sunday Times Best Seller, but I'd never heard of it, until recommended by a work colleague.
Fascinating book, providing insight into the world we live in.
I described it to another colleague as - "If you live on this planet, you should read this book."
With hindsight, I'd say that was a fair description. I stand by it.
Never thought I'd pick up a book like this and for £4 on Prime - definitely worth adding to your library.
Crimea's annexation, is given substance and understanding as being "obvious". Never thought I'd hear myself say that!
Top international reviews
You need a Google map/atlas/map images as you read through the corresponding sections
You will get the real reasons for everything that's happening in the world - reasons behind all major headlines
Richiede una buona conoscenza dell'inglese in quanto a tratti può risultare complesso da tradurre.
Ho preso la versione Kindle ed è ben fatto e dotato di molte immagini e carte geografiche.
Dieses Buch ist sehr empfehlenswert, um einen ersten Überblick über geopolitische Zusammenhänge zu bekommen. Ein Beispiel: Die Bedeutung eine ganzjährig nutzbaren Hafens für den freien Zugang zu den Weltmeeren - für Russland ein Jahrhunderte altes Thema. Ein Weiteres: Die strategische Bedeutung von Gebirgszügen oder deren Fehlen für die Sicherheit eines Landes in Hinblick auf mögliche Eindringlinge.
Das Buch räumt auf mit dem Klischee, heute sei alles anders als in früheren Zeiten. Es zeigt geographische Konstanten für die politische Entwicklung auf und ermöglicht dem Leser einen klareren Blick auf sonst schwer verständliche Abläufe.
Auch empfehlenswert: George Friedman, Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe.
The author misses some crucial points on the bigger picture of human aspiration to peace and stability and how that changes many equations. One flagrant example is his cover of Europe and it's Union a little more research such as reading it's unratified European Constitution or even is powerful moto adopted in 2000 "United in Diversity" would open much greater vistas for richer exploration of the subject.
But then again can one realistically expect an English journalist to do due diligence on a subject such as Europe?
And, to be sure, some of the things it says are true.
If re-written by someone with a long, deep, and balanced understanding of, and perspective on, history and geography, it could have been an excellent book. Imagine what it could have been if written by somebody like Alistair Horne. Barbara Tuchman. Robert Caro. Margaret MacMillan. William Shirer. David Fromkin. Doris Kearns Goodwin.
However, sadly, it was not.
The text comes across as if written by someone with the knowledge and maturity of a high school student. "Glib" would be an understatement. That glibness glosses over a number of highly misleading representations.
Most of the errors are errors of omission - on the assumption that the reader won't know any better. E.g., in a discussion of the Congo there is no mention of the murders of Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjold. We don't mention any number of activities in the Spanish-speaking Americas because they are inconsistent with the breezy and shallow narrative; because they would show the topics to be complex and to have aspects of ambiguity and nuance. Ditto on Iran and the Middle East. Ditto on India. It's a bit much to slag various countries with failure to develop in terms of economic growth when your own government has taken steps to hobble those countries.
On the other hand, if you like Fox News, you'll love this book, and think it is insightful.
That this book should have been a best-seller on the New York Times review of books is a scary thought, and a rather sad and discomforting comment on the quality of teaching of history and geography in North America and the UK.
One of the absolutely most interesting and useful books I have ever read (among the hundreds and hundreds I've read so far).
Each chapter of the book is about a specific country (like China) or cluster of countries (like the Middle East). The author deeply analyses the geographical characteristics and he takes a step forward by linking the geography to the reasons why such country is successful or, on the contrary, is having troubles to exploit its full potential. I like the fact that each chapter is supported by a map that helped me to visualise what I was reading. The main thing I take away after reading it is that I understood how interconnected we really are, even if we think that some politician who takes his decisions on the other side of the world, does not really affect us. The style of the author is easy to read and the complicated concepts are explained in a simple way. I totally recommend this book to anyone.
Yet never a moment where the context is out of your grasp. This book is a must for someone who is completely unaware to someone who is well versed but has not been able to see it all together in a concise manner. Take a look. Grab a read and maybe be a smarter global citizen.
The 10 chapters (maps) are the following: Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America and The Artic.
Here are some examples of the notes I took in the first three chapters:
-Geographically speaking, the USA is “blessed” for many reasons: the two oceans protect it from invasions, it has navigable rivers, fertile soil, significant natural resources (shale gas is trending now), etc. The great statesman Otto von Bismarck once said: “God takes special care of drunks, children and the United States of America”.
-In 1803 the French sold Louisiana to the USA for only 15 million USD. The historian Henry Adams said: “Never did the United States get so much for so little”. In 1819 the Spaniards ceded Florida. In 1848 they advanced until the Rio Grande after winning the war with Mexico, in 1867 they bought Alaska, etc. The American Empire was getting ready to be a global superpower.
-In 1940, the British swapped their ability to be a global power in exchange for help in remaining in the war. After the war, the Americans took their military bases abroad and became, officially, the indisputable Empire in the Western Hemisphere.
-Russia is an energy giant and use its natural resources as a tool to gain political power. And to blackmail its neighbours.
-The lack of a warm-water port with direct access to the oceans has always been Russia’s Achilles heel. This explains, in part, their obsession with annexing Crimea.
-Russia’s biggest fear: NATO (1949) still exists and it is larger and closer to Russia’s borders than ever before, whereas the “USSR NATO”, The Warsaw Pact (1955), disappeared when the USSR collapsed.
-China annexed the Tibet region in 1951 and it is unlikely to let it free. For other reasons, because the Tibet is the source of China’s great rivers (Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow) and holds a strategic position in the Himalayas next to its great Asian rival in the coming future: India.
-The Chinese look at society very differently from the West. Western thought is infused with the rights of the individual; Chinese thought prizes the collective above the individual.
-The Strait of Malacca (between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) is key for China’s trade and an obvious weakness in case of confrontations. China is investing huge amounts of money in its navy in order to control it.
In conclusion: All powerful nations spend peacetime preparing for the day war breaks out.
And, by the way, the rest of the book is even better.
For this reason, a book such as "Prisoners of Geography" can give you some additional references to improve your knowledge of today's global politics. By the end of this book, you will be able to understand (at least partially) why:
* The conflict between Russia and Ukraine lingers in Crimea.
* China is focusing on becoming a maritime power.
* The US experienced exponential growth and fulfill the superpower criteria.
* The geographical constraints of Western Europe make peace of uttermost importance for the continent.
* Contact between several African regions was a challenging issue.
* The complex internal struggle of several Middle Eastern societies prevails.
* The rift between India and Pakistan exists and what unites and separates both countries.
* Japan became a maritime power and went on to occupy Korea.
* A Latin American "EU" might not be in the cards for the next years.
* The Artic is the next field of international dispute.
Yet, in my opinion, geography cannot explain why some countries are rich and others not. For that, I would recommend the book "Why Nations Fail", because I consider its thesis more plausible. However, geography is a great tool to figure out some relevant political decisions, especially in terms of national defense, international enmity and alliances. It definitely plays a role in foreign policy and the choices world leaders make on a daily basis.
To conclude, I can recommend the YouTube channel Wendover Productions*, namely the series about the main geography problems of some of the biggest countries in the world. His videos are a great complement to this book.
* This is not an ad, but merely good taste and a willingness to share great content with likeminded people. So, please, VSW, do not sue me... I am poor!
It covers most parts of the world, giving answers to questions like why China are interested in Tibet, why Russia are interested in Ukraine, why the US has bases around the world, why France and Germany need to work together (and why Germany invaded France in both world wars), how big Africa really is, why China is interested in working with African nations, why Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, and why splitting up nations by drawing straight lines on a map is a bad idea.
Abbastanza scontato, anche per la centralita' dell'argomento nelle cronache degli ultimi anni, quello sul Medio oriente.
Molti concetti non sono delle grandi scoperte, ma l'idea di base e' interessante.
Ich meine die Grundlagen verstanden zu haben, warum Ländergrenzen und internationale Konflikte die Gestalt angenommen haben in der sie heutzutage aufzufinden sind.
Das Buch ist unterteilt in einzelne Kapitel, die jeweils ein Land oder Gebiet beleuchten indem die wichtigen Geographischen Gegenbenheiten aufgezeigt, und historische Groß-Ereignisse erklärt werden. Darauf folgt eine Beschreibung der aktuellen Lage, Ziele und Konflikpotenziale der einzelnen Nationen. Ebenfalls sind kleine Prognosen in den jeweiligen Kapiteln untergebracht welche das Lesen auch durchaus spannend gestalten.
Bisher eines meiner Lieblingsbücher diesen Jahres! Volle Empfelhung!