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Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell…
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Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know… (2015)

by Tim Marshall

Other authors: Bertil Knudsen (Translator)

Series: Politics of Place

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9383014,445 (3.87)21
All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to understand world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements - but if you don't know geography, you'll never have the full picture. To understand Putin's actions, for example, it is essential to consider that, to be a world power, Russia must have a navy. And if its ports freeze for six months each year then it must have access to a warm water port - hence, the annexation of Crimea was the only option for Putin. To understand the Middle East, it is crucial to know that geography is the reason why countries have logically been shaped as they are - and this is why invented countries (e.g. Syria, Iraq, Libya) will not survive as nation states. Spread over ten chapters (covering Russia; China; the USA; Latin America; the Middle East; Africa; India and Pakistan; Europe; Japan and Korea; and Greenland and the Arctic), using maps, essays and occasionally the personal experiences of the widely traveled author, Prisoners of Geography looks at the past, present and future to offer an essential guide to one of the major determining factors in world history.… (more)

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» See also 21 mentions

English (25)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
A good bird's eye view/roundup of the major conflicts in every region and how geography is sometimes a cause and sometimes a limiting or even exacerbating factor in each of these conflicts.

A central theme seems to be the fact that humans in earlier times were more limited by geography than today leading to formation of smaller, more homogenous groups with distinct characteristics bound by geographical features like mountains or rivers or oceans. The world is in conflict because colonialists liked to draw random lines in the sand or on a map with no basis in reality.

It would have been nice had the author also spent some time on how the internet and other conveniences of the modern age are removing some of these barriers. For if the internet is truly making the world smaller, then as a species humans must be becoming more homogenous, if not in appearance then definitely in habits and mannerisms and attitudes. How does geography figure then?

On the whole, I think this is a good fast read. ( )
  sriram_shankar | Oct 15, 2019 |
This is a great read that is packed with information. Geopolitics is described using maps of Russia, China, United States, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America.and the Arctic. Tim Marshall explains how geography defines the history and current political strategies of a nation and the power and influence they have had and can have. The book is well written and accessible, explaining why some places are places that will always be argued over. You certainly don't have to be a geographer to find interest here. ( )
  Tifi | Oct 13, 2019 |
I read this book at the suggestion of a friend who thought I would find the perspective interesting, and indeed I did. The author has been engaged in observing geopolitics as a journalist for some time so he is knowledgeable. In addition his perspective as a Brit is refreshing to an American. He ends the book by acknowledging that great ideas and great ideas are part of the push and pull of history. That being said his point is geography is what the leaders and ideas need to work with when developing their strategies. As much as the book is about geography it is also about the history of power and its manifestation. I found the part about the arctic particularly interesting since it is so little in the news. The reopening of the northwest passage is clearly going to have a growing impact. He demonstrates one of the reasons international flashpoints are flashpoints. He also makes clear that one of the reasons both Africa and the Middle East are such challenging areas is that the colonial powers drew lines on maps without regard to underlying geography or populations. ( )
  waldhaus1 | Aug 28, 2019 |
Interesting, but hardly everything we need to know about global politics. Another journo that thinks he has all the answers. ( )
  shum57 | Jul 22, 2019 |
Humanity has yet to control geography, for it is geography that controls humanity. The premise of this book is that simple. Where a people lives influences their political outlook, social way of life, almost everything. My favourite example in this book is Russia - because (European) Russia is mostly flat, it is perfect for invading. Hence the favoured Russian tactic of just cannon-foddering your enemies until they give up. And then, of course, this leads into the buffer states of the Cold War, the cybercriminality of the Russian State, etc, etc. The simple fact that Moscow lies in the middle of a flat plain is a good proportion of why it is how it is.

The author obviously leans into this a bit too much, possibly to the detriment of other factors, but nonetheless makes you think: if Africa had more alcoves for harbours and better navigable rivers, would we be speaking Swahili instead of English?


If you like geopolitics, and mean it literally, then this book is the ticket.
( )
  yassie_j | Feb 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tim Marshallprimary authorall editionscalculated
Knudsen, BertilTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Russia is vast.
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Ten maps that explain everything about the world.
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