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Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History

by Ian Morris

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863313,224 (4.5)1
History. Politics. Nonfiction. In the wake of Brexit, Ian Morris chronicles the history of Britain's relationship to Europe as it has changed in the context of a globalizing world. When Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the 48 percent who wanted to stay and the 52 percent who wanted to go each accused the other of stupidity, fraud, and treason. In reality, the Brexit debate merely reran a script written ten thousand years earlier, when the rising seas physically separated the British Isles from the European continent. For the first seventy-five hundred years, the British were never more than bit players at the western edge of a European stage, struggling to find a role among bigger, richer continental rivals. By 1500 CE, however, new kinds of ships and governments had turned the European stage into an Atlantic one; with the English Channel now functioning as a barrier, England transformed the British Isles into a United Kingdom that created a worldwide empire. Since 1900, however, thanks to rapid globalization, Britain has been overshadowed by American, European, and-increasingly-Chinese actors. But in trying to find its place in a global economy, Britain has been looking in all the wrong places. Geography Is Destiny shows that the great question for the coming century is not what to do about Brussels; it's what to do about Beijing.… (more)
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Morris has written an engaging long-term history of what we call the United Kingdom and its place in the world.

He says he did that because he had to tell all the old stories so that we could understand the story of Brexit. The recent referendum and follow-on departure certainly echo earlier instances of insularity in the British isles, but I'm not really convinced you need to read the whole thing to understand the current chaos.

The next-to-last chapter, Keep Calm and Carry On (1992-2013), is an engaging read just on the events that led directly to the referendum that forced the UK to Leave. It's good on its own. The very short chapter that follows it, Can't Go Home Again (2017), where Morris returns to his hometown of Stoke on Trent and hangs out with regular folks, is likewise thought-provoking.

But the professional historian and Stanford professor does a good job with the big topic. I'd read his earlier book, Why the West Rules -- For Now, some years ago, and very much enjoyed it. This one is better, I think. Both make the point that China is already a global force, and that this century will see a remaking of the world order to accommodate that country.

I hope that Morris will write about that, too, in the next decade or so. ( )
  mikeolson2000 | Dec 27, 2023 |
2023 Book #17. 2022. The history of Britain as told in relation to its geographical place in the world. An interesting perspective told in an engaging way. If you're a history buff, I highly recommend it. At nearly 500 pages, it never drags. ( )
  capewood | Apr 3, 2023 |
Review excerpt from a longer article:

Time Take-aways for Life-Long Learners: Geography Connections

From forgotten and imagined places to powerful political relationships, connect geography with topics across the curriculum through these recently published books.

...

Geography is Destiny: Britain and the World
Ian Morris, 2022, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan
Themes: History, Britain, Europe, Historical geography

Readers explore the 10,000 year relationship between the British Isles and the European continent along with the entire globe.
Take-aways: Use Britain as an example of the connection among geography, politics, economics, and history.

...

Whether helping educators keep up-to-date in their subject-areas, promoting student reading in the content-areas, or simply encouraging nonfiction leisure reading, teacher librarians need to be aware of the best new titles across the curriculum and how to activate life-long learning. - Annette Lamb ( )
  eduscapes | Oct 1, 2022 |
Showing 3 of 3
Morris provides a very comprehensive history of Britain while keeping readers engaged. It is a skill to cover such a vast timeline and still keep a reader wanting more. A satisfying read for both readers new to British history those looking for a new take.
 
Morris deftly teases out long arcs—ancient Britons were as ambivalent about the Roman Empire, he argues, as modern ones are about the European Union—and probes archaeological and genealogical evidence, data on economic development, and the literature of manners and morals to illuminate slow, profound changes in the lives of ordinary people.
 
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History. Politics. Nonfiction. In the wake of Brexit, Ian Morris chronicles the history of Britain's relationship to Europe as it has changed in the context of a globalizing world. When Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the 48 percent who wanted to stay and the 52 percent who wanted to go each accused the other of stupidity, fraud, and treason. In reality, the Brexit debate merely reran a script written ten thousand years earlier, when the rising seas physically separated the British Isles from the European continent. For the first seventy-five hundred years, the British were never more than bit players at the western edge of a European stage, struggling to find a role among bigger, richer continental rivals. By 1500 CE, however, new kinds of ships and governments had turned the European stage into an Atlantic one; with the English Channel now functioning as a barrier, England transformed the British Isles into a United Kingdom that created a worldwide empire. Since 1900, however, thanks to rapid globalization, Britain has been overshadowed by American, European, and-increasingly-Chinese actors. But in trying to find its place in a global economy, Britain has been looking in all the wrong places. Geography Is Destiny shows that the great question for the coming century is not what to do about Brussels; it's what to do about Beijing.

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