Prisoners of Geography

Prisoners of Geography

eBook - 2015
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In this New York Times bestseller, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—"fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled" ( Fort Worth Star-Telegram ). Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected to refer to a map of the place in question. All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In "one of the best books about geopolitics" ( The Evening Standard ), now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders. Offering "a fresh way of looking at maps" ( The New York Times Book Review ), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China's power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. "In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics" ( Newsweek ) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.
Publisher: [S.I.] : Scribner, 2015.
ISBN: 9781501121487
Branch Call Number: Overdrive
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Mar 06, 2020

This is quite an interesting subject and the principal thesis of the book is fairly well explained (the importance of geography in determining geopolitical outcomes). The author provides copious historical and current examples to illustrate the impact that geography has on history, however in many cases I believe that he grossly overstates the inevitability of major events and ignores the importance of non-geographic factors. Another disappointing aspect of this book is that the views expressed often seem very USA-centric (in spite of the author being British). Ironic that the rational foreign policy which he assumes the USA will always follow is not being followed by the current administration, which is now acting counter to what this book assures us will guarantee the continued preeminence of the USA, thanks to its geography (i.e. actions with respect to Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and others). I suppose he can't be blamed for not anticipating this in 2015, but it does cast additional doubt on at least some of his specific projections, which at this point were made only 5 years ago. In fact several of his predictions already appear to have been off the mark, but those are mostly in the details. I think that he also underestimates the impact of climate change and of technology, among other things. However his extensive description of various important geographical features around the world is very interesting and thought provoking. This alone makes it well worth reading.

Dec 29, 2019

The author gives an unaccountably broad definition of "geography" in his Introduction, including things such as "cultural differences". This is how he attempts to justify the title of the book, and indeed how he can generate enough content to fill it. He spends maybe as much as 20% of the time talking about actual geography, usually at the beginning of a chapter, and then goes on for pages covering any and every other aspect of international relations, including background on current and recent events, which do not have their origin in what any reasonable person would consider "geography". Maps do not explain everything about the world. My two stars are for the little bit of revelatory geographical (geological, nautical) information he does give.

Nov 16, 2019

This textbook has positioned itself as a mainstream general audience book. The content is much the same as you would find in any history or geography course. There are many factoids, i.e. nuggets of information about geography or history I didn't know, and most of those were interesting to some extent, but overall about 80% of the content is stuff almost everybody knows (although too many don't). Facts like: Russia is huge and cold; China and India don't like each other but are protected from each other by the Himalayas; the United States is fortunate to be in a temperate climate zone and have access to both major oceans. Once it departs from pure geography, it deteriorates into what always turned me off about history class - it becomes the author's own opinion about history and why countries, either populations or governments, do what they do. The 80% you already knows drags and the other 20% irritates. It's also a bit of a bait and switch. I thought from the subtitle it would show some interesting maps, but it's almost all text with a few rather small, simple maps.

SCL_Angela Mar 29, 2019

A good primer of geo-politics. I was reminded that I need to learn more and pay better attention to Africa history and news.

Oct 15, 2018

Interesting read, pulls lots of threads together (considering "only" one chapter per continent). Even if/as one might be familiar with world maps, overlaying some geography onto them and highlighting (hindsighting?) how, then, countries borders (or aspirations) took shape quite interesting. I did find the maps confusing (!), unfamiliar with the details of, say, the Indian subcontinent in the "India" Chapter, I found myself reading that chapter with a finger on three other pages at the three relevant maps, as I searched for the city or state or river or mountain range being referenced in the text.

Aug 26, 2018

I learned so, so much from this book! As another person commented, you’d have to read a huge number of articles, history books, and newspapers to get this much information. And it wouldn’t make such a concise picture as this book does. All those names on the news now fall into context. A fabulous book, well-written and so informative! It is well worth the time and has so much information in those 263 pages! Thank you, Mr. Marshall!

Jul 04, 2018

In addition to the positive comments from others, let me add a different slant. This book shows why the Middle East will be mired in perpetual inter-tribal warfare, at least for many generations. It also shows why Latin America will be stuck in mediocrity for many generations. There are some problems in the world that we can't solve in our lifetimes.

Apr 05, 2016

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World --- by --- Tim Marshall.
This well written but very readable book looks at ten areas on the globe and examines why and how they were virtually geographically pre-destined to become global flash-points. Russia, China, the Middle East. They’re among the players. And so, amazingly enough for most Canadians, is the Arctic. This book is an excellent backgrounder for understanding the issues that play out on news-casts everywhere.

Nov 17, 2015

[If you want a first-rate education, read this book, and if you want an incredible education, read this book and this article:,_maintaining_american_supremacy_in_the_twenty-first_century/ ]
Wow! The amount of geopolitical and sociopolitical analyses and cogent thought in this book is incredible - - the reader would have to read the most astute columnists in 500 to over 1,000 international newspapers and journals to get anywhere close to this author - - a journalist, but really a tremendous historian, since the term // journalist \\ can hardly be applicable to such professionalism and reality-based scholarship.
You will not be disappointed!


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