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In the bestselling tradition of Why Nations Fail and The Revenge of Geography, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers. All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and oth In the bestselling tradition of Why Nations Fail and The Revenge of Geography, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers. All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and other authorities often focus on people, ideas, and political movements, but without geography, we never have the full picture. Now, in the relevant and timely Prisoners of Geography, seasoned journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the USA, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan and 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. In ten, up-to-date maps of each region, Marshall explains in clear and engaging prose the complex geo-political strategies of these key parts of the globe. What does it mean that Russia must have a navy, but also has frozen ports six months a year? How does this affect Putin’s treatment of Ukraine? How is China’s future constrained by its geography? Why will Europe never be united? Why will America never be invaded? Shining a light on the unavoidable physical realities that shape all of our aspirations and endeavors, Prisoners of Geography is the critical guide to one of the major (and most often overlooked) determining factors in world history.


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In the bestselling tradition of Why Nations Fail and The Revenge of Geography, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers. All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and oth In the bestselling tradition of Why Nations Fail and The Revenge of Geography, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers. All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and other authorities often focus on people, ideas, and political movements, but without geography, we never have the full picture. Now, in the relevant and timely Prisoners of Geography, seasoned journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the USA, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan and 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. In ten, up-to-date maps of each region, Marshall explains in clear and engaging prose the complex geo-political strategies of these key parts of the globe. What does it mean that Russia must have a navy, but also has frozen ports six months a year? How does this affect Putin’s treatment of Ukraine? How is China’s future constrained by its geography? Why will Europe never be united? Why will America never be invaded? Shining a light on the unavoidable physical realities that shape all of our aspirations and endeavors, Prisoners of Geography is the critical guide to one of the major (and most often overlooked) determining factors in world history.

30 review for Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Once I read this true crime account of this serial killer and they didn’t find the bodies, I think they got him on dna, and so they ask him what did you do with the bodies. They were wondering what genius plan of disposal the guy had come up with to make ten corpses disappear without trace. And he says I cut em up and put them out with the trash. If I couldn’t get em in the bin I put em in black bags. They just took em away, every Thursday morning. Well, you really shouldn’t laugh, but – Once I Once I read this true crime account of this serial killer and they didn’t find the bodies, I think they got him on dna, and so they ask him what did you do with the bodies. They were wondering what genius plan of disposal the guy had come up with to make ten corpses disappear without trace. And he says I cut em up and put them out with the trash. If I couldn’t get em in the bin I put em in black bags. They just took em away, every Thursday morning. Well, you really shouldn’t laugh, but – Once I saw this programme, I can’t remember what, it’s hard to keep track what with this and that and the other, but they were talking about earthquakes and they showed this huge plain somewhere, like Iran I think, and there was a little river in the middle, and so that was the only place there was a village, everywhere else on this plain was deserted. So when the earthquake hit, it crushed the village and killed everyone there. Because of course the river was the fault line. So the only place the people could live was on the fault line. This is to show the complete fucked-up-ness of the human condition. This book goes into some considerable detail about this fuckedupness. As for instance Africa. You hear a lot about the legacy of slavery and colonialism but hah, that ain’t it. It’s harbours and rivers is your problem. Africa has got a lot of famous long rivers but they don’t join up and so you can’t sail your goods down them because every 20 miles there’s a waterfall. Very pretty but it puts the kibosh on trade. Then below the Sahara you have the tsetse fly which bites any animal you might think of as a beast of burden, like donkeys or bullocks or zebras for all I know, so they go down and die and there’s your trade gone down with them. As for the coast, it’s smooth not jagged, and that’s really a bad thing because that means hardly any natural harbours, so that means no sea trade either. This is solid stuff but not so solid when other countries are examined like Russia. Because then we are straying from geography and getting into the United States of Paranoia which is the real name of Russia, according to Tim Marshall. It’s mental geography he is now talking about. There is a North European Plain which has been the route from Europe into Russia since time began and the guy in the Kremlin is obsessed with not being invaded via this plain. And this explains the Russian buffer state thing, they have to have their buffer states or they get really frazzled. So - you're ahead of me - this in turn explains the current hoohah in Ukraine, and the previous switcheroo in Crimea. This latter has a warm water port and this may not mean much to you personally, but that’s because your ships aren’t frozen up in Murmansk for 8 months of the year. You can’t do nothing with cold water ports, you need a warm water one. All of the vastness of Russia and they don’t have a single one (ah geography), except now they do. In Europe we had WW2 and the message Europeans took from that is that was the last one, no more European wars – which has almost but not quote been true for 75 years. The Russians see that as a blip. An uncharacteristic, suspicious blip. This geography thing gets a bit repetitive – plains, mountains, rivers, plainsmountainsrivers, portsportsports, and when he gets to The Middle East (he asks the first 2 questions : Middle of what? East of what? to point out how ingrained is the eurocentricity of our western brains and maps) he is reduced to saying they all hate each other! You wouldn’t believe! which he has some strong data to back this up, like all of the current horror show from Morocco to Waziristan. But again, not really geography, this is psychohistory. Leonard Cohen wrote a song about the entire and increasing fuckedupness of the world called "The Future" : Gimme back the Berlin wall, gimme Stalin and St Paul, I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder. That is the theme song for this book, which is hard to rate because it allows for no chink of hope to get through. The message is : there will be more of the same, but it will be different enough for you not to get bored. So, for instance, beheading videos – you have to admit that was old (13th century) but new (on Twitter). I must stop trying to understand the human race. It passeth all understanding.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World, Tim Marshall, 2015, 263 pp. This is actually a rather shallow, cursory look at geopolitics from a standard pro–U.S.-military, neoliberal viewpoint. The ten maps are just ordinary maps of ten areas, Russia, China, U.S., W. Europe, Africa, Mideast, S. Asia, Korea/Japan, Latin America, Arctic. The author’s claim, that natural corridors and natural barriers explain “everything,” is belied by the rise and fall of empires as plain Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World, Tim Marshall, 2015, 263 pp. This is actually a rather shallow, cursory look at geopolitics from a standard pro–U.S.-military, neoliberal viewpoint. The ten maps are just ordinary maps of ten areas, Russia, China, U.S., W. Europe, Africa, Mideast, S. Asia, Korea/Japan, Latin America, Arctic. The author’s claim, that natural corridors and natural barriers explain “everything,” is belied by the rise and fall of empires as plains, mountains, seas and rivers stay put. Where I'm coming from: for example, Addicted to War: Why the U. S. Government Can't Kick Militarism by Joel Andreas and Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky by Noam Chomsky. The author buys the idea that there are “national” interests—as distinct from the interests of particular centers of power. And that we “have to” respond militarily to perceived threats to our ability to project power everywhere, and to counter the threat of violence by locals. No awareness that U.S. military presence is a threat that provokes violence. To the author, the world is a chessboard; control of fossil fuels a game. [e.g. pp. 60, 74] The unstated presumption is, what’s good for Exxon, United Fruit, Raytheon, is the U.S. national interest. Don’t ask who gains, who loses, by moving all production to lowest-wage countries. “Latin America lags far behind” economically. In part because they “got the politics wrong.” [pp. 216–217] He means some of them tried to resist total control by U.S. corporations—and that the U.S. military, CIA, State Department, and corporate and financial sectors have all worked very hard to keep Latin America an exploited region without autonomy. For the truth, see Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Eduardo Galeano, goodreads.com/book/show/187149.Open_V... To the author, “idiots” think the problems of the Middle East are due to Israel. And that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely a “joint tragedy”—rather than, say, genocide, apartheid, theft of the country from the Palestinians by Israel. [p. 152] “The military is the real power in Egypt”—no mention that the U.S. provided that power. Much less in whose interest. [p. 167] On the Iran-Iraq war, no mention that the U.S. armed both sides. [p. 158] To this author, Mexico is a problem for America, supplying illegal labor and drugs. [p. 70] No mention of U.S. “dumping” of government-subsidized agricultural commodities, destroying livelihoods of farmers all over the world. No suggestion that it’s U.S. drug law and enforcement that’s the problem causing suffering throughout the hemisphere. Some “facts” are suspect. None are sourced. The claim, “The greater Mississippi basin has more miles of navigable river than the rest of the world put together,” [p. 68] is questionable. But so is cia.gov/library/publications/resource... which shows Vietnam with more length of navigable waterways than the U.S., and whose world total is more than 3 times the sum of the countries’ totals.

  3. 5 out of 5

    MischaS_

    Yeah, well, it took me some time to finally and officially finished cause I stopped reading for couple months. Anyway, before I get into it, I have to say that I did enjoy this, just to make that clear. Because sometimes I feel like I have more to say about the aspects which were not great in my opinion and I forget to speak about the things that I actually enjoyed. I've always enjoyed geography, and always stared at maps for way too long. The only game I use on my phone is a geography game when Yeah, well, it took me some time to finally and officially finished cause I stopped reading for couple months. Anyway, before I get into it, I have to say that I did enjoy this, just to make that clear. Because sometimes I feel like I have more to say about the aspects which were not great in my opinion and I forget to speak about the things that I actually enjoyed. I've always enjoyed geography, and always stared at maps for way too long. The only game I use on my phone is a geography game when it gives you country/city in the world and you have to locate it on a blind map. So, of course this book was something I had to buy. However, I have to say that I would appreciate if the book worked more with the maps it included. And I wanted more maps. It often felt like the maps were just slapped into the book and rarely worked with. I would love this to use old maps of first settlement and compare them with the current one. To SHOW how geography influenced the evolution of the area rather than just TALK about it. That would be really awesome; however, I can understand that it may have not been possible in a book which has some odd 300 pages. Maybe an extended version? Or separated into several books? I'll have to edit this review later on, cause I marked several quotes from the book I wanted to add here; however, I already lend the book to a friend. So, later. I really liked the separation of the book; however, I would enjoy if it was more... logical in a way? It went from Russia to China than the USA, then Europe and then in a couple of chapters it went back to Pakistan and India and later to Korea and Japan and then it jumped to Latin America again. I believe that the flow would be better if there were more sense and order in how the chapters followed each other. The three chapters which were probably the best were Russia, China and the USA. Can you see a pattern there? All were chapters focusing only on one country, not a whole continent. But at the same time, I will say that the one which I enjoyed the most was Africa, which deserved more pages because it felt rushed and somewhat oversimplified. And with finishing reading the chapter on Africa I also realised another issue. The author had a tendency to introduce ideas he did not mention until then. Which is a shame because those seemed to be the most interesting thoughts. What I do not understand why there was a chapter on Western Europe which spend like two or three pages on the topic of Greece. Either it should have been Europe chapter or European Union chapter. Probably the former. Also, where is Australia and New Zealand? Is one chapter missing? The author did acknowledge that he did not write on Australia or Canada and Indonesia. However, I have to say I do not feel like the book reached its limit. 300 pages is not that many and the glaring lack of the whole continent is just strange.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Outstanding! If one reads only one politico book this year, read this one. Wanting to compose a 20 paragraph reaction, at least that long upon each one of the 10 world "entities" that this book is divided into! (Not always a continent, but sometimes that nomenclature relates.) Well, I will not. Because Marshall's concise and succinctly factual is beyond my superlatives OR my summation of it, could ever be. But possibly I could make one comparison. In my youth, when exact structures of observance w Outstanding! If one reads only one politico book this year, read this one. Wanting to compose a 20 paragraph reaction, at least that long upon each one of the 10 world "entities" that this book is divided into! (Not always a continent, but sometimes that nomenclature relates.) Well, I will not. Because Marshall's concise and succinctly factual is beyond my superlatives OR my summation of it, could ever be. But possibly I could make one comparison. In my youth, when exact structures of observance were taught and charted- the biological body (human or animal, or plant) was learned to naming of touch and recognition by seeing, measuring, or handling within feel of topography or dissection. Thus the first lesson, most often became accompanied by the intense mantra "Structure is for Function". Comparing this geographical analysis of forms for function for each of these 10 regions of the Earth! The forms (GEOGRAPHY) will continually replay the same questions, fears, answers, attempts for the functions of those who live there. If you have isolation upon 3 fronts, no coastline, or a coastline with no harbors or faced with immense cliffs (actually this is no coastline at all)? Or if your weather harbors ever living insect viability, or human occupation for 15 thousand millennia? Some sections I read twice. And to be completely truthful, I still do not understand some aspects of what the repercussions have evolved within the topography of Africa. I do know that I'm buying this one. And that I will get the next book for the regions he has not been able to complete in this one. He states it will be out soon. This one is for the main 10 regions of divisions in geography today: Russia, China, United States, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India & Pakistan, Korea & Japan, Latin America, and lastly The Artic. If you have learned your history and politico from the stance of administration ideologies, religion, colonialism or any whole piece belief system of division or operations, you need to read this book. Because the mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, oceans will alter, change. Over great periods of time, they will. But not all that much. And structure still insists functions and outcomes in majority. Great majority proportionally. And with use of the Artic, Space and other huge changes that will occur- you will always have the human geographic restraints of your human location. This book is surprisingly current on top of it. It even has the proposed Strait of Nicaragua- which if funding by China continues, should be finished by the end of 2020. Highest recommendation by me in non-fiction category for this year, 2016. So far- and I doubt it will be beat. Read Russia and the Middle East alone if that is your tolerance level.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alger Smythe-Hopkins

    Several disclaimers: 1. I am a historical geographer by inclination and education, and I have taught history and geography. I have also published articles in leading scholarly journals. 2. I have read the forward and the first half of the first section concerning Russia and cannot read further. 3. Tim Marshall is an incredibly ignorant smug ass and the living avatar of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is an opinion I formed of him while reading this book. This opinion is not one I believe any ne Several disclaimers: 1. I am a historical geographer by inclination and education, and I have taught history and geography. I have also published articles in leading scholarly journals. 2. I have read the forward and the first half of the first section concerning Russia and cannot read further. 3. Tim Marshall is an incredibly ignorant smug ass and the living avatar of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is an opinion I formed of him while reading this book. This opinion is not one I believe any new information short of meeting him and having him explain that he wrote this book as a cruel joke can shake. I sincerely believe that this book is a confidence scheme working upon people's innocence and does real harm. Okay, with that out of the way... Holy god has anyone ever written such a pile of incomprehensibly written, self contradictory, and wrong headed nonsense? Cribbing liberally from his dogeared volume Military History for Complete Dummies, Marshall reiterates the absolute worst ideas the Geographic Determinism arguments of the early 20th century and pretends that they are his very own profound truths about the human condition, rather than entirely discredited theories (and profoundly and inescapably racist ones at that). Aside from his apparently not knowing what half the ideas he stole from Halford MacKinder were supposed to explain, he falls into every trap that Ratzel and Semple sidestepped, and incredibly makes the entirely execrable Jared Diamond look like a thoughtful scholar by comparison. To put this volume into a geographer's perspective, imagine a chemist finding a book explaining a new and amazing theory of fire (the secret is phlogiston). I am on page 14 and have already filled the margins of the book with enough notes to crash Goodreads if I included them, so let's just reduce my critiques to the essentials. 1. Marshall believes that nations are the natural political unit, and are optimally composed of a uniform ethnic identity. 1a. Marshall thinks that boundaries are real things and that ethno-nationalism would solve all this warfare thing we seem to have trouble with. 2. Marshall conflates 'history' with 'military history' and that all wars are an attempt to avoid the next war by finding natural borders. 3. Marshall is entirely unaware of the hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. 4. Marshall is capable of phrasings like "...in order to extend their global reach around the world" (page xvi in my edition). 4a. Another howler: "The Pact was supposed to be made of iron, but with hindsight by the early 1980s was rusting, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it crumbled to dust." I defy anyone to diagram that sentence. 5. Marshall is entirely ignorant of any history that precedes 2001 except for what he can plagiarize from the Wikipedia blurb you see at the head of a Google search. 6. Marshall can't even keep his own fake history straight enough to make it through the entirely mischaracterized history of the Rus without contradicting himself endlessly (First we are told that the Urals are impassible and prevent invasions from Asia. A couple of paragraphs later the Mongols almost destroy the Rus during their invasion from Asia, across the Urals). 7. Extra Credit:See if you can find the page where Marshall writes so ineptly that he suggests that military aircraft use concrete as fuel 7a. See if you can find the page where he claims Putin thinks only about three things: God, mountains, and pizza. I would enjoy hearing Marshall explain to which of these categories belongs disrupting western democracies through a sustained campaign of social media disinformation. 8. The word 'bear' is not Russian Marshall, you stupid lazy bastard. It is Germanic in origin. Look stuff up. 9. Marshall thinks that "time zone" is a unit of measure. By that system, Antarctica is unimaginably vast. Were Russia rotated 90 degrees it would occupy many fewer time zones. Also, were Russia located along the equator but of the same area and shape, it would again occupy many fewer time zones. 10. Marshall questions Putin's assessment of the collapse of the USSR as a "major geopolitical disaster". I would argue that the postscript has borne out that opinion, largely because of its role in enabling the rise of Putin's authoritarian Russian state out of Yeltsin's equally vicious kleptocracy, let alone the resulting regional destabilization. 11. Marshall attempts a defense of Sarah Palin's "you can see Russia from Alaska" comment as though it were a sensible response to a question about her foreign policy experience. Marshall's argument is essentially that because that statement is factually true, Palin is not as incurably stupid as himself. If that premise were so, my looking at the moon qualifies me to head NASA. 12. There is a passage of absolutely insane nonsense about China slowly conquering Siberia through the clever subterfuge of Chinese restaurants. Really. 13. Marshall wants to argue that Africa is impoverished because of its 'geographic isolation'. Odd that Africa, which is so close to Europe and Asia that it is actually connected, was not too isolated that it was protected from five centuries of European resource exploitation and slaving. 14. Marshall explicitly points to the Southern Cone of South America as another region too remote from civilization to be prosperous. If that argument made any sense at all, then Colombia, Haiti, and El Salvador would be richer and more developed than Argentina and Chile. 15. Everything else Marshall wrote but I have not mentioned is equally illogical and factually incorrect. Those passages are still stupid and wrong, just less entertainingly stupid and wrong. Anyway, I read 14 pages of this complete shite and am astonished that anyone has made it farther. I am also quite frankly offended that so many could be so entirely ignorant of the world that this fart cloud got anything more than ridicule for reviews. Discovering that it rates more than four stars is a sad joke. The only use I can imagine for this volume is giving excepts to a class and have them learn critical reasoning by laughing at it. I fear for humanity sometimes often. Dissenting opinions cheerfully entertained in the comments. Be warned, I do respond.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Will Once

    The premise of this book is interesting - that much of international politics is about geography. Country A doesn't go to war with country B because there is a range of mountains between them. Country C enjoys a strong trading economy because it has access to the sea. And so it goes. Most people reading it will probably get one or two "aha" moments when the book gives them an insight they hadn't had before. It's a good point well made. About a quarter of the way through the book I was really enjo The premise of this book is interesting - that much of international politics is about geography. Country A doesn't go to war with country B because there is a range of mountains between them. Country C enjoys a strong trading economy because it has access to the sea. And so it goes. Most people reading it will probably get one or two "aha" moments when the book gives them an insight they hadn't had before. It's a good point well made. About a quarter of the way through the book I was really enjoying it. Then we start to run into problems. They aren't disastrous. This book is still worth reading. But it's not quite as good as it could be. The main problem is that the book is one long dry lecture. We get nothing but the author speaking for page after page. He clearly knows what he is talking about, but it really needs to be broken up with some more maps, quotes from someone else, anecdotes, graphs. At times this book feels like a college lecture where a highly qualified professor drones on and on for hours. You know that what he is saying is good. You can tell he is an expert. But you long for something to break up the monotony of an uninterrupted monologue. The main thesis doesn't always work. Some of the sections are less about geography and more about people. Messy, organic, unpredictable people. So yes all countries to seem to be prisoners of their geography. In part. But they are also prisoners of their history and the decisions made by individuals. It's not all about mountains, rivers and access to the sea. And you do not make a good book solely by allowing an expert to drone on and on in lecture-theatre style. Recommended - ish. There is lots of good stuff in here, even if it can be quite dull and the main thesis doesn't entirely work every time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is an amazing journey through the world, zooming out of particular localities and looking at the geographical shape of bigger areas that helped form the history, culture and population of the world we share. I read the first chapters on Russia, China, Europe, USA and Africa constantly nodding my head, realising that it was possible to explain many things I had thought about for long hours by analysing natural borders, rivers, mountains, vegetation, climate and distribution of agricultural o This is an amazing journey through the world, zooming out of particular localities and looking at the geographical shape of bigger areas that helped form the history, culture and population of the world we share. I read the first chapters on Russia, China, Europe, USA and Africa constantly nodding my head, realising that it was possible to explain many things I had thought about for long hours by analysing natural borders, rivers, mountains, vegetation, climate and distribution of agricultural opportunities. I had the feeling that my historical knowledge became deeper, and more nuanced by adding the dimension of geography. My recent reflections on Chinua Achebe were put into the context of the vast African continent and its geography. The story of I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban gained width and depth through my intense staring at the map of the borders between Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, and I learned a great deal from the historical references to that region. Then I embarked on the chapter about South America, a continent I hardly know, and was plunged into a strong childhood memory, all of a sudden, without any warning. Reading about Brazil and its complicated connections to other countries, comparing it to Argentina with its access to the Atlantic through the Rio De La Plata, I found myself repeatedly humming a song by a Swedish sailor-poet-songwriter called Evert Taube. My father used to sing his songs to me when I was little, and I still know them by heart, but I have never thought of them in terms of global geography. However, this lovely love song between a Swedish sailor and a young girl called Carmencita from Samborombom, in the Rio De La Plata area, shows exactly what this nonfiction book on geography explains in plain facts: some areas are more accessible, and enhance global communication, while others are more remote, and thus stay isolated, culturally and technologically. The Swedish sailor in the song meets the exotic young lady because his ship has access to her country, but when he wants to marry her, she refuses, telling him her father has received an offer, and she will marry a local man who owns 20,000 cows. Fritjof has to sail home again, his (doubtful) virtues and wonderful tango skills are not enough! Samborombon, en liten by förutan gata, den ligger inte långt från Rio de la Plata, nästan i kanten av den blåa Atlanten och med pampas bakom sej många hundra gröna mil, dit kom jag ridande en afton i april för jag ville dansa Tango. Fully aware that Swedish is not a global language, I still feel I have to copy these Evert Taube lines here, because they connected me to the big, wide world when I was a child, and now made me appreciate the accuracy of the historical impact of geography on a much more personal level. I was coming to the end of the book at this point, and Evert Taube brought it to my attention that I had actually not read anything about Scandinavia's geography yet. This is a region I consider my own, and I can't emphasise enough how astonished I was to realise that it is mentioned, at the very end, not in the chapter on Europe, or in the context of the Western Hemisphere, but as part of the ARCTIC. I had to spend a lot of time meditating on the map showing my home town well within the area circling the arctic, and reflecting on what it possibly meant to me. Also, contrary to Swedish wisdom (beware, this might be irony imported from the continent!), Norway was in the focus of the Scandinavian chapter. How could that be? I thoroughly enjoyed my own confusion at having my geography skills put into perspective like that. One last thing, before I recommend this book to anyone interested in the overarching connections between history and geography: I don't like the subtitle at all and it almost put me off trying the book! Ten Maps That tell You Everything.... That made me think it must be one of those books pretending to explain the world to you in a short, poorly written bestseller style. Ten recipes that make you lose weight in two days... Ten tricks to save money when shopping... This book does NOT tell you everything, and that is good, but it gives you insight into an aspect of global developments that enhances your previous knowledge and makes you curious to learn more! Read! Despite subtitle! (And my overuse of exclamation marks!)!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Swaroop Kanti

    "Geography will determine the future..." Tim Marshall's Prisoners Of Geography is an interesting and informative short book about what happened (history), the current scenario and some inputs about how the future could be. All these are from the perspective of the geographic conditions. As the author mentioned in the book, if our goal is to reach for the stars then instead of being Americans, Chinese, Russians or Indians, we should all move and go forward as representatives of humanity. "Geography will determine the future..." Tim Marshall's Prisoners Of Geography is an interesting and informative short book about what happened (history), the current scenario and some inputs about how the future could be. All these are from the perspective of the geographic conditions. As the author mentioned in the book, if our goal is to reach for the stars then instead of being Americans, Chinese, Russians or Indians, we should all move and go forward as representatives of humanity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stefan

    Overall an interesting read, but little new information for anyone with more than just a passing interest in history or (geo-)politics. There is too much ''America is awesome'' and too little actual in depth information. Furthermore, the title is somewhat misleading. I had the impression that there would be ten actual maps, ones that you don't see or use very often to define your view of the world, but could be considered important nonetheless. Rather, the author just uses the generic maps that Overall an interesting read, but little new information for anyone with more than just a passing interest in history or (geo-)politics. There is too much ''America is awesome'' and too little actual in depth information. Furthermore, the title is somewhat misleading. I had the impression that there would be ten actual maps, ones that you don't see or use very often to define your view of the world, but could be considered important nonetheless. Rather, the author just uses the generic maps that exist of the world's major continents and regions. Concluding, it's worth a read if you need a primer on the back story behind current geopolitics and you want to have something more to tell your friends at the bar than ''those Russians/Chinese/Americans/Islamists are just modern imperialists!''. If you are looking for something more in-depth, look further.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Marshall could have kept up the initial presentation and analysis throughout the book, but at some point the editors decided to shorten the pages and compress regions together. As a fellow reviewer says, "It is solid stuff, but after some time this geography thing gets a bit repetitive – plains, mountains, rivers, plainsmountainsrivers, portsportsports ..." Marshall could have kept up the initial presentation and analysis throughout the book, but at some point the editors decided to shorten the pages and compress regions together. As a fellow reviewer says, "It is solid stuff, but after some time this geography thing gets a bit repetitive – plains, mountains, rivers, plainsmountainsrivers, portsportsports ..."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    What a great read, this was such an interesting topic, well explained and clear . I highly recommend this book to any lover of geopolitical issues and whoever wants to get a glimpse on how the foreseeable future might play out . If you love maps and history this book is for you!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    Have you ever thought what a complex world it is we live in? Why do some countries look to have it all whilst others seem destined to always struggle? Each country has its own history of rivalries and ancient disputes with neighbouring nations – where do these stem from? And what about the frequent border changes – why have these occurred and surely they’ve created additional tensions, haven’t they? I have an old Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas (published in 1961) and a quick perusal of the pa Have you ever thought what a complex world it is we live in? Why do some countries look to have it all whilst others seem destined to always struggle? Each country has its own history of rivalries and ancient disputes with neighbouring nations – where do these stem from? And what about the frequent border changes – why have these occurred and surely they’ve created additional tensions, haven’t they? I have an old Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas (published in 1961) and a quick perusal of the pages just covering Europe and the southern reaches of Africa is enough to tell me that many of the names therein have long ago been cast onto the geographical scrapheap. Well the good news is that this book provides the answers to these questions… and many more. Broken down into sections covering associated areas of the globe I first learnt how natural geography handed out the lottery prizes. Much of Europe, for example, is blessed by having long rivers, some of which flow into each other, creating natural vessels for moving resources around and thus significantly aiding the establishment of trading routes. Africa, on the other hand, has big rivers but they are all frequently interrupted by large waterfalls and they don’t meet up with other rivers, therefore precluding their use for large scale movement of goods. Then there’s the climate: again Africa draws the short straw (along with South America) with large areas providing a home for mosquitos which carry diseases such as Malaria and Yellow fever. And what about the land itself? Areas of Jungle, desert and high mountains have provided natural boundaries but also create problems for transporting goods and for travel. Yes, when you are born the natural lay of the land and climate will have predetermined – to an extent – how prosperous a country you will be born into. History provides the second set of answers. Some countries with natural resources of gas, oil and minerals have been able to utilise their good fortune to enrich their nation (though not necessarily the people who live there). Others have been plundered by aggressive predatory forces hell bent on helping themselves to the assets. Boundaries have been changed through occupation and particularly as a result of the World Wars. These changes were often made by lines being drawn on maps without regard to ancient groupings based on tribal and religious backgrounds – the cause of many long standing disputes and conflicts can be traced back to these actions. The great thing about this book is that the way it is organised allows these elements to be presented in a logical, organised way that not only makes perfect sense but also allows the reader to understand much of the geopolitical bickering that goes on to this very day. It’s a brilliant book and it’s bang up to date. I’d urge anyone interested in improving their knowledge of the big picture to grab a copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    The title of this book is less an indication of content than it is a simple structuring device; an organizational tool used by the author to set his margins decisively enough to free his mind for the text to come. While he does supply ten (plus) maps of the regions of our world, he will not be poring over them with us. Instead, he unleashes his extraordinary grasp of geopolitics in as clean, as direct, and as powerful a manner as we have any right to expect - and it is a richly illuminating jour The title of this book is less an indication of content than it is a simple structuring device; an organizational tool used by the author to set his margins decisively enough to free his mind for the text to come. While he does supply ten (plus) maps of the regions of our world, he will not be poring over them with us. Instead, he unleashes his extraordinary grasp of geopolitics in as clean, as direct, and as powerful a manner as we have any right to expect - and it is a richly illuminating journey, the likes of which anyone who's had a favorite teacher will remember all too well. Geopolitics is, of course, the politics of our geography. The location of a nation plays a large role in how that nation behaves; the goals it sets, its fears, its needs, its dedicated trajectory on the world stage. A fearsome mountain range, for example, will provide protection from unannounced invasion - yet may also limit trading options and access to needed resources. An immense waterway opens up a number of entrepreneurial possibilities, until the neighboring countries who share it decide they might like to build a dam. Many of the major conflicts in history have had, at their root, a geographical component. (They don't call Afghanistan "the graveyard of empires" just because it sounds good.) Tim Marshall takes us continent-hopping through these and many more of the whys and wherefores of our respective geopolitical destinies. I recommend this work highly to anyone interested in foreign policy and/or climate change. Those two issues are about to converge in some fairly serious ways, and the solid foundation this book provides will make navigating these topics much easier. Plus, it was a blast to read. Enjoyment from start to finish.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Prisoners of Geography – A Much needed lesson As someone whose family has been victims of the Geography of where they lived and who they were in an often much forgotten episode of the Second World War. People forget that when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 their allies Russia invaded Poland on the 17th September 1939. My great-Grandmother was ‘exiled’ to Siberia because her son was fighting for the enemy (the Polish Government) and her husband was an officer in the Polish Police. My Grandfather Prisoners of Geography – A Much needed lesson As someone whose family has been victims of the Geography of where they lived and who they were in an often much forgotten episode of the Second World War. People forget that when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 their allies Russia invaded Poland on the 17th September 1939. My great-Grandmother was ‘exiled’ to Siberia because her son was fighting for the enemy (the Polish Government) and her husband was an officer in the Polish Police. My Grandfather escaped a Nazi POW camp made his way to France and after its fall to the UK. My great-Grandfather was never heard of again, and members of my family perished at Katyn, when my great-Grandmother was released in 1946 from Siberia, she could not go home, as her home was in the Stalin creation of Western Ukraine and was ‘moved’ to Krakow. Many Eastern European Governments did not speak out when Russia moved in to the Crimea region whereas Western Leaders could not help themselves but make comments. Why the difference? Partly geography and mainly history, Crimea had been Russian until 1964 when Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine, oh and Khrushchev was a Ukrainian. What we have not heard is a lot about Russia’s interference in Eastern Ukraine which Eastern Europe is very concerned about. Tim Marshall’s excellent book Prisoners of Geography which examines ten maps of the world and then given a concise geopolitical history of that region. You will find out why Russian is concerned about Europe’s eastern border countries, and why it sees Poland as the gateway to the Russian plains as well as the European plains, and feels pretty secure with its other borders. There is also an excellent examination on why China has finally come from behind the bamboo curtain and playing an active part with investments across the Asiatic content. That they are not afraid to sabre rattle amongst the USA naval fleet when it sails too close to China. We also get examinations of the Middle East, which is very apt, with some excellent analysis which some of our political leaders could do with and understanding before making crass statements on what is happening there. In the chapter that covers the Middle East the reader is reminded very much of the artificial borders that were drawn up by the Sykes-Picot Agreement in May 1916, a secret agreement that was concluded by two British and French diplomats. The Sykes-Picot Agreement involved itself with the partition of the Ottoman Empire once World War One had ended. The consequences of which are still reverberating throughout the Middle East and people wonder why the British are not trusted by countries such as Iran. There are also excellent chapters that cover Africa, Korea and Japan, the United States as well as the southern Americas. One could go forensically through all the chapters and set them out here but the reader needs to engage this book. What Tim Marshall gives the reader is an excellent lesson and reminders that geography influences political decisions, strategic decisions of governments and the attitudes of the people. This book also can open one’s eyes to the fact that geography gives context to political and historical events such as revolutions or various embargos that happen across the globe. This is an excellent book which students of geography, history and politics should be required to read and those not so bright people that get elected to Parliaments need to read. This book puts a lot of recent and historical events in to context and understanding that context is so important. Buy this book, borrow this book and give this book it is too important to remain on the shelves getting dusty.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Simon Clark

    A very interesting overview of global geopolitics and the geography that informs it. By splitting the world into distinct regions Marshall allows for the isolation of particularly important geographical features, such as the North European Plain on Russian politics, and the lack of navigable rivers hampering internal development in Africa. The author is clearly authoritative and even includes a few personal anecdotes with foreign ministers when making points. This being my first book on the subj A very interesting overview of global geopolitics and the geography that informs it. By splitting the world into distinct regions Marshall allows for the isolation of particularly important geographical features, such as the North European Plain on Russian politics, and the lack of navigable rivers hampering internal development in Africa. The author is clearly authoritative and even includes a few personal anecdotes with foreign ministers when making points. This being my first book on the subject I'm unable to review how accurate his take on the subject is, however I found every chapter entirely plausible. It has already shaped my perception of events happening in the news - for example Russia's strategy in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus being played out via its relationship with the USA and Turkey over the Syrian conflict. As a general introduction to why world politics is the way it is, I'd struggle to recommend anything better.

  16. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    “Prisoners of Geography” is brief (too brief in my opinion) but yet the book is a delightful and informative read. The intertwined story of human development, war and geography is coherently arranged and very interesting. It has a lot of maps - hooray! These pages reveal the occasional underlying rationality behind why governments sometimes behave the way they do, as well as maybe some reasons why some countries are so impoverished while others have done very well financially. Politics and histor “Prisoners of Geography” is brief (too brief in my opinion) but yet the book is a delightful and informative read. The intertwined story of human development, war and geography is coherently arranged and very interesting. It has a lot of maps - hooray! These pages reveal the occasional underlying rationality behind why governments sometimes behave the way they do, as well as maybe some reasons why some countries are so impoverished while others have done very well financially. Politics and history are necessarily brought into each chapter because tribalism, colonialism, Manly-pride and war have had often more to do with a country’s development than rational or ‘best practices’ decision-making which took into account an area’s geography and resources. Tribal affiliations, culture and technology still deeply affect how nations evolve, as well as accidents of history and growth patterns. The author does not do any judgmental analysis of any governments’ follies or weaknesses to predation by jealous or greedy neighboring countries, but gentle reader, you certainly will. The author includes general details which are enough to connect the dots of history and politics, but his primary focus is on how the presence of mountain ranges, rivers, plains, climate, technology, flora, fauna and natural resources either nurtured or damaged the economic development of countries and/or its vulnerability to war. Mountains, swamps and deserts might cut off communities from each other, creating maybe a hundred local religions, languages and tribes living in disconnected small villages - or maybe the presence of navigable rivers or plains might have facilitated a common language, customs, trading, and later, national ambitions. Climate, of course, is HUGE. Lots of rivers without waterfalls, that are also easily connected to other rivers, provide communities with low-cost connected shipping. Plains in temperate climate zones permit farming, and easy access of business travel and delivery of goods (and invading military troops), promoting the building of cities and industry (and envious neighbors who may have too many mountains, swamps, or deserts - a good case for using a mountain range as a protection barrier and border, although that can be a deterrent to good relationships, too). Lovely ocean beaches are certainly places where one can relax, and if the underlying geology is amiable to the building of ports for deep-water shipping, a country has a major leg up for production and prosperity. Ports cannot be built very cheaply or easily in Africa, for example, despite its long ocean borders. Africa’s underlying beach geology does not support the building of ports, apparently. Africa also has a myriad of other geological and geographical features which prohibit easy development of its resources, particularly in building infrastructure. Most of Africa’s rivers have too many waterfalls and many of them do not connect easily to other rivers. The Nile River drains through too many different countries who do not trust each other - with reason - which is a problem of politics and tribalism - not entirely a problem of geography and climate alone, obviously. In any case, tribalism, a past of colonialism, and poor leadership are huge deterrents to building up modern production methods and safe communities in Africa. It is not only about its geology and its climate. Africa’s climate, btw, is wonderful for the development of one thing - malaria, one of the most long-term debilitating illnesses on earth. Frankly, I do not know if I should feel hopeful or despairing about Humanity’s ability to persevere in eking out meaning and a life with few comforts in an impoverished country due to resource mismanagement, geographical location, and/or the greed of its elite class or its covetous warmongering neighboring nations. I do most certainly feel damn lucky I live in a country naturally endowed with many resources and thousands of miles of land, a comparatively small but not too small generally homogeneous population, a mostly temperate climate, with two oceans protecting two of the borders and friendly countries on the other two borders. Most of us complain daily about what is wrong here in the United States, but we ignore the many things that are right. We are at peace here in the ‘homeland’ which actually contributes a great deal to our prosperity - more than most of us know. The shelves of our groceries and stores bend down under the weight of goods and food from all over the world (as well as what is manufactured here and distributed on our connected river-ways and road/train/airplane infrastructure) thanks to our high-tech deep-water ports and shipping technology. We have about 5% unemployment year after year, generally, and minimal economic ‘safety nets’ (arguably insufficient and mismanaged as the ‘nets’ may be, especially in the area of supporting mental disabilities). An education is almost available to everyone (some preexisting and historically dramatic exceptions prevail in some neighborhoods because of racism). For most of us, we eat everyday under roofs protecting us from the worst of the mostly temperate climate, with clean drinking water readily available, and most of us are inoculated (by antibiotics which require refrigeration, available everywhere here) from the many diseases which debilitate other nations. Most of us can read and write in the one mainstream language necessary for commerce and comfort here; we do not have to navigate the dozens, and even hundreds, of languages other countries do. Tribalism/religious-class stratification is not based on ethnicity or place of birth as much or as powerfully as in other countries (imho, wealth is FAR-and-away a predictor in how respectfully or ‘fairly’ one is treated - of course, access to the organs of ‘wealth creation’ is another story in our recent history). Despite our complaints about access to the offices of officials and (mis)management of government agencies, in comparison to other countries, we are a paradise of function and process. We rank low on most corruption indexes. We are technologically well-endowed, and tech is available and widespread throughout the country. Most of us flip switches every night to turn on heat and light, without worrying if the electrical company is enforcing a brownout, and our refrigerators keep our perishable food cold - no daily shopping at a live-animal/produce market required. I literally have not heard of anyone in the States who has to walk one or two, or even three, hours one way to a waterhole daily to scoop up two pails of water for the necessities of cooking, bathing and drinking, as I have read what happens in many communities in Africa. And despite the ‘bad apples’ among them, most police officers and definitely most of our military service members, do not see us (ok, most of us, less true for minority communities) as prey, in comparison to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and Russia. We are more able to move up and down in social class because class is based mostly on wealth, not so much on tribal or religious affiliation; and we have considerably less corruption and more accountability of officials and legal organizations, comparably speaking. I have read elsewhere our type of government impedes any single political group from gaining monolithic authority while starving the creation of too many interest groups which might fragment the ability of government to govern. Of course, strengthening elements of identity politics as well as economic disparities are currently stressing the governance of America. Time will tell. Given some of the outcomes of politics, history and geography described in this book, though, I am a little scared. Climate change could upend the uneasy balance of the political and economic divisions we have managed to power through in bad times historically. Having oceans on two borders and friendly neighboring countries acting as a buffer to hostile nations (having buffer nations surrounding it is Russia’s goto strategy - See Ukraine - as well as China) won’t be enough. Our primarily temperate climate, navigable rivers, technologically-tamed mountains, and developed infrastructure and technological advances may be why the United States is still standing no matter what our internal and external political and social difficulties, but what if the deserts grow bigger, more dry and hotter? What if the water tables fall to nothing, and the rains fail to come? What if the fertile soils blow away, the friendly insects and local wildlife and flora die, and new disease-carrying flora and fauna invade a country, this country, much more hospitable to them? ‘Prisoners of Geography’ has made me ever so much more aware of how much of what part of the Earth’s surface we are fortunate or unfortunate to be born on matters. I guess we will find out in fifty years or so how much a formerly favorable climate and geography helped our luck as a successful country. Governments often try to manipulate the perceptions and appearances of their actions and ambitions - but geography and resources are the hard bedrock of all surface Realpolitik Truths which no government or military force can afford to ignore. Those governments who ignore geography and climate do so at risk of losing everything. The ten maps author Tim Marshall has included in this book: Russia China United States Western Europe The Middle East India and Pakistan Korea and Japan Latin America The Arctic There also is a Bibliography and an Index, as well as many gorgeous maps.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josh Masser

    As if the assumed American exceptionalism that drips from these pages isn't enough, I believe the staggering amount of broad-stroke revisionism that underpins an endorsement of brutal imperial practices (by a variety of nations) that spans the text is enough to incite guffaws in any sensible reader. The disgusting obsequiousness that permeates Marshal's references to American military hegemony is only matched by his entire omission of the damage that neoliberal austerity measures have done to th As if the assumed American exceptionalism that drips from these pages isn't enough, I believe the staggering amount of broad-stroke revisionism that underpins an endorsement of brutal imperial practices (by a variety of nations) that spans the text is enough to incite guffaws in any sensible reader. The disgusting obsequiousness that permeates Marshal's references to American military hegemony is only matched by his entire omission of the damage that neoliberal austerity measures have done to the global south. From his perspective, the modern geopolitical landscape is an entirely natural manifestation of the geographical determinism that he desperately fails to prove. Also, what is the point of having only one chapter of 10 bear internal chapter breaks? It's written no differently from the other chapters...who made this decision? Formatting 10% of the text in a manner disparate from the rest just feels sloppy. Skip this book. There are better ways to spend your time learning about geopolitics.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ~Bookishly

    "Geography has always been a prison of sorts-one that defines what a nation is or can be, and one from which our world leaders have often struggled to break free" This book is a rather grand introduction to geopolitics. It contains ten respectably shirt chapters and there are illustrations showing us the geo strategic realities for the different countries. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Arctic. It was most interesting and there is such a lot going on there. This book has gone into a lot "Geography has always been a prison of sorts-one that defines what a nation is or can be, and one from which our world leaders have often struggled to break free" This book is a rather grand introduction to geopolitics. It contains ten respectably shirt chapters and there are illustrations showing us the geo strategic realities for the different countries. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Arctic. It was most interesting and there is such a lot going on there. This book has gone into a lot of detail, and has left me with rather a lot to think about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Why are nations either rich and lucky or poor and struggling? This fascinating book explains all Why we need mountains, and deserts, and rivers, and jungles Vladimir Putin says he is a religious man, a great supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church. If so, he may well go to bed each night, say his prayers and ask God: ‘Why didn’t you put some mountains in Ukraine?’ If God had built mountains in Ukraine, then the great expanse of flatland that is the North European Plain would not be such encouragi Why are nations either rich and lucky or poor and struggling? This fascinating book explains all Why we need mountains, and deserts, and rivers, and jungles Vladimir Putin says he is a religious man, a great supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church. If so, he may well go to bed each night, say his prayers and ask God: ‘Why didn’t you put some mountains in Ukraine?’ If God had built mountains in Ukraine, then the great expanse of flatland that is the North European Plain would not be such encouraging territory from which to attack Russia repeatedly. As it is, Putin has no choice: he must at least attempt to control the flatlands to the west. So it is with all nations, big or small. The landscape imprisons their leaders, giving them fewer choices and less room to manoeuvre than you might think. This was true of the Athenian Empire, the Persians, the Babylonians and before; it was true of every leader seeking high ground from which to protect their tribe. Blame our great-grandparents for the international disputes (wars for the non-pc) The colonial powers drew artificial borders on paper, completely ignoring the physical realities of the region. Violent attempts are now being made to redraw them; these will continue for several years, after which the map of nation states will no longer look as it does now. How China will absorb Tibet The Chinese are building ‘facts on the ground’ on the ‘roof of the world’. In the 1950s the Chinese Communist People’s Army began building roads into Tibet, and since then they have helped to bring the modern world to the ancient kingdom; but the roads, and now railways, also bring the Han. It was long said to be impossible to build a railway through the permafrost, the mountains and the valleys of Tibet. Europe’s best engineers, who had cut through the Alps, said it could not be done. As late as 1988 the travel writer Paul Theroux wrote in his book Riding the Iron Rooster: ‘The Kunlun Range is a guarantee that the railway will never get to Lhasa.’ The Kunlun separated Xinjiang province from Tibet, for which Theroux gave thanks: ‘That is probably a good thing. I thought I liked railways until I saw Tibet, and then I realised that I liked wilderness much more.’ But the Chinese built it. Perhaps only they could have done. The line into the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, was opened in 2006 by the then Chinese President Hu Jintao. Now passenger and goods trains arrive from as far away as Shanghai and Beijing, four times a day, every day. They bring with them many things, such as consumer goods from across China, computers, colour televisions and mobile phones. They bring tourists who support the local economy, they bring modernity to an ancient and impoverished land, a huge improvement in living standards and healthcare, and they bring the potential to carry Tibetan goods out to the wider world. But they have also brought several million Han Chinese settlers. What Africa really needs is . . . Africa's coastline? Great beaches, really, really lovely beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers, but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall. These are just two in a long list of problems which help explain why Africa isn’t technologically or politically as successful as Western Europe or North America. Geography has formed our modern politics - which is why we should have studied more of geography in school instead of striving to be the top sportsman Enjoy!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    I really loved the idea of this book The journalist Tim Marshall expresses his opinion and understanding on how world politics work, while looking at ten world maps. He starts with Russia and emphasizes for example on them not having an ice free harbor and the Crimea crises in the light of historical migration and then moves on to the USA, China, Europe... This book is indeed helpful to all those who are not completely uninterested in politics, but don’t have much background knowledge, have forgo I really loved the idea of this book The journalist Tim Marshall expresses his opinion and understanding on how world politics work, while looking at ten world maps. He starts with Russia and emphasizes for example on them not having an ice free harbor and the Crimea crises in the light of historical migration and then moves on to the USA, China, Europe... This book is indeed helpful to all those who are not completely uninterested in politics, but don’t have much background knowledge, have forgotten all about geography and try to get a better grasp of things. So if the dependencies of Europe on Russia’s oil supply and how that shapes their relations to China are new and helpful insights to you, than this book will indeed help you to have many “aha” moments. Because I think that this is the target audience I’m careful with criticizing the book for not being detailed enough. It’s supposed to be easy to digest and comprehensive. Still I don’t think that it took the right priorities. To distinguish between Russia and China, but than look at Europe, Afrika etc. as one, while Britain and France militaries had and still have major impact on global politics doesn’t make much sense to me. However I criticize Marshalls biases, which mostly represents western military strategies and diplomacy. He has subjective fews and opinions he states as facts and constantly has the insolence to make predictions about the future, stating that as facts as well. He does that in a very subtile way, which easily can be missed and also is naturally done by his information selection. Tim Marshall is neither a historian, nor does he have a political or geographical background and works for British and US media. It shows... Tip: don’t read it from Kindle but in printing or the maps are not big enough ;)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Prisoners of Geography Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World By: Tim Marshall Narrated by: Scott Brick This book breaks down various countries in the world and explains a bit of a history lesson on each. The history and political interest is then related to the geographic location of that country. What is the physical characters does it have and who are it's neighbors all comes together to make this country what it is today. It is very informative. Putting all the map puzzle pieces togeth Prisoners of Geography Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World By: Tim Marshall Narrated by: Scott Brick This book breaks down various countries in the world and explains a bit of a history lesson on each. The history and political interest is then related to the geographic location of that country. What is the physical characters does it have and who are it's neighbors all comes together to make this country what it is today. It is very informative. Putting all the map puzzle pieces together with the geo-political explanation helps see the history and possible future of cultures in a new light. The narrator was wonderful! He kept me interested in a topic that could have been a snoozer!😁

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Fantastic - this is a book I've really been waiting for. I've long bemoaned the fact that we no longer emphasize geography in our schools - since as this book proves, a knowledge of geography is essential to even the most basic understanding of history. I mean, the word "geopolitical" literally means the confluence of geography and politics. Want to understand why Russia invaded the Ukraine, why China is harassing its Uighurs in Xinjiang, or why the Middle East will never get its shit together? Fantastic - this is a book I've really been waiting for. I've long bemoaned the fact that we no longer emphasize geography in our schools - since as this book proves, a knowledge of geography is essential to even the most basic understanding of history. I mean, the word "geopolitical" literally means the confluence of geography and politics. Want to understand why Russia invaded the Ukraine, why China is harassing its Uighurs in Xinjiang, or why the Middle East will never get its shit together? Well…I won't tell you here, because you should read this for yourself. Marshall's subtitle - "ten maps that explain everything about the world" - might sound like braggadocious hype, but for the most part he lives up to his claim. Unfortunately, while this book was written in just 2015, it is already outdated in several areas. Because geography doesn't work in a vacuum, the unexpected rise of such dangerous buffoons as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have not only thrown the West's moral, military and economic leadership into question, they have (among SO MANY other things) breathed new life into a dying Russia and allowed China to gain the upper hand across East Asia. Good as it is, this book is a lot to take at once, so while I've already finished the sections on Russia, China, North America, Africa and the Middle East, I'm going to take a break before returning to tackle the remaining chapters on Latin America, Korea and Japan, India and Pakistan, and - intriguingly - the Arctic. UPDATE: And in one of those odd bits of synchronicity I love so much, the Washington Post has just reviewed a new book, ORIGINS: How Earth's History Shaped Human History, which not only links directly to this book (almost as a preface, as it deals with much more pre-history than Prisoners does), but also oddly to the last book I finished, Michael Summers & James Trefil's Exoplanets. So guess I should add this one to the list as well...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I really like this one. It's a great idea for a book, and I think Tim Marshall successfully pulled it off. Here it is, in a nutshell: Ten regional maps, accompanied by explanatory text. The focus is on the usual suspects -- Russia, China, Western Europe, The United States, Africa, and so on. The big surprise comes at the very end, an entire chapter devoted to...the Arctic! The Earth's physical features are the stars of the show. Mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans, jungles: they're all here, and M I really like this one. It's a great idea for a book, and I think Tim Marshall successfully pulled it off. Here it is, in a nutshell: Ten regional maps, accompanied by explanatory text. The focus is on the usual suspects -- Russia, China, Western Europe, The United States, Africa, and so on. The big surprise comes at the very end, an entire chapter devoted to...the Arctic! The Earth's physical features are the stars of the show. Mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans, jungles: they're all here, and Marshall tells us about their impact on current political, economic, and military developments. I would bet that all of the book's main points can be found in an introductory-level college textbook on geopolitics, but Marshall presents them in laymen's terms for easy comprehension. That's because, as he says on page 2, he wants us to understand that "The physical realities that underpin national and international politics are often disregarded in both writing about history and in contemporary reporting of world affairs." A worthy goal, no doubt, and I believe Marshall has earned the right to say, "Mission accomplished!" My only complaint is that the maps are sort of disappointing. Simple black-and-white maps laid out across two facing pages seem embarrassingly low-tech, in this day and age. I would prefer extra-large foldout color maps, or, even better...pop-up maps! (Just kidding about the pop-up maps).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annikky

    All you need to do to enjoy this book is to ignore the title, the subtitle and the central tenet of the text.* Yep, as simple as that. Let me explain. Was Putin really forced to annex Crimea, as the book implies? Did China have no other choice than to occupy Tibet? Of course not. There are always options, even if there are geopolitical arguments for or against certain actions. The 'prisoners of geography' rhetoric comes dangerously close to absolving the perpetrators of any blame, as their actio All you need to do to enjoy this book is to ignore the title, the subtitle and the central tenet of the text.* Yep, as simple as that. Let me explain. Was Putin really forced to annex Crimea, as the book implies? Did China have no other choice than to occupy Tibet? Of course not. There are always options, even if there are geopolitical arguments for or against certain actions. The 'prisoners of geography' rhetoric comes dangerously close to absolving the perpetrators of any blame, as their actions were pre-determined by the mountains, rivers and seas – there was nothing they could do! So there goes the title. As for the fact that these ten maps tell you everything you need to know about global politics, that's clearly not true either, as I suspect the author of the book very well knows. But I guess 'ten maps that can be pretty useful in understanding some aspects of what's going on in the world' wasn't quite as catchy. So much for the subtitle, then. To be fair, Marshall never says that geography is the most important factor in international politics. But his outlook is clearly (geo)deterministic and his intention is to restore the rightful place of the geographical arguments in the debate. It's a pity he doesn't make a slightly more convincing attempt to acknowledge the other factors at play, as it would automatically negate a lot of criticism that can be hurled at the book. There is no shortage of examples of ideology, economy and technology overcoming the geographical factors. Marshall's book itself offers several good cases (I'm not even counting the Cold War), like Jerusalem: a city of no geographic strategic importance, but one of the most important cities in the world nevertheless. Or let's take Daesh – while either helped or hindered by the local geography and shaped to a certain extent by the ethnic map of the Middle East, it was not born out of either of them. Explaining Daesh without bringing ideology and religion to the mix is impossible. Marshall has a great chapter on Africa, but again, it's not Africa's geography and demography per se that are causing trouble (or at least not only), it's the geographic and ethnic realities in conjunction with the arbitrary national borders that were drawn ignoring those realities – as Marshall himself eloquently describes. Anyway, if you set all this aside and read the book as an examination of one important factor in the global Great Game, it's a really enjoyable, enlightening read. It offers ten relatively brief sketches of areas of geopolitical importance and/or tension, from Russia to the Middle East to India-Pakistan to the Arctic. As a good journalist, Marshall makes these chapters easy to read, but filled with insight and detail. I would never have guessed that the second-largest military force in Africa (after Egypt) is in Ethiopia or realised on my own why Pakistan is so important for China (access to the sea). If you have in-depth knowledge of the regions covered, you might find the analysis too shallow. Then again, if you're a casual but curious observer of current affairs, the book will be illuminating. In a world full of opinions, we rarely pause to consider the basic facts, often we don't even know them - where countries are, how many people they contain, what are the available natural resources, who are the neighbors and how's the weather. It's a special skill to write for those who are not foreign policy wonks, to edit a huge amount of info down to something digestible, engaging and informative. It was a fun ride and I feel smarter - not a bad result. My main complaint, in addition to the rant above, is that the maps that are central to the book are not very functional and sometimes do not feature places mentioned in the text. It's annoying. But all-in-all, if you're interested in what and why is going on in the world, this is recommended reading. Just make sure it's not the only book you read on the topic. *Unless you are a die-hard prophet of geopolitics and love determinism. In that case, the solution is much simpler: ignore my review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    Have to say Tim Marshall has done an excellent job of this book and providing a relatively simple baseline for geopolitics, and providing a plain English explanation for historical, and not so historical political decisions and the effects of geography related to these. Marshall says in his introduction, which is a good paragraph summary: The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the people that now inhabit nearly every Have to say Tim Marshall has done an excellent job of this book and providing a relatively simple baseline for geopolitics, and providing a plain English explanation for historical, and not so historical political decisions and the effects of geography related to these. Marshall says in his introduction, which is a good paragraph summary: The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the people that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth... The choices of those who lead the seven billion inhabitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes and seas that constrain us all - as they always have. The book benefits from it logical and organised structure - a chapter per continent (roughly), and the more basic principles explained first (with Russia) which are expanded upon in further chapters to explain their interactions with, for example China, then the USA. The chapter headings are: Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and The Arctic. Secondary to the physical geography explained here, are the natural resources within a country. These clearly also influence politics, given the world dependency on oil and gas. Couple this with natural geography suitable for a harbour, and access to shipping lanes and a more rounded picture is painted. First published in 2015, the edition I have says it is a revised and updated edition, published 2016, but makes various references to events in 2017, so has obviously been quickly updated again. The only minor criticism I have is the subtitle (ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics) - couldn't be farther from the truth - the maps are nothing special, just basic maps. The maps are nothing without the explanation that goes with it. Others have been critical about the generality of the book, and lack of detail, but I think that misses the point - that the book is introductory, and aimed as a starting point for geopolitics, and I enjoyed that it was a quick easy read that didn't rely on me to think it all through for too long! There is apparently to be a second book covering the smaller nations, which I will keep an eye out for. 4 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    Brisk, well written, continent by continent (excluding Australia) survey of how geography is destiny, beginning with Putin going down on his knees every night to ask God why He didn't put mountains in Ukraine. I really liked the way Marshall organized it, too. The first chapter is Russia and how so much of their actions are dictated by the eternal quest for a warm-water port, the second is China's equally eternal quest of finding water routes unobstructed by the island archipelago likes of the P Brisk, well written, continent by continent (excluding Australia) survey of how geography is destiny, beginning with Putin going down on his knees every night to ask God why He didn't put mountains in Ukraine. I really liked the way Marshall organized it, too. The first chapter is Russia and how so much of their actions are dictated by the eternal quest for a warm-water port, the second is China's equally eternal quest of finding water routes unobstructed by the island archipelago likes of the Philippines and Japan, Russia and South Korea, all except Russia firm American allies, although Russia has as much interest in keeping China within bounds as the US does. The third chapter is about good old US, and it had not previously occurred to me that geography is why we are who we are. I mean, yeah, I understand about the insulating effect of being between two oceans, but Marshall says that if someone had sat down and drawn the perfect base for world domination, they would have come up with, you guessed it, US. Partly this is because of all that wonderful farmland but it's also partly because we're home to the world's longest navigable rivers, so we can get all that grain to market. He lays out why the entire continent of Africa is becoming a Chinese colony, and the chapter on India and Pakistan is a pocket history of the region and it will not cheer you to learn that, again, geography dictates that nothing is resolved there anytime soon, or ever. One Indian politician is even on record as saying they ought to just nuke Pakistan and deal with the literal and figurative fallout so India can move on without the Pakistani thorn in their sides. Jesus. Marshall is also amusingly shirty about the Arab Spring, which he pretty conclusively demonstrates was romanticized by Western writers into a transformative event that was no such thing on the ground. Marshall is a BBC journalist who knows how to get to the meat of the story in efficient, competent prose that still makes for an enthralling read. Not a needless word anywhere. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    This is a good introduction to geopolitics. In ten short chapters it illustrates the geostrategic realities for countries and regions. It explains why the Ukraine is so important to Russia, the limits of chinese assertiveness in its backyard and why africa is so poor. My only criticism is that it is too short

  28. 5 out of 5

    Schuberino

    What an unfocused mess of a book. I would have considered 2 stars if the book was instead named "Military policy in Ten Regions of the World - where I will sometimes cherry pick convenient geographic features that reinforces my ill defined thesis and I will pretend that the last 30 years explains all of human history - and sometimes I will even try my hand at economic policy, with limited success." What an unfocused mess of a book. I would have considered 2 stars if the book was instead named "Military policy in Ten Regions of the World - where I will sometimes cherry pick convenient geographic features that reinforces my ill defined thesis and I will pretend that the last 30 years explains all of human history - and sometimes I will even try my hand at economic policy, with limited success."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This is way outside my normal reading on both the political & geographic fronts, so I learned a LOT. I can't do a lick about either & usually only notice geography in how it affects animals. Of course we are & the features have influenced our societies for years. I've just never given it any thought. About time, right? It might be too elementary for those of you who keep up on foreign affairs, but then again it might provide some insight into the basis for many of the seemingly weird wars & strug This is way outside my normal reading on both the political & geographic fronts, so I learned a LOT. I can't do a lick about either & usually only notice geography in how it affects animals. Of course we are & the features have influenced our societies for years. I've just never given it any thought. About time, right? It might be too elementary for those of you who keep up on foreign affairs, but then again it might provide some insight into the basis for many of the seemingly weird wars & struggles going on around the globe. It certainly did for me & it did so in a quick, flowing manner. Very well narrated, but I did have to look at maps (included in the book) preferably before & after each chapter to fully grasp what was going on. My geography isn't awful, but it's not as good as it could have been. Highly & enthusiastically recommended. Finest kind! Table of Contents Introduction: The landscape imprisons their leaders, giving them fewer choices and less room to manoeuvre than you might think. This was true of the Athenian Empire, the Persians, the Babylonians and before; it was true of every leader seeking high ground from which to protect their tribe. sums up the basic premise well & Marshall then goes on to show how this still works even in modern times. Technology has not removed all geographical barriers, but in some cases heightened them. Societies are influenced by their past, too.   1 Russia: made a lot more sense about the tensions today & made me pay more attention to where some little countries were located. It's incredible that Putin is dealing with issues similar to those of the early tsars. Defense via offense & creating buffer states.   2 China: I had heard of the Han, but had no idea how their rise & defense strategy was so similar to Russia's. Makes a lot of sense of our investment around the Pacific & the current tensions. They make a lot of appearances around the world in current affairs.   3 USA: We are definitely in an enviable geographical position & again I see why we didn't allow 'the natives' to interfere with our quick expansion. The far reaching consequences of that shaped the entire world today.   4 Western Europe: I actually had some familiarity with how the rivers & mountains fostered or sequestered these nations; one of the few areas covered in high school world history. Very well done & it makes a lot more sense of the EU problems.   5 Africa: Can you say, "Screwed!"? They were/are by their geography & thus being out of sync with the rest of the world. Marshall does a great job making this clear.  6 The Middle East: Oy! Again, it's obvious why this region is in so much trouble. Lines on a map that ignore natural & social boundaries (as in Africa) plus fanatic religion. If we ever stop needing the oil, it's still a key to transportation.  7 India and Pakistan: Another mess of colonialism, tribalism, & religion exacerbated by geographical features & neighbors. That's just between them. Internally is even worse.   8 Korea and Japan: I knew a lot of this history, but hadn't realized fully just why anyone puts up with North Korea. Now I know. If this was a fiction book, I wouldn't have believed it.   9 Latin America: A lot of similarities to Africa all the way around, but quite a bit of time was spent on the Nicaraguan Canal which stalled. Still, it gives a lot to think about, especially in light of the NWP. 10 The Arctic: I knew the place was melting, but hadn't realized the Northwest Passage(NWP) was becoming commercially viable. I can see where it would create a lot of tension, but was shocked by the laws governing rights due to underwater features. Oh, this is a mess in the making. Conclusion: He briefly mentions space & how we're taking our current politics out there. Hopefully we'll behave better. As he shows throughout the book, that's not a vain hope. Things are ugly, but we're managing some of the ugly situations a lot better than our forefathers did. Of course, if we don't, the results could be catastrophic for the entire planet. We really need to get some of our eggs out of this basket.

  30. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    The strapline reads Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics which is clearly a bit of egregious promotional puff, not everything obviously, how could they? In fact this book is a weird combination of the blazingly obvious: mountains form natural barriers, Russia has always felt the need for a warm-water port and the utterly fascinating (New to me as a concept: green water and blue water navies). Tim Marshall is an experienced foreign correspondent, and the streng The strapline reads Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics which is clearly a bit of egregious promotional puff, not everything obviously, how could they? In fact this book is a weird combination of the blazingly obvious: mountains form natural barriers, Russia has always felt the need for a warm-water port and the utterly fascinating (New to me as a concept: green water and blue water navies). Tim Marshall is an experienced foreign correspondent, and the strength of this book is the best of good journalism: to give succinct, well written, clear accounts of zones of conflict in the world. Here the handle is geopolitics, when the conflict is arranged around gas pipelines, access to trade routes, natural resources. Very readable, but unfortunately already slightly out of date despite the claim that this is the revised and updated edition. Updated when? 2016.

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