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

(Politics of Place #1)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  73,195 ratings  ·  6,423 reviews
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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 9th 2015 by Elliott & Thompson
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Tomas Mikeska I guess the main advantage of the print version is that you can refer to the maps on the beginning of all the chapters during reading to really unders…moreI guess the main advantage of the print version is that you can refer to the maps on the beginning of all the chapters during reading to really understand location-based points(less)
Julie Plummer I found most of it still relevant. However, the Western Europe section has aged badly- the book was written in 2016, after the Brexit vote, but before…moreI found most of it still relevant. However, the Western Europe section has aged badly- the book was written in 2016, after the Brexit vote, but before anyone knew the utter chaos that would ensue. (less)

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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
Paul Bryant
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
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
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
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
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 17, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Marshall (wiki: 'British journalist, author and broadcaster, specialising in foreign affairs and international diplomacy') uses ten maps as the focus of ten chapters not only looking at the relevant geo-politics but also heavy underlining the geographical constraints, history and Climate Change ramifications in regards to Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America and the Artic. It's a truly riveting and highly informative ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
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 ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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.
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 ...more
Josh M
Feb 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
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 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 so ...more
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 ..." ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
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." ...more
A useful and enjoyable book. It is a good aide memoire for those who are reasonably well read in history and current affairs or an easily accessible starter for those who are new to the areas.

I learned some new things, notably on South America and within each section. I felt the geography was under done and could have been explored further but I assume for space and target audience this is the right spot. Mr Marshall writes much of the historic aspects on the formation, rivalries and areas of ea
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, general, politics
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
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-btr
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!
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: governance
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 ...more
Simon Clark
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
UPDATE: So finally got this out of the library again (had a LONG waiting list, which I take as a good sign), and not only read those bits I hadn't gotten to before, but reread some of the more interesting/relevant chapters, (China/Russia/Africa). Only additional comments are that China's plans for a $50 billion "Nicaragua Grand Canal" aimed at replacing the Panama Canal by "the early 2020s" has since been scrapped (thank God); and Britain - which at the time of the book's writing had no active a ...more
Jo (The Book Geek)
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"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
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
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
Dana Stabenow
Note: I read this book in 2016, the year after it was published. Given current events, I decided to reread Chapter 1: Russia.

Russia is vast, writes Marshall.

It is the vastest. Immense. It is six-million-square-miles vast, eleven time zones vast; it is the largest country in the world...

To the west of the Ural Mountains is European Russia. To teir east is Siberia, stretching all the way to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Even in the twenty-first century, to cross it by trains takes six days
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
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, 2021-read
This introduction into global geopolitics is just fun to read (or in my case: fun to listen to): Of course the topic is so broad that we only get a cursory look and Marshall does not dwell on details, but this means that readers have a chance to see the bigger picture and grasp wider connections when it comes to international politics as influenced by geographic circumstances.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In his chapter on the Middle East, Marshall warns against taking a Eurocentric view of the world, yet his work is filled with generalisations and hypocrisies engendered by the very phenomenon he warns against.

The most egregious example of the above is how he brushes over the genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas in a sentence, but later goes on to sympathise with the ageing "indigenous Europeans" who have to deal with seeing headscarves in their streets.

I don't want to go into too mu
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Tim Marshall was Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News. After thirty years’ experience in news reporting and presenting, he left full time news journalism to concentrate on writing and analysis.

Originally from Leeds, Tim arrived at broadcasting from the road less traveled. Not a media studies

Other books in the series

Politics of Place (4 books)
  • Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags
  • Divided: Why We're Living in an Age of Walls
  • The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World

Articles featuring this book

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
78 likes · 24 comments
“Sometimes you will hear leaders say, “I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.” If that’s true then that leader has truly failed to build their nation.’ That” 36 likes
“There are fifty American states, but they add up to one nation in a way the twenty-eight sovereign states of the European Union never can. Most of the EU states have a national identity far stronger, more defined, than any American state. It is easy to find a French person who is French first, European second, or one who pays little allegiance to the idea of Europe, but an American identifies with their Union in a way few Europeans do theirs. This is explained by the geography, and the history of the unification of the United States.” 25 likes
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