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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  44,751 ratings  ·  3,992 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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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  44,751 ratings  ·  3,992 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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: politics, non-fiction
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
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 ..."
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!
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
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, history, general
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
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
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
Josh Masser
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 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 ...more
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
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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? ...more
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
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
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
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."
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
It's okay mostly armchair geopolitics. Geography is important among other factors. I would want to pay attention to it. That said it isn't everything.
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The Book Vipers: Group Non-Fiction Read Q2 2019 - Prisoners of Geography 4 29 Jul 08, 2019 09:41AM  
Play Book Tag: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall - 4 stars 5 15 Jun 07, 2019 07:44PM  
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10 maps make history come alive 1 27 Nov 11, 2018 10:57AM  

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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 or journalism graduate, in fact not a graduate at all, after a wholly unsuccessful care

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...
60 likes · 20 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” 23 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.” 17 likes
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