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Prisoners of Geography

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Geography shapes not only our history, but where we're headed...

All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to follow world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements - but if you don't know geography, you'll never have the full picture.

If you've ever wondered why Putin is so obsessed with Crimea, why the USA was destined to become a global superpower, or why China's power base continues to expand ever outwards, the answers are all here.

In ten chapters and ten maps, Prisoners of Geography looks at the past, present and future to offer an essential insight into one of the major factors that determines world history.

It's time to put the 'geo' back into geopolitics.


'Like having a light shone on your understanding... I can't think of another book that explains the world situation so well.
- Nicolas Lezard, Evening Standard

'Sharp insights into the way geography shapes the choices of world leaders.' - Gideon Rachman, Financial Times


Ten maps; ten chapters:

Russia * China * United States of America * Latin America * the Middle East * Africa * India and Pakistan * Europe * Japan and Korea * the Arctic

'A fresh and original insight into the geopolitics behind today’s foreign policy challenges’ — Andrew Neil

‘Crisply written and brilliantly argued’ — Dame Ann Leslie

‘An essential and detailed reflection of the geopolitical dynamics that exist globally’ — Dr Sajjan M. Gohel

'Quite simply, one of the best books about geopolitics you could imagine: reading it is like having a light shone on your understanding…. Marshall is clear-headed, lucid and possessed of an almost uncanny ability to make the broad picture accessible and coherent … the book is, in a way which astonished me, given the complexities of the subject, unputdownable…. I can’t think of another book that explains the world situation so well.' – Nicholas Lezard, Evening Standard

'Compels a fresh way of looking at maps – not just as objects for orientation or works of art, but as guideposts to the often thorny relations between nations' -- The New York Times

'A very good idea, very well executed -- and (perhaps as one expected) very entertainingly written' - Professor Anthony Glees, Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies (BUCSIS), The University of Buckingham

'Shows the ways geography shapes not just history but human destiny… In an ever more complex, chaotic and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geo-politics. Marshall is not afraid to ask tough questions and provide sharp answers.' – Adam LeBor, Newsweek

'Marshall’s latest book explains how politics is nothing without geography, in his crisp and compelling style ... What he really excels at is capturing the psychology of nations and giving maps a power that politicians must tame.' - Top Ten Holiday Reads – Dan Lewis, Stanfords, WorldTravelGuide.net

'Difficult to put down… Marshall succeeds in making lucid a complex topic.' – Chris Tilbury, Prospect

'A timely reminder of the importance of geopolitics … A good bluffer’s guide for the members of the newly elected Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committees' - Keith Simpson MP, summer reading list recommendations

'A reminder of the salience of geography in international affairs…. Ideologies may come and go but, says Marshall, who served a long stint as diplomatic editor of Britain’s Sky News, such geopolitical facts of life endure.'– Daniel Dombey, Financial Times

'There are few foreign correspondents in the current British media who can present an overview of a political situation quite like Tim Marshall. The former Diplomatic Editor at Sky News, he has a long and impressive CV in foreign journalism covering conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel and in his new book, Prisoners of Geography he presents this knowledge and experience quite brilliantly.' - Retroculturati

'An introduction to geopolitics and geo-strategy … worth reading as a commentary on the subject' - Army Rumour Service review

'Sharp insights into the way geography shapes the choices of world leaders.' - Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

'Remarkable and stimulating … an eye opener in every sense. I now understand in ways that I never did before how much impact physical geography has on political reality. Within these pages you will find a heady mixture of accurate analysis and almost poetic description. … If you are worried about the dumbing down of news but want to find out for yourself what lies behind the international headlines, this book would be a great place to start.' — Richard Littledale, blogger

'An exceptional work, well-researched, argued and documented … a treasure of information to satisfy the specialist researcher into contemporary geopolitics and offers a riveting insight to the general reader or student…. It is all covered in this magnificent book, which I highly recommend.' — Nehad Ismail, writer and broadcaster

'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 ... Buy this book, borrow this book and give this book it is too important to remain on the shelves getting dusty.' - Atticusfinch1048

'a timely reminder that despite technological advances, geography is always there, often forcing the hand of world leaders.' - Mark Cooper-Jones, Geographical

"A fascinating analysis of geopolitical relationships that reminds the reader that politics is nothing without geography. A very timely read, given the state of foreign affairs." -- Town and Country.co.uk

“Very useful … a highly accessible introduction to the geopolitics of every region on Earth. Considering that there are so many 'popular economics' and 'popular history' books out there, it's good to see a 'popular geography' or 'popular geopolitics' book” – BMIResearch.com

306 pages, Paperback

First published July 9, 2015

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About the author

Tim Marshall

15 books1,811 followers
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 or journalism graduate, in fact not a graduate at all, after a wholly unsuccessful career as a painter and decorator he worked his way through newsroom nightshifts, and unpaid stints as a researcher and runner before eventually securing himself a foothold on the first rung of the broadcasting career ladder.

After three years as IRN’s Paris correspondent and extensive work for BBC radio and TV, Tim joined Sky News. Reporting from Europe, the USA and Asia, Tim became Middle East Correspondent based in Jerusalem.

Tim also reported in the field from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia during the Balkan wars of the 1990’s. He spent the majority of the 1999 Kosovo crisis in Belgrade, where he was one of the few western journalists who stayed on to report from one of the main targets of NATO bombing raids. Tim was in Kosovo to greet the NATO troops on the day they advanced into Pristina. In recent years he covered the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

He has written for many of the national newspapers including the Times, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and the Sunday Times.

Bio photo credit © Jolly Thompson

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,310 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas Ray.
1,090 reviews347 followers
September 14, 2023
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.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,890 followers
September 11, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Alger Smythe-Hopkins.
946 reviews115 followers
December 1, 2022
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 post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. [Thanks to Oguz for the correction]
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.

EDIT: 1 Decembre, 2022: Because it is something I am frequently asked in the comments, I want to provide the link to an excellent digest of the current consensus concerning geopolitics, and it is one that explains and illustrates in plain language many of the faults I found in Marshall's book. Please, enjoy!

Dissenting opinions cheerfully entertained in the comments. Be warned, I do respond. Also, try not to be humorless rage monkeys like that BoatsAgainstTheCurrent.
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
September 5, 2020
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.

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,387 reviews581 followers
February 29, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Will Once.
Author 8 books109 followers
August 20, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews985 followers
May 6, 2022
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 read. The most shocking thing reading this in March 2022, is that almost the entire chapter on Russia is a warning about Putin's (and geography's) problem with Ukraine!

Essentially this superlative work if actually read (not sure many of them read anything remotely scientific or educational) by the Trump-publicans they would deem it 'Critical Race Theory', when in actuality it's simple real history, as not only is Marshall extremely informed he does not veer way from the genocide committed across the globe by the Imperial powers and more importantly the mostly geographical reasons why The USA and Western Europe have excelled and why most of the rest world have struggled; he includes the huge and real impact of Climate Change on the 21st century (strangled) development of Africa. It is such a joy to see a completely non-political book being a best seller being read by millions, daring not also to be an easy read, but to have listed and sourced facts!

I can't give enough praise for how Marshall explains and details the reality of the geography, history and modern politics of so many global hotspots! Having read 'The Power of Geography' first and really liked it, I had high expectations of this first book in the series, and hey were easily met. I can't help think that if I'd read this first it would have garnered Five Stars from me instead of the Four I have now given it, but then after writing that I just couldn't stomach not giving this Five Stars! 10 out of 12.

2022 read
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
September 3, 2016
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!)!
Profile Image for Stefan.
71 reviews3 followers
May 3, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,080 reviews621 followers
December 10, 2021
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.
4 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2021
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 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.
Profile Image for Shaya.
250 reviews324 followers
May 25, 2022
خب این کتاب باعث شد که به مسائل طور دیگه‌ایی نگاه کنم. اینکه ما کجای جهان قرار گرفته‌اییم چقدر در قدرت ما تاثیر داره. البته الان که این جمله رو نوشتم فهمیدم تو زندگی شخصی هم صدق میکنه. مثلا شما تو چه خانواده‌ایی بدنیا بیاد و با چه ژن‌هایی بطور یقین در سرنوشت شما تاثیر داره. حالا کشورها هم همینه، اینکه کجا قرار گرفته باشن یا اینکه به چه منابعی دسترسی داشته باشن در قدرت اونا تاثیر داره.
چرا امریکا بزرگترین قدرت داره؟ چون صرفا پهناوره؟ خیر! کشور بزرگتر از امریکا هم داریم. بخاطر موقعیت قرارگیریش. درسته چین موقعیت مکانی امریکا نداره ولی ایا به موفقیت امریکا دست پیدا خواهد کرد؟ از نظر اقتصادی بله، ولی از نظر نظامی و استراتژیک؟خیر.
اگه شما روس بودید ایا به اکراین حمله نمیکردید؟بطور یقین حمله میکردید،چرا؟ چون باید راهی پیدا کنید که به آبراه‌های گرم جهان دسترسی پیدا کنید.
چرا چین و هند با اینکه کنار هم هستند ولی تا حالا نجنگیدن؟ بخاطر اینکه خیلی نایسن؟ خیر، بخاطر اینکه هیمالیا بینشونه!
در کل کتاب اطلاعات جالبی میده بابت اینکه چرا جهان اینطوریه الان، از این منظر به قضیه نگاه کردن هم جالبه بنظرم.
نویسنده خیلی گوگولی کتابو نوشته بود، کاملا قابل فهم برای همه بدون هیچ پیچیدگی خاصی!!!
دلیل چهار ستاره دادن هم اینکه دوس داشتم بیشتر در مورد مثلا اروپا بنویسه ولی خیلی کم بود🥲
دوستای قشنگم فارسی این کتابو نخونید اون ارشاد مزدور هرچی دستش رسیده حذف کرده، به امید آتیش زدن ارشاد🙌🏻
در همین راستا من فایل‌های صوتی کتابو تو این تلگرام قرار دادم، البته فک کنم یه سالیه کتابو گرفتم هی قسمت نمیشد گوش بدم😬 در ضمن متن اصلا دوشوواری خاصی نداره، پس لذت ببرید از گوش دادن بهش☺️
Profile Image for Labijose.
985 reviews459 followers
September 9, 2020
Para mí ha sido una lectura muy interesante, que además me ha recordado aspectos de la geopolítica actual que tenía algo obsoletos, y además he descubierto datos sobre algunos países que creía tener actualizados, pero que resulta que no los tenía. Que la Geografía determina de forma casi absoluta la importancia estratégica de un país, es algo conocido. Su disposición a obtener recursos naturales propios sin depender de terceros, también. Pero con ayuda de los mapas y de una explicación más detallada, el lector que esté interesado en el tema entenderá situaciones actuales que vienen determinadas por ambos factores. Aconsejable repaso geo-político.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,099 followers
December 7, 2019
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 ..."
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
530 reviews278 followers
April 7, 2023
آنچه تیم مارشال در کتاب جبر جغرافیا – چگونه جغرافیا مسیر سیاست جهانی را تعیین می کند بیان کرده را می توان مانند مقدمه ای بر بحث عظیم جغرافیای سیاسی دانست ، این که چگونه جغرافیا و طبیعت همانند محیطی یک کشور و مردمان آنرا در بر گرفته و یا به بیانی دیگر چگونه همانند زندانی تعریف کرده که یک ملت چه بوده ، چه هستند و چه آینده ای خواهند داشت ، در حقیقت جغرافیا زندان ملت ها بوده و سرنوشتی محتوم و حتمی برای آنها مقدر کرده است ، اگرچه رهبرانی وجود داشته اند که با این زندان مخوف جنگیده و تلاش در ساختن سرنوشتی دیگر برای ملت خود داشته اند .
نویسنده ده نقطه از جغرافیای سیاسی جهان را مختصر بررسی کرده ، آمریکا ، روسیه ، چین واتحادیه اروپا ابرقدرت های فعلی جهان از نظر جغرافیا هر کدام مزایا و معایب خود را دارند که بر زندگی میلونها نفر اثر می گذارد ، روسیه به شدت از جانب دشت بازی مانند لهستان تهدید می شود ، در حقیقت از زمان ناپلئون هر مهاجمی از این مسیر عبور کرده ، همین مساله موجب شده که لهستان چه در زمان تزارها و یا چه در دوران رژیم کمونیستی بارها و بارها بلعیده شود و هر بار و با هزینه بسیار موجودیت خود را بدست آورد .
در میان قدرت مستقر یعنی آمریکا مساعد ترین شرایط جغرافیایی را دارد ، در میان دو اقیانوس و مسلط به راه های آبی جهان با نیرویی دریایی قوی ، سرزمینی سرشار از ثروت و همسایگانی ضعیف قدرت بی مانندی به آمریکا داده ، اگر چه به شدت از جانب چین در آمریکا لاتین و آفریقا تهدید می شود . از نگاه نویسنده آمریکا علاقه چندانی به نزاع همیشگی اروپا و روسیه ندارد و چین را تهدید اول خود می داند .
فصل های دیگر کتاب مناطقی هستند که گویی آماده انفجار هستند ، واضح است که اولین آنها خاورمیانه ( جالب آنکه کلمه خاورمیانه اولین بار توسط انگلیسیها استفاده شده و واژه صحیح تر غرب آسیاست) است ، منطقه ای که مرزهای آن توسط لردهای انگلیسی و سیاست مداران فرانسوی ترسیم شده . اکنون کوششی در جریان است که این خطوط را از نو با خون بکشند .
آنگونه که ساکنان خاورمیانه از جمله ما حس می کنیم این منطقه همواره به شکل خطرناکی شعله ور و آماده انفجار است ، نکبت استعمار انگلستان و کشورهای جعلی که در این منطقه کهن درست کرده یکی از دلایل آشوب و ناآرامی در این منطقه کهن بوده ، کشورهای عربستان سعودی ، اردن هاشمی ،عراق و اسراییل را انگلستان و سوریه و لبنان را فرانسه حیات بخشیده و رهبران این کشورها بدون آگاهی وشناخت از مردم و قبایل ، گروهی از مردم همیشه در تضاد با دین های مختلف و خاستگاه های فرهنگی متفاوت را تنها با کشیدن خطی به عنوان مرز زیر پرچم یک کشور گرد آورده اند ، نتیجه آن جنگ های داخلی همیشگی لبنان ، افغانستان و نزاع های دائم میان کشورهای غرب آسیا بوده .
هند و پاکستان ، بحران کره ،شمالگان ، آفریقا و آمریکای لاتین
فصل های دیگر کتاب جبر جغرافیا هستند ، در تمامی آنها تیم مارشال ، کوه ها ، دشت ها و بیابان ها ، رودها و دریاچه ها و جنگلها و منابع طبیعی را عوامل همیشگی و اثر گذرا دانسته و رهبران را سطحی و زودگذر و تابع جغرافیا .
تیم مارشال کتاب را با زبانی ساده و به دور از هر گونه پیچیدگی نوشته ، کلام نویسنده طنزی تلخ دارد ، او با طعنه شیطنت و خباثت غرب را در عنوان غربی های ساده دل پوشانده ، هر چند که شاید در باطن با خواننده در تایید نقش استعمار همدل باشد . مارشال عوامل جغرافیایی را که در طول هزاران سال یکی از مهمترین عوامل شکل گیری و یا فروپاشی تمدن ها بوده اگرچه پررنگ و برجسته کرده اما اوهم اشاره ای داشته به این که ممکن است با پیشرفت دانش و فن آوری ، روزگاری دور یا نزدیک این عامل مهم اهمیت خود را از دست بدهد .
در پایان جبر جغرافیا کتابی ایست متفاوت ، که با فرد و سیاست های کوتاه مدت کاری ندارد ، به اعتقاد تیم مارشال جغرافیا که در تعیین تاریخ و سرنوشت ما به شدت موثر بوده ، آینده ما را هم مشخص خواهد کرد ، البته شاید با قدرتی کمتر
Profile Image for Maede.
287 reviews412 followers
February 8, 2023
سال ۹۶ کلاس بیگینر داشتم و باید اسم کشور‌ها رو بهشون یاد می‌دادم. یک اطلس جهان با خودم بردم و کف کلاس پهن کردم. شاگردام که همه بزرگسال بودن تقریباً هیچکدوم جای تقریبی کشورهای مهم رو نمی‌دونستند و حتی با پیدا کردن قاره‌ها هم مشکل داشتند. به من غر می‌زدند که اینجا کلاس انگلیسیه نه جغرافی

سال ۱۴۰۱ خودم سر کلاس بیگینر اسپانیایی‌ام. معلم ازم می‌پرسه آمریکا روی نقشه‌ی کتاب کجاست و وقتی جواب میدم میگه نه غلطه و به اروپا اشاره می‌کنه. اصرار از من و انکار از معلم تا آخر قبول می‌کنه که آمریکا تو قاره‌ی آمریکای شمالیه. بعدشم می‌خنده و میگه جغرافیم خوب نیست

این مثال‌ها نه مختص مردم ایرانه و نه من نوشتمشون که بگم من بیشتر می‌دونم. می‌خوام بگم نمی‌دونیم. باید بپذیریم و یاد بگیریم

این کتاب بی‌نظیر فقط کتاب جغرافیا نیست. نویسنده «تیم مارشال» یک متخصص ژئوپلیتیکه و با بررسی ده ناحیه مهم کره‌ی زمین توضیح میده که چطور جغرافیا و موقعیت قرارگیری هر کشور و منطقه بر روی سیاست‌هاش از گذشته تا الان و میزان موفقیت و شکستش تأثیر گذاشته‌

دلیل قدرت آمریکا چیه؟
دلیل جنگ اوکراین چیه؟
چرا تبت برای چین موقعیت استراتژیکه؟
چرا خاورمیانه به این روز افتاده؟
چرا هند و پاکستان دشمنان ابدی هستند؟
چرا اتحادیه اروپا در خطره؟
چرا با وجود اینکه آفریقا اولین محل زندگی انسان‌هاست به این شکل عقب‌مانده و فقیره؟

نمی‌تونم بگم چه تعداد سوال داشته و نداشته‌م با خواندن این ��تاب جواب داده شد. تاثیر موقعیت کوه‌ها، جنگل‌ها، بیابان‌ها و رودها بر سیاست و تاریخ هیچوقت انقدر برام واضح نشده بود.همونطور که نمی‌دونستم که بسیاری از مشکلات دنیا و جنگ‌های این قرن به دلیل مرزبندی‌های غلط و زوری قدرت‌های امپریالیسم و استعمارگره. بعضی از اطلاعات این کتاب رو شاید جسته گریخته در مقالات و خبرها خوانده و شنیده باشیم، ولی اینجا همه به صورت مختصر در کنار هم قرار می‌گیرند تا تصویر بزرگتر بهتر دیده بشه

در مجموع «زندانیان جغرافیا» کرش کورسی در جغرافیا، تاریخ و سیاسته. دانشی پایه که دانستنش برای درک جهان و اتفاقاتش ضروریه

کتاب صوتی با نسخه‌ی کتاب کمی متفاوته و در واقع خلاصه‌تر شده و مثال‌های ریز حذف شده. علاوه بر این، نویسنده انگلیسی هست و نسخه صوتی آمریکایی شده (کلمات، واحدهای اندازه‌گیری و غیره). اما همچنان خیلی خوبه و اجرای عالی‌ای هم داره

کانال تلگرام ریویوها و دانلود کتاب‌ها
Maede's Books

Profile Image for Schuberino.
53 reviews
November 2, 2019
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."
Profile Image for Geevee.
359 reviews209 followers
August 25, 2022
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 each focus area (these divided into chapters) and the brings us up to date (my version was a 2019 reissue). Naturally then it does not included Covid, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and other events such as the spat between Australia and China in late 2018, Biden's election, Bolivia's (re)election of Morales, the AUKUS deal, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the growth of cyber attacks and how that has impacted civil infrastructure as let alone elections in some areas.

China looms large in the book now having interests in all parts of the world notably with its Belt and Road initiative and of course territorial claims on Taiwan. There were some other interesting countries who have claims on islands or areas, which I was unaware of. Technology also plays a part in the book but again I felt the Suez and Panama canals were not discussed enough in the context of trade and power projection, much like aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and jet aircraft; likewise tourism and how this impacted nations incomes and indeed cultures and changes to national character; here again how has geography affected trade and for example global branding - Nike, Coca Cola, Apple, McDonalds and Tesla for example.

I felt religion and culture could have played more a part in the overall narrative, notably radical Islam. This is debated in the Africa and Middle East chapters but could be more detailed especially in Asia and Europe.

The maps were sufficient but in my paperback were black and white. I imagine the hardback version would be blessed with colour.

Overall a solid three stars.
Profile Image for Paul.
888 reviews71 followers
August 7, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Antigone.
516 reviews750 followers
December 31, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Carlos.
617 reviews291 followers
May 24, 2017
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!
Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 99 books1,951 followers
June 27, 2023
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 their 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 train takes six days.

You might think no one is going to invade Russia but that isn’t how the Russians think, writes Marshall, beginning with Ivan the Terrible in 1533 on down to Vladimir Putin today. There is a lot of history to back that belief, including but not limited to the Mongols, Napoleon and both World Wars. When the USSR fell apart in 1989, it took only 15 years for all the former Warsaw Pact nations to join NATO and/or the EU, which made Russia all the more nervous. Geography is Russia’s biggest asset and its biggest liability, from the immense and immensely flat North European Plain providing easy access to enemy tanks, to mountain ranges in all the wrong places. If only the Urals ran from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The want of a warm water port, too, also drives much of their long term strategic thinking and has since Peter the Great.

Sevastopol is Russia’s only true major warm-water port. However, access out of the Black Sea into the Mediterranean is restricted by the Montreux Convention of 1936, which gave Turkey--now a NATO member–control of the Bosporus. Russian naval ships do transit the strait, but in limited numbers, and this would not be permitted in the event of conflict. Even after crossing the Bosporus the Russians need to navigate the Aegean Sea before accessing the Mediterranean, and would still have either to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to gain access to the Atlantic Ocean, or be allowed down the Suez Canal to reach the Indian Ocean.

Imagine if the US Navy had to navigate a labyrinth like that to access the Pacific Ocean.

Historically, every tsar from Ivan to Stalin has deliberately seeded their border regions with Russian citizens, which is why it was so easy for Putin to take Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 and for the West to ignore his incursions.

Approximately 60 percent of Crimea’s population is “ethnically Russian,” so the Kremlin was pushing against an open door. Putin helped the anti-Kiev demonstrations and stirred up so much trouble that eventually he “had” to send his troops out of the confines of the naval base and onto the streets to protect people.

It is evidently also why he thought Ukrainians would welcome him with open arms in 2022.

I could keep typing excerpts but go find the book and read it for yourself. It explains how we got here, and, unfortunately, where we’re going if Putin isn’t stopped.

Moldova presents a different problem for all sides. An attack on the country by Russia would necessitate crossing through Ukraine…Although it might not trigger war with NATO (Moldova is not a member), it would provoke sanctions against Moscow at a level hitherto unseen [remember, this book was published seven years ago], and confirm what this writer believes to already be the case; that the cooling relationship between Russia and the West is already the New Cold War.

Marshall concludes

From the Grand Principality of Muscovy, through Peter the Great, Stalin, and now Putin, each Russian leader has been confronted by the same problems. It doesn’t matter if the ideology of those in control is czarist, Communist or crony capitalist–the ports still freeze, and the North European Plain is still flat.

Realpolitik through geography. Highly recommended.

July 2016 review
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.
Profile Image for Simon Clark.
Author 1 book4,979 followers
December 23, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Hasan Al Tomy.
202 reviews96 followers
June 30, 2023
من ينسى الجغرافيا في حسابات القوة العالمية لا يمكنه أبدا أن يهزمها

في اعتقادي أثبتت الحرب الروسية الأوكرانية أن روسيا لا زالت تحكمها عقدة الماضي وعقدة الجغرافيا
Profile Image for HAMiD.
442 reviews
December 19, 2020
به گمانم با خواندن این کتاب دیدگاهِ کارآمدی به دست می آید برای درکِ دقیق ترِ رفتار و سیاست ورزی دولت های قدرتمند و در پی آن دولت های وابسته به آنها. چه بخواهیم یا نه؛ در ساختار سیاسی جهان کشور ما وزنه ی ناچیزی بیشتر نیست. پس با انتخابِ اینکه در کدام اردوگاه قرار بگیرد ناچار است تا گونه ای رفتار کند تا اولویت هایش را رده بندی کند. بی گمان رفاه و دست یازی مردمِ این سرزمین به سطحِ پسندیده ای از زندگی و فرهنگ اجتماعی هیچ گاه در الویت نبوده است و شوربختانه توده ی بزرگی از مردمان هم درک و دریافت درستی از این موضوع نداشته اند که دلایلِ آن برجسته و آشکارند. اگرچه در نگاهِ کلی هم کتاب برای دانستن اوضاع جهان بسیار سودمند است.
دل بستن به تکیه گاهی مانند روسیه و چین الویت ما را در وضعیتِ پیچیده ای قرار داده است که گویا هیچ قصدِ روشنی هم برای دست کشیدن از آن نیست در حالیکه پس از خواندن کتاب می شود بسیار دقیق تر و درست درک کرد که این راه سرانجامی کور خواهد داشت. اگرچه این دلبستگی برای جمعیتِ حاکم به ظاهر سودمندی فراوان داشته است اما با مرور مختصر تاریخِ اردوگاه شرق و نمونه های بسیارِ دلبسته های آنان می شود دانست که این دلبستگی در کشور ما برای هیچ گروهی فایده مند نخواهد بود.
با این دیدگاه است که می شود کنشِ ما را در مواجهه با کشورهای همسایه که تقریبن همگی در اردوگاهِ غرب هستند درک کرد. با همه ی پیوستگی ایران از نظر فرهنگی و سیاسی و اقتصادی در این سالیان، ایران اکنون کشوری منزوی و فقیر است و تمام منابع خود را به سادگی هدر می دهد. باور داشته باشیم یا نه، ایران در پیرامون خودش حلقه ای ساخته است که هر روز تنگ تر می شود و توده ی مردمِ عاجز از درکِ وضعیت هم تن داده است به آرمانی که هیچ از آن سردرنمی آورد! عرب ستیزی و هجمه به کشورهایی که بخش بزرگی از آبشخور فرهنگی و دینی سرزمینِ ما از ایشان است موضوعی است که نمی شود جز با دیدگاهی که در کتاب هست درکش کرد. اثبات این ادعا را هم می شود در تاریخِ پیش از سال 57 به خوبی دید و نشان داد.
جبرِ جغرافیا کتاب بسیار ارزشمندی است برای ذهنِ جست و جوگر که در خیالاتش آرمان های ساختگی را نمی پذیرد و تلاش می کند تا از رهگذر دقت و تحلیل به مساله ها نگاه کند. دقتی که با نگاه به روی نقشه ها و مرور تاریخ معاصر و تا اندازه ای کهن به دست می آید.

Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews143 followers
February 11, 2020
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


Profile Image for Philip.
1,439 reviews75 followers
September 12, 2022
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 aircraft carriers with which to defend the Falklands - now has two "Queen Elizabeth class" carriers, commissioned in 2017 and 2019.

It was only during this second reading that I realized that three of the world's key trouble spots are the direct results of WWII, even though they have little to do with Europe: the Pakistan/India split, the North/South Korea split and the division of China and Taiwan. So while the war was ultimately "good" (if one can use such a word) for Europe and the U.S...maybe not so much for East and South Asia :(

Otherwise, my two main takeaways are that China still remains a major - and increasingly aggressive - threat, (and unfortunately, the book's claim that "the Chinese are determined to have Taiwan but are nowhere near being able to challenge for it militarily" might not still be true); and King Leopold II of Belgium remains the ultimate colonial asshole, par excellence.

ORIGINAL REVIEW: Just 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.

NOTE: 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...
February 13, 2018
"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.
Profile Image for Osama.
405 reviews70 followers
January 8, 2017
كتاب سجناء الجغرافيا: عشر خرائط تخبرك كل ما تحتاج معرفته عن السياسات العالمية.
مؤلف الكتاب تيم مارشال. مراسل قناة سكاي نيوز البريطانية السابق والذي نقل أحداث كثير من الحروب والأخبار من دول العالم المختلفة. الطبعة الأولى 2015.

يتألف الكتاب من إحدى عشر فصلا يتناول كل منها بلدا أو اقليما جغرافيا وهي كالتالي: روسيا، الصين، الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، أوروبا الغربية، أفريقيا، الشرق الأوسط، الهند وباكستان، كوريا واليابان، أمريكا اللاتينية، والمنطقة المتجمدة الشمالية. الفكرة الرئيسية التي يناقشها الكتاب تتلخص في أن العلاقات السياسية بما تتضمنه من صراعات ومصالح وتحالفات وتغيرات يلعب العامل الجغرافي فيها دور كبير ومؤثر عبر العصور.

ويقدم الكتاب معلومات غنية ومشوقة عن التاريخ والجغرافيا والاقتصاد والسياسة و الحياة الاجتماعية لكل من الأقاليم المذكورة مسبقا مع التركيز على الدور الهام للجغرافيا في تشكيل تلك العوامل.

اعجبني في الكتاب أن اللغة الانجليزية موجهة للقارئ العادي. فهي واضحة ومبسطة ومعظم المصطلحات سهلة ومتداولة وليست تخصصية بدرجة عالية. كما يشمل الكتاب مجموعة من الخرائط تسهل على القارئ ربط المعلومات الجغرافية بالرسوم التوضيحية. كما يوفر الكتاب قائمة مراجع اضافية للقارئ الذي يود الإطلاع على معلومات اكثر حول موضوع معين ورد في فصول الكتاب.

خلاصة الكتاب:
روسيا تمتاز بأنها أكبر دولة في العالم تمتد على مدى احدى عشر خط طولي ولكنها مع ذلك تفتقر إلى الموانئ المطلة على المياه الدافئة، فمعظم الموانئ الروسية تتجمد مياهها لشهور طويلة. وصراعها مع أوكرانيا على سبيل المثال هو محاولة لإبقاء ميناء منطقة القرم تحت سيطرتها. وتتميز روسيا بثروات كبيرة من الغاز والنفط الذي تصدره عن طريق الأنابيب لجيرانها من الجمهوريات السوفيتية السابقة وعدد من دول اوروبا الشرقية والغربية وهذا الأمر يجعلها ذات سيطرة غير مباشرة على تلك الدول التي تغض الطرف عن كثير من سياسات روسيا لكي لا تتضرر مصالحها.

الصين تمتاز بمجاورة عدد كبير من الدول وحدودها محمية بشكل طبيعي بتضاريس وهي ميزة لا تتوفر لدى روسيا. مشكلة الصين أنها لا تمتلك قوة بحرية حريية مؤثرة لاسيما وأن حدودها البحرية وخطوط الملاحة البحرية تتشاركها دول كثيرة أخرى وهذا يمثل خطرا على شريان اقتصادها الأهم وهو تصدير المنتجات الرخيصة لجميع دول العالم.

أما أمريكا فهي أكثر الدول حظا من الناحية الجغرافية فهي تطل على المحيط الأطلسي من جهة والمحيط الهادي من جهة أخرى وليس لديها من جيران سوى كندا في الشمال والمكسيك في الجنوب. معظم حروب أمريكا تقع في أقاليم جغرافية بعيدة عنها منا يجعلها في مأمن نسبيا ولكن التكنلوجيا الحديثة كسرت حاجز الجغرافيا كما هو الحال في الهجمات الإرهابية التي وقعت في داخل أمريكا. ويتناول الكتاب موضوع هام وهو اتجاه أمريكا للاكتفاء الذاتي من النفط مع نهاية هذا العقد مما قد يغير سياساتها وتواجدها في منطقة الخليج مستقبلا.

تلعب الجغرافيا السياسية دورا هاما في أوروبا والتي تتكون من عدد كبير من الدول في مساحة صغيرة نسبيا مقارنة بالولايات المتحدة او ��وسيا على سبيل المثال. وتتنوع ثقافات وأعراق ولغات شعوب تلك الدول التي تفصل بينها حدود جغرافية كالأنهار والجبال وتمتاز بمناخ معتدل عموما وموقع استراتيجي بين العالم القديم والجديد . وكان هذا التنوع سبب لنشوب الحروب في الماضي وتغير ذلك إلى الوصول لتحقيق الاتحاد الأوروبي في الوقت الحاضر. ولكن لاتزال هناك فجوة بين دول الشمال والجنوب ودول الشرق والغرب من حيث القوة الاقتصادية والاستقرار السياسي. كما يتطرق الكتاب إلى موضوع الهجرة الداخلية بين دول أوروبا والهجرة الخارجية من دول الشرق الأوسط وأفريقيا نحو دول اوروبا الغربية ومدى تأثير هذه الهجرات على تغيير ثقافة وسياسة وحياة أوروبا الاجتماعية.

أما أفريقيا فقد يكون أحد أسباب تأخرها في اللحاق بركب التطور الاقتصادي والتكنولوجي هو انعزالها جغرافيا عن القارات الأخرى. وهذا الانعزال سببه وجود أقليم الصحراء الكبرى والأنهار الممتدة والتي لا تصلح للملاحة الطويلة لوجود الشلالات والانحدارات فيها وكذلك الشواطئ التي لا تصلح كموانيء علاوة على أن أفريقيا محاطة بالبحار والمحيطات من جميع الجوانب. ومما ساهم في انعزال أفريقيا أن التبادل التجاري بين الدول غالبا ما يكون بين الشرق والغرب وليس الشمال والجنوب. أضف إلى أسباب تأخر افريقيا مشكلة تفشي الأمراض كالملاريا وانواع الحمى المختلفة والتي تسهم البيئة الحارة والرطبة على انتشارها. ومن أهم العوامل المساهمة في تأخر أفريقيا ما تعرضت لها شعوبها من موجات الاستعباد لمئات السنين مما قلل الكثافة السكانية في مساحات شاسعة. وجاء بعد ذلك الاستعمار ثم الحروب الأهلية والحروب بين الدول على الحدود المصطنعة التي رسمها المستعمر والصراع على الماء والنفط.

ويواصل الكتاب عرض وتفصيل تأثير تقسيم الاستعمار للدول ورسم الحدود على الخرائط دون النظر لطبيعة الشعوب والقبائل الموجودة على أرض الواقع وأثر ذلك على معظم الحروب والصراعات في يومنا هذا لاسيما في الشرق الاوسط، الهند وباكستان. ثم ينتقل لكوريا واليابان، أمريكا الجنوبية ويختم بالمحيط المتجمد الشمالي.

ملاحظة: حصلت على نسخة الكترونية من هذا الكتاب بواسطة مجموعة بريدية لنادي قراءة نيجيري.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,328 reviews4,398 followers
February 26, 2019
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.
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