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A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols
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A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  875 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Combining keen analysis of current events with world history, Tim Marshall, author of the New York Times bestseller Prisoners of Geography, provides “an entertaining whistle-stop tour of world flags” (Library Journal)—how their power is used to unite and divide populations and intimidate enemies.

For thousands of years flags have represented our hopes and dreams. We wave th
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Scribner (first published September 22nd 2016)
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Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
My first impressions of this book were highly positive. Instantly, I imagined giving this book a rating of five stars. What drew me in the beginning was the chapter names; I really liked the way that the book was structured. The first few chapters were stimulating, concise, and highly educational; I certainly learned a great deal. Then, I reached the chapter on Arabian flags, and I spotted a few sloppy errors by the author that brought my initial impression down to four stars. And including Turk ...more
A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols by Tim Marshall is a look at the flags of the world and their origins. Marshall is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster, known for his analysis of developments in foreign news and international diplomacy. Marshall (formerly diplomatic editor and also foreign affairs editor for Sky News) is a guest commentator on world events for the BBC, Sky News, and a guest presenter on LBC. He has written four books, including Prisone ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is exactly the sort of nonfiction I love. Smart, educational without being pedantic, exceptionally well written, humorous and informative. Marshall is no stranger to politics and this book definitely showcases his erudite knowledge, this is geopolitics mixed in with historical data and even anthropology and sociology. Flags are crucially important not only as the emblems of nations, but also political and/or social parties, organizations, etc. They are wildly recognizable and imbued with a ...more
This is what it says on the cover: a book about flags. And a very good one at that. For someone with an insatiable curiosity like me, books such as this one are pure gems: they give me very useful information packaged in a highly appealing way. Marshall is a very good writer, and he can be incredibly funny - laugh out loud type of funny - even in a book about the history of flags. Do pick it up if you have the time, and definitely do pick it up if you're just interested in the subject - it's a v ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Worth Dying For” is an interesting book which presents the history and ideologies behind a variety of flags.

The chapter on the Union Jack was particular interesting, it is a flag that I am so accustomed to seeing but have never really given much consideration towards its complicated history and so found this to be an enlightening and informative.
The political overtones of the flags within Europe and the Balkans make for fascinating reading, giving pause for thought at some of the discoveries ma
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-btr
Entertaining book, a little bit too much centered around the US and Europe but informative nonetheless. If you want a brief historical background about mot countries and why they chose the flags they did this is the book for you. Very brief mention about South American countries, African and Asian countries are underrepresented as well. the information was factual to the best of my knowledge .
Jack Vaughan
Average read, prisoners of geography was a hugely captivating read, yet Tim Marshal's latest left me feeling flat. There we sole genuinely interesting parts to the book but there was also a great deal of unnecessary wish wash.
Fábio de Carvalho
Tim Marshall's bias is evident throughout this whole book that barely talks about flags, spending most of its time presenting the author's old man fallacious rants. The book is full of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and opinions presented as facts. I do not recommend this book to anyone, ever.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best for: People interested in world politics.

In a nutshell: Tim Marshall examines many (though not all) of the flags of nations, as well as flags of political movements and other organizations as a way to examine what these symbols mean to people.

Worth quoting:
“The people of the nations of Europe have stubbornly resisted becoming one, not because they don’t like each other but because they like themselves.”

Why I chose it: I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Marshall’s examination of how geography influenc
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book discusses an interesting topic and you learn a fair bit about the history and meaning of flags of countries, organisations, and institutions. I picked up this book having heard raving reviews about Prisoners of Geography, which I am yet to read.

However, what irked me were areas where Tim discusses, often unrequired for the context of the book, the political and cultural positioning of countries. These areas appear to be based more on Tim's opinions rather than facts, contain inconsiste
Zoe (readabilitea)
This was a very enjoyable read; I liked the way it was structured, I learnt a ton of new facts, and I really enjoyed how paragraphs segued into new flags seamlessly. To begin with, I thought I would be giving this a higher rating than 3 stars, but then after reading some of the reviews on here that highlighted the problems with The Flags of Fear chapter, I became more sceptical. It's definitely very accessible and interesting, but sometimes the 'jokes' the author made rubbed me the wrong way, fo ...more
Teele Murphy
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A solid overview of certain flags and regions. If you're new to vexillology, this book is an excellent jumping off point but if you're looking for an in-depth discussion, this is not the book for you
Emilie Weidl
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kinda mad that he acted like Canada doesn't even exist, but whatever. Really well done, thoroughly researched. Truly interesting read, I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot!
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty cool.
Arthur Dury
Probably the best insight into the worlds flags youre going to read, but honestly there's nothing in this book that Marshall doesn't explain better in prisoners of geography.
Luke Hershberg
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book if you want to learn about the history of certain flags including American, European, Asian and many more.
Lia   Covington
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Lia's Bookish Obsession have to admit when I saw A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of a Nation Symbols my only initial reason for reading it was to figure out what author Tim Marshall was saying about my country, The Bahamas. After reading this book I found that Tim Marshall had much more to say about the history and struggle multiple nations had to endure in order to obtain their symbol of a nation, their flag ...more
I read Marshall's Prisoners of Geography when it was released and loved it. I'm generally interested in the topic of flags so was happy to pick this up too. It's strongly written, interesting and full of tidbits that I never would have realised without the book- but there are also some problems here.

The entire 'Flags of Fear' section is dominated by flags of militant Islamist groups. The Nazi swastika is discussed in the chapter about Germany's flag history, but surely belongs here, given the s
Sep 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historicity
The only positive for this book is if one literally judges it by the cover. The dust jacket is a brilliant piece of aesthetic. Now put the book down and walk away. The only enjoyment a reader can possibly get has been had.
What can be learned about flags from the point of opening the cover is a simple listing of the meanings of colors, research that could easily be completed in an hour on wikipedia.
This reader foolishly persisted and was treated to numerous facile opinions on if a flag looked ni
As a history of the flag itself, 'Worth Dying For' is a thorough, thoroughly engaging and not a little bit beautifully presented introduction to a wide range of ideas the flag presents to us. Here, with the Union Jack and French Tricolore we find the long and frequently convoluted provenance of the national flag; there, the Stars and Stripes and the flag of Saudi Arabia have much to teach us about the reverence reserved for, and semi-sacred nature of, the object over the symbol it represents.

Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is interesting at times, but compared to previous books I found this a lot drier, making it more difficult to keep reading. A die-hard flag fan might appreciate this book more. Other than that, the book does provide many fascinating insights into the political messages and history behind the designs of flags.
David Vink
Aug 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A Flag Worth Dying For
A Book Not Worth Paying For.


If you are going to write a book about flags – might be a good idea to have pictures of flags above each country you're talking about. It's incredibly annoying to flip back-and-forth looking for the flag, referring to the colors and then going back again. Terrible design idea.

The author who wrote the fantastic Prisoners of Geography epically disappoints in this painfully boring read about flags. I liked the first chapter about the US flag and
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and really gave a new perspective of how important religion is when it comes to National Identity - this is particularly clear in the 'Flags Of Fear' chapter.

An informed and well researched book that gives real insight in the significance of flags around the world that displays the humour of the author well. If you like writers such as Bill Bryson you'll like this.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I quite enjoyed Marshall's previous book, 'Prisoners of Geography', and so I wasn't surprised to see that this book was just as good, if not better. It seems that Marshall has gotten more confident in his writing, inserting humorous quips in several sections. Great book, especially if you're interested in vexillology.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book of Marshalls that I read and I must say I was pleasantly surprised about how engaging and stimulating I found it. I often read others reviews before starting the book to see if it is worth some time and afterwards just to compare my opinions. Taking that into consideration, yes there are some typos and errors and yes it does get a little repetitive and tedious at times reading about flags. Having said that the title of the books includes the words ‘flags worth dying for’ ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book reads as though it was written in the middle of the night by a smug and overconfident high school student on a deadline, simultaneously cherry-picking factoids from Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook while augmenting the final word count with insipid opinions and weak humor. I give it one star only because zero is not an option.
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Don't go in expecting this to be as good as POG. I think its because the topic is inherently less interesting (to me) perhaps, but yeah, not good.
James Nicholls
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in flags, this is the best book I've read on the subject!
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good if you need bits of trivia to share at dinner parties. The premise of the book sounded quite intriguing. What are flags? Why do we use flags to represent nations? Why are there certain protocols and procedures when treating certain flags? How have flags changed over time? Author Marshall takes the reader though that question.
Countries, entities like the European Union and their member states, flags of revolution, flags of particular groups, etc. all get a look. From the US Stars and Stripe
Michal Šenk
To reiterate a problem voiced in many other reviews, the book is something else than what it is sold as. If you are expecting a deep-cutting and “sharp” analysis of what role flags play in the today’s upsurge of nationalism, you are most likely to be let down. Instead, the book offers a meek rundown of Wikipedia-style facts and figures that tell you little about the actual importance of the flags for their respective peoples.

Admittedly, the author makes a couple of interesting points, but they
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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
More about Tim Marshall

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