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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  29,741 ratings  ·  2,817 reviews
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
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Published March 21st 2017 by Audible Studios (first published July 9th 2015)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Once I read this true crime account of this serial killer and they didn’t find the bodies, I think they got him on dna, and so they ask him what did you do with the bodies. They were wondering what genius plan of disposal the guy had come up with to make ten corpses disappear without trace. And he says I cut em up and put them out with the trash. If I couldn’t get em in the bin I put em in black bags. They just took em away, every Thursday morning.

Well, you really shouldn’t laugh, but –

Once I
Thomas Ray
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World, Tim Marshall, 2015, 263 pp.

This is actually a rather shallow, cursory look at geopolitics from a standard pro–U.S.-military, neoliberal viewpoint. The ten maps are just ordinary maps of ten areas, Russia, China, U.S., W. Europe, Africa, Mideast, S. Asia, Korea/Japan, Latin America, Arctic.

The author’s claim, that natural corridors and natural barriers explain “everything,” is belied by the rise and fall of empires as
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Once
The premise of this book is interesting - that much of international politics is about geography. Country A doesn't go to war with country B because there is a range of mountains between them. Country C enjoys a strong trading economy because it has access to the sea. And so it goes.

Most people reading it will probably get one or two "aha" moments when the book gives them an insight they hadn't had before. It's a good point well made.

About a quarter of the way through the book I was really
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an amazing journey through the world, zooming out of particular localities and looking at the geographical shape of bigger areas that helped form the history, culture and population of the world we share.

I read the first chapters on Russia, China, Europe, USA and Africa constantly nodding my head, realising that it was possible to explain many things I had thought about for long hours by analysing natural borders, rivers, mountains, vegetation, climate and distribution of agricultural
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
Overall an interesting read, but little new information for anyone with more than just a passing interest in history or (geo-)politics. There is too much ''America is awesome'' and too little actual in depth information. Furthermore, the title is somewhat misleading. I had the impression that there would be ten actual maps, ones that you don't see or use very often to define your view of the world, but could be considered important nonetheless. Rather, the author just uses the generic maps that ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-btr
What a great read, this was such an interesting topic, well explained and clear . I highly recommend this book to any lover of geopolitical issues and whoever wants to get a glimpse on how the foreseeable future might play out . If you love maps and history this book is for you!
Andrew Smith
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Joseph Spuckler
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About The World by Tim Marshall attempts to explain the world by presenting ten maps of the planet. Tim Marshall is a leading authority on foreign affairs with more than 25 years of reporting experience. He was the diplomatic editor at Sky News, and before that was working for the BBC and LBC/IRN radio. He has reported from thirty countries and covered the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
“Prisoners of Geography” is brief (too brief in my opinion) but yet the book is a delightful and informative read. The intertwined story of human development, war and geography is coherently arranged and very interesting. It has a lot of maps - hooray!

These pages reveal the occasional underlying rationality behind why governments sometimes behave the way they do, as well as maybe some reasons why some countries are so impoverished while others have done very well financially. Politics and
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics, general
Prisoners of Geography – A Much needed lesson

As someone whose family has been victims of the Geography of where they lived and who they were in an often much forgotten episode of the Second World War. People forget that when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 their allies Russia invaded Poland on the 17th September 1939. My great-Grandmother was ‘exiled’ to Siberia because her son was fighting for the enemy (the Polish Government) and her husband was an officer in the Polish Police. My Grandfather
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Geography has always been a prison of sorts-one that defines what a nation is or can be, and one from which our world leaders have often struggled to break free"

This book is a rather grand introduction to geopolitics. It contains ten respectably shirt chapters and there are illustrations showing us the geo strategic realities for the different countries.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Arctic. It was most interesting and there is such a lot going on there.
This book has gone into a lot
Fantastic - this is a book I've really been waiting for. I've long bemoaned the fact that we no longer emphasize geography in our schools - since as this book proves, a knowledge of geography is essential to even the most basic understanding of history. I mean, the word "geopolitical" literally means the confluence of geography and politics. Want to understand why Russia invaded the Ukraine, why China is harassing its Uighurs in Xinjiang, or why the Middle East will never get its shit together? ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like this one. It's a great idea for a book, and I think Tim Marshall successfully pulled it off. Here it is, in a nutshell: Ten regional maps, accompanied by explanatory text. The focus is on the usual suspects -- Russia, China, Western Europe, The United States, Africa, and so on. The big surprise comes at the very end, an entire chapter devoted to...the Arctic!

The Earth's physical features are the stars of the show. Mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans, jungles: they're all here, and
Simon Clark
A very interesting overview of global geopolitics and the geography that informs it. By splitting the world into distinct regions Marshall allows for the isolation of particularly important geographical features, such as the North European Plain on Russian politics, and the lack of navigable rivers hampering internal development in Africa. The author is clearly authoritative and even includes a few personal anecdotes with foreign ministers when making points. This being my first book on the ...more
Dana Stabenow
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brisk, well written, continent by continent (excluding Australia) survey of how geography is destiny, beginning with Putin going down on his knees every night to ask God why He didn't put mountains in Ukraine. I really liked the way Marshall organized it, too. The first chapter is Russia and how so much of their actions are dictated by the eternal quest for a warm-water port, the second is China's equally eternal quest of finding water routes unobstructed by the island archipelago likes of the ...more
Riku Sayuj
Marshall could have kept up the initial presentation and analysis throughout the book, but at some point the editors decided to shorten the pages and compress regions together. As a fellow reviewer says, "It is solid stuff, but after some time this geography thing gets a bit repetitive – plains, mountains, rivers, plainsmountainsrivers, portsportsports ..."
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a good introduction to geopolitics. In ten short chapters it illustrates the geostrategic realities for countries and regions. It explains why the Ukraine is so important to Russia, the limits of chinese assertiveness in its backyard and why africa is so poor.

My only criticism is that it is too short
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All you need to do to enjoy this book is to ignore the title, the subtitle and the central tenet of the text.* Yep, as simple as that. Let me explain. Was Putin really forced to annex Crimea, as the book implies? Did China have no other choice than to occupy Tibet? Of course not. There are always options, even if there are geopolitical arguments for or against certain actions. The 'prisoners of geography' rhetoric comes dangerously close to absolving the perpetrators of any blame, as their ...more
Josh Masser
Feb 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As if the assumed American exceptionalism that drips from these pages isn't enough, I believe the staggering amount of broad-stroke revisionism that underpins an endorsement of brutal imperial practices (by a variety of nations) that spans the text is enough to incite guffaws in any sensible reader. The disgusting obsequiousness that permeates Marshal's references to American military hegemony is only matched by his entire omission of the damage that neoliberal austerity measures have done to ...more
Have to say Tim Marshall has done an excellent job of this book and providing a relatively simple baseline for geopolitics, and providing a plain English explanation for historical, and not so historical political decisions and the effects of geography related to these.

Marshall says in his introduction, which is a good paragraph summary:
The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the people that now inhabit nearly every
Book Concierge
Subtitle: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World - or in U.K. editions: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics

I’ve always been relatively good at geography, and yet I wouldn’t say I’m particularly interested in or fascinated by the subject. Until now.

This was a selection for my F2F book club and I’ll admit I went into it with some reluctance. So, I was pleasantly surprised at how very readable and understandable Marshall’s work is. I quickly became
Tom Ewing
As a youth I studied the Annales school of history - a structuralist method which deals with geography first as a motor of history, and human plans and actions very much last. I say 'studied' rather than 'read' because Annales history was notoriously dry and notoriously long. Tim Marshall's book takes a similar approach but is brief, crisp and only mildly arid.

Prisoners of Geography is at its strongest when explaining why big global powers want what they want. Russia, for instance, has had to
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
The book seems to me about geo-tactics, mostly about how geography defines possible military attacks and defences.
It did not convince me of its thesis that we are prisoners of geography.
The one that convinced me of exactly the opposite was Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
Plus: the maps in the book are not great either :-(
Peter Mcloughlin
It's okay mostly armchair geopolitics. Geography is important among other factors. I would want to pay attention to it. That said it isn't everything.
Gumble's Yard
Jan 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
The title of the book is a little of a misnomer – as many chapters contain a number of maps, and the key introductory maps in each chapter often lack crucial detail or even full coverage of the region (hence the need for supplemental maps) – they are also reproduced in simple back and white, whereas perhaps the book could have been better with large scale colour maps. Instead the book focuses on ten areas: Russia, China, Western Europe, America, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, ...more
Cheeky Cher
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
3 stars - It was good.

Interesting and extremely relevant read – I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Arctic.

Favorite Quote: When we are reaching for the stars, the challenges ahead are such that we will perhaps have to come together to meet them: to travel the universe not as Russians, Americans, or Chinese but as representatives of humanity. But so far, although we have broken free from the shackles of gravity, we are still imprisoned in our own
Biblio Curious
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The chapter on the Arctic is chilling! There's a lot going on up north! He explains current events based on their geographical influences or causes. Very insightful book and highly recommended as an introduction for Geopolitical Issues.
Brendan Monroe
This is an incredibly well-researched book that really does clarify a lot of what is going on in the world today — from Russia's incursions into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, to China's tough defensive posture over Tibet and Taiwan. Reading it made me understand, and perhaps in some way even sympathize, with certain positions countries take and view as being in their national interest.

That said, I think the book's subtitle — "Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World" — somewhat obfuscates
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The Book Vipers: * Group Non-Fiction Read Q2 2019 - Prisoners of Geography 4 24 Jul 08, 2019 09:41AM  
Play Book Tag: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall - 4 stars 5 15 Jun 07, 2019 07:44PM  
Fans of Maps: Prisoners of Geography 5 15 May 29, 2019 06:36AM  
10 maps make history come alive 1 21 Nov 11, 2018 10:57AM  
Play Book Tag: Prisoners of Geography / Tim Marshall - 4**** 2 23 Mar 27, 2018 06:41AM  

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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
“There are fifty American states, but they add up to one nation in a way the twenty-eight sovereign states of the European Union never can. Most of the EU states have a national identity far stronger, more defined, than any American state. It is easy to find a French person who is French first, European second, or one who pays little allegiance to the idea of Europe, but an American identifies with their Union in a way few Europeans do theirs. This is explained by the geography, and the history of the unification of the United States.” 17 likes
“Sometimes you will hear leaders say, “I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.” If that’s true then that leader has truly failed to build their nation.’ That” 16 likes
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