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

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall is the 2015 edition dealing with Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America and The Arctic. The first chapters were more relevant to the thesis: how a region’s geography confines it in ways that are unavoidable, such as dealing with mountain ranges, rivers, deserts and oceans. I felt that the author drifted from the “prisoner” relationship in the later chapters, but that may only be because the first regions, namely Russia, PR China and the USA are so vast and are among the most vital to international politics and economics.

Marshall covered how a country’s terrain could render it vulnerable to attack, and outlined past wartime strategies that sent troops into Russia and the Chinese mainland, and why these two nations desire buffer zones to keep them protected. In spite of their sporadic antagonism, India and PR China will never go to war because they have a little hurdle called the Himalayas straddled between them. I appreciated the explanation about the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. In spite of their single instance of glacier warfare, these two countries cannot engage in any kind of long-term ground conflict in Kashmir. I had memories of my university political geography class whenever I read about the slashing straight lines of colonial borders. Africa and the Middle East are full of them. They divide people indiscriminately and conflicts brew when people find they have to show a passport to go into an area that they and their ancestors have visited for generations. The author devoted a single paragraph to the Canada–Denmark dispute over Hans Island, yet misplaced the tiny speck on the Arctic map. Maps were essential to each chapter and it was helpful that Marshall included all the minor bodies of water and landforms that he was talking about.

I had to laugh at what Marshall wrote about the European Union:

“What is now the EU was set up so that France and Germany could hug each other so tightly in a loving embrace that neither would be able to get an arm free with which to punch the other.”

Map geeks will love this book and will wonder when the next edition will come out, as there are plenty more than just ten regions where geographic prisoners are incarcerated. I see that the junior version of this book includes two additional maps: that of Canada and Australia, so Marshall has at least covered two of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *