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Book Review: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

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Hey guys, guess who is finally back! It is David! Lois has been really busy at the minute and won’t be able to post Top Ten Tuesday today (look out for it tomorrow). So, I have come to the rescue and written a book review for a book I read whilst on holiday this year.

Title: Prisoners of Geography – Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics (2016)
Author: Tim Marshall
Genres: Non-fiction, History, Politics, Science and Geography
Publisher: Elliot & Thompson
Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewed by: David


9781783962433“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.”


Prisoners of geography is a brilliantly written and very accessible book that tells you almost everything you need to know about modern geopolitics, without the sensationalism of mainstream media. Tim Marshall presents this book through the lens of geography and the constraints and advantages it gives to the modern nations of the world. If you are interested in studying modern geopolitical flashpoints of the world, such as Syria, Eastern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or the rapidly growing nations such as China, India and Brazil, without any bias or agenda pushing, then this book is definitely for you.

The first thing you will notice about this book is that it is written in a very clear, concise and uncomplicated way. That is not to say that it is simplistic but rather that it conveys the key important points, without weighing down the reader with legal or economic drudgery. Therefore what could have been a slow and difficult read is instead a fascinating and fast paced synopsis of key information. I attribute much of this to the fact that Tim Marshall is an accomplished journalist and regular commentator of world events on news outlets such as the BBC and Sky where he has also been diplomatic and foreign affairs editor.

This enjoyable writing style is also complemented by the layout of the book. 10 chapters, each of which pertains to a particular region of the planet such as Europe, South America and even the Arctic. These chapters allow for the focus of the book to freely shift around the globe, and to provide a good understanding of the geographic and political obstacles affecting these regions. For instance Marshall explains that Russia became the largest country on the globe today, not for any colonial ambitions, but rather because Russia has no defensible terrain to protect it from invading armies from Europe (such as the Invasion by Napoleon and later by Hitler) as the European plain continues all the way from northern France to the Ural Mountains in the east of Russia. Therefore Russia seeks to control enormous swathes of territory so that it can retreat into it, and ideally seeks to push further into Europe to narrow the European plain. Again it is crucial to stress that Marshall makes it clear that these strategies aren’t part of some ambitious plot of an evil Russia to conquer Europe. It is simply about strategy and survival driven by geography, history and politics.

The maps at the start of each chapter are also very useful and I often found myself referring back to them as I read through the chapters as they highlight key information. For instance in the chapter about Russia, the map has clear lines showing what were former USSR nations and which were Soviet satellites. These maps just give a nice illustration of the points Marshall is making. The only issue with these maps is that, at times, information is lost in the page divide as these maps often cover to sides. However this is not usually an issue for the reader and is a necessary consequence of making a standard size book.

Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone who takes an interest in major global politics events or simply wants to learn more about the world they live in beyond the simple narratives often presented to us in various forms of media. Prisoners of Geography will leave you feeling as though you have a much clearer understanding of the increasingly dangerous but incredibly diverse world we live in.

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Until next time,


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