Review-Prisoners of Geography: a decent and accessible introduction to the role of geography in world politics

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that will tell you everything you need to know about Global Politics
Tim Marshall
Elliot and Thompson Limited, 2015

Marshall’s first book covers a somewhat less explored area of world politics, that being the role that geography plays in world affairs. Throughout the chapters, Marshall discusses various areas of the world and the ways in which geography has shaped-and continues to shape-major world events. Some of the chapters cover fields often ignored in global politics such as the Arctic and the author does a good job of answering some questions about the world like how the US became a great power and why Russia annexed Crimea.

However, many of the answers tend to be simplified and the author often downplays the role of other factors. The chapter on the middle east, for example, is a poor attempt to explain an extremely complex region in 36 pages, and in doing so promotes a rather western view without much nuance, although this is true throughout the whole book to a lesser extent. The author also fails completely to address Oceania, a region that would have been perfect for this book and would have been interesting to see his take on a seldom discussed area.

Nevertheless, the book is a solid introduction to geopolitics for those with only limited knowledge and does discuss many areas of the so-called “global south” often rarely discussed in regular media, albeit with a western bias and a poor knowledge of their history. Anyone would do well to read the chapter on the Arctic and likewise to skip the chapter on the Middle East.

Overall, a good introductory read but for those with more knowledge on global politics and a more nuanced viewpoint, it may be disappointing and possibly irritating


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