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Review: Prisoners of Geography

It’s been several years since I read this book, but I figured many people are looking for any additional inspiration and distraction in these sad times of Corona virus lockdown. The pandemic has made global traveling come to a complete stop, but at least we can still read and dream.

This is a sidestep from my usual review focus of travel narratives, since the book is composed of facts concerning the geographical borders between countries. More specifically, why the borders are in a special place and the immense political importance of those geographical dividers.

Prisoners of Geography

Tim Marshall is writing clearly and concisely about the factors that shaped the civilizations of history. Much of international politics is about geography and the book makes this point crystal clear. When we look at a world map or Google Maps, it’s easy to simplify areas of interest. Just go from A to B and the problem is solved. But real-world travelers have long known about barriers such as the Pyrenees and the Tibetan Plateau.

Why is Russia so desperate for a warm-water harbor in Crimea? Why is there so much pressure on the Kashmir region? How is Africa’s ethnic conflicts affected by the geography? Why is China focusing on being a naval power and and why are they investing so much in the African continent? Why does it matter how the river systems in America and Europe differ from each other?

Naturally, these are complex issues and cannot be fully summarized or grasped in a single book. Many of the areas mentioned are both obvious and historically infamous, but I still found the book to be an interesting summary.

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