The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall
In his 2015 book, Prisoners of Geography, foreign affairs and international diplomacy journalist, Tim Marshall, revolutionised the way we looked at Geopolitics, associating nations’ geography with their political choices. The Power of Geography exceeds the boundaries set by its prequel, delving deep into the same world...but it now looks completely different.
Marshall defines “the ten regions set to shape global politics in a new age of great-power rivalry”, but it doesn’t look like how you would expect. For example, though discussed at length, some of the nations commonly described as the world’s biggest powers, such as the USA, Russia and China, are notably absent from the rankings. This demonstrates Marshall’s unique ability to read between the lines of politics, those lines being that of the borders, mountains, coasts and rivers on maps. Instead, he draws attention to the following regions: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and - in a surprising exit from planet Earth - space.
The analysis of each chapter follows a similar pattern - the geography of the nation is explained, with Marshall informing us which aspects are a help, and which are a hindrance. He then traces the history of the region up until the present, describing the many political and cultural events that have been influenced by both social and physical geography. The future is then forecasted, taking into account some of the biggest issues that the modern world faces: namely, Covid-19, climate change, technology, energy and globalisation.
However, the story of each nation differs so greatly that the book never gets repetitive. As well as learning about the history of countries which our whitewashed country often forgets about, we learn lesser-known facts about ourselves. For example, much like many of the countries our Empire believed required ‘civilising’, the UK began as a plethora of “wild tribes who couldn’t read or write and, instead of learning, spent their time fighting each other.”
If you want to be clued up on the past, presents and futures of the geopolitical world, Marshall’s book offers a no-nonsense, impartial explanation that is actually enjoyable to read. Keep an eye out for the bonus anecdotes from his career as a journalist, such as when he tumbled down a water canal after fleeing the Iranian police.