Katie Burton reviews Tim Marshall’s latest book The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World, published by Elliot & Thompson
The prequel to this book, Prisoners of Geography, was a bestseller thanks to the way that it so clearly identified the huge (and often undervalued) significance of those geographic staples (mountains, rivers, deserts, seas) in forming nations and alliances, and governing politics. Here, Tim Marshall returns with The Power of Geography, offering ten new case studies – Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and space. Once again, he demonstrates how his chosen states have been, and always will be, influenced by geography, although this time with a closer eye on the future.
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The nine countries (plus space) that make up the book have been chosen for their potential as geopolitical hotspots. These are places where we can expect things to happen, and soon. The big issues are all relevant here; these are places grappling with climate change, religion and struggles over resources, and are, above all, figuring out their place in the new world order. All of them operate in certain ways because of geography. Just as Britain will always be influenced by the fact that it’s a small island, so the mountains and coastlines of Greece will always shape its role in the Mediterranean, while Australia’s location will ensure it keeps one eye on China and another on the USA.
Marshall’s books are excellent for anyone who takes satisfaction in understanding the world and who harbours a fascination for the shifting alliances, not just within their own country, but in others, too. Each segment of The Power of Geography is accessible, although by no means simple. Marshall covers much ground, moving smoothly through each nation’s background, current struggles and options for the future. He considers the UK’s struggles to identify what being a foreign power means post-empire, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the USA in an age where solar panels will replace oil, Iran’s catch-22 (to liberalise and undermine its religious foundation, or double down and risk protests from a dissatisfied youth) and more. A sharp and concise evaluation of today’s geopolitics.
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