The Power of Geography – Review

This is a review written by Edouard Molhant Proost of the book ‘The Power of Geography’ by Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall’s new book ‘The Power of Geography’, a sequel to his first book ‘Prisoners of Geography’, encapsulates what happens when a journalist is no longer constricted by a few pages of space within which they can write. In his new book, Marshall sweeps across the globe, delving into the complexities of ten of the areas set to host future growth, as well as future conflict, over their resources.  

From Spain to the Sahel, and then on to Space, The Power of Geography provides a perfect expansion to areas explored in Prisoners of Geography, navigating four continents and a myriad of peoples and regions. While perhaps not being a central focus of the book, a recurring theme in many of the ten geographical areas explored, is the fragility of the nation states within them. A potent example is Spain’s regional separatist movements in Catalonia and the Spanish Basque country, whose distinct identities can be explained by the isolation they have historically experienced as a result of mountains, rivers and distance from the capital.  

The book is perhaps unique in its evaluation of issues through a geographical lens, providing it as an apt explanation for the development of a country’s politics, identity and even military strategies. We often observe history and current affairs with the preconception that it is driven entirely by human activity, without considering the physical constraints and opportunities within which every nation state must operate. In Marshall’s book, man is not all powerful, but a being shaped by his environment and not yet able to overcome it. A nation’s desire to control its own territory and expand its sphere of influence over its neighbours, is also shown to be confined by the shape of its land and what lies on its borders. Beyond this, the book also demonstrates how technology and human ingenuity are able to overcome historic geographical restraints, and adapt to new and hostile environments despite the challenges they present. In a globalised and increasingly interconnected world, nations are not considered in isolation, but as players vying for power on the regional and even global stage in their attempts to secure their places in the 21st century landscape.  

The Power of Geography has the unique opportunity of exploring hard news in the longer format of a printed book, having been released in April of 2021. For each region explored, Marshall provides an overview of its history and geography, and how both factors along with others are set to influence the present day, as well as exploring possible future scenarios. With the speed at which the global landscape is changing, there is no doubt that the same book written today would include a host of new areas to explore, but this newer version may be anticipated in the future.  

(Featured Image: © MaxPixel)