On Writer Wednesday, I discuss another author and his or her book. Today I’m delving into The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan.
In order to explain this choice, I want to mention my own background. I’m a writer, a writing consultant and editor and I also research history, geography, geopolitics, cartography and international relations. My degrees cover these areas. So, warning, if you’re not as wild about these things as I am, you might not be as enthusiastic about this book.
I loved it. The Revenge of Geography explains historical facts and ongoing geopolitical situations through the lens of geography. I read this on my reader and starred or underlined a number of passages. I sometimes mark when I’m reading, but more often only while editing. This book had nearly as many marks on it as when I edit a piece. A quick glance shows that I made approximately 125 notes in it. There was just so much that I found riveting. I love explanations for why things are as they are and uncovering links and connections. This book did that.
Here are a few sections from it…
“Geography is the backdrop of human history itself, in spite of cartographic distortions, it can be as revealing about a government’s long-range intentions as its secret councils. A state’s position on the map is the first thing that defines it, more than its governing philosophy even. A map, explains Halford Mackinder, conveys ‘at one glance a whole series of generalizations.’ Geography, he goes on, bridges the gap between arts and sciences, connecting the study of history and culture with environmental factors, which specialists in the humanities sometimes neglect.” (Chapter 2: The Revenge of Geography)
“As heirs to land power, Germans and Russians have over the centuries thought more in terms of geography than Americans and Britons, heirs to sea power. For Russians, mindful of the devastation wrought by the Golden Horde of the Mongols, geography means simply that without expansion, there is the danger of being overrun.” (Chapter 5: The Nazi Distortion)
“America is bordered by oceans to the east and west, and to the north by the Canadian Arctic, which provides for only a thin band of middle class population on America’s border. (The American Canadian frontier is the most extraordinary of the world’s frontiers because it is long, artificial, and yet has ceased to matter.)… For the historical borderland between America and Mexico is broad and indistinct, much like that of the Indian Subcontinent in the northwest, even as it reveals civilizational stresses. Stanford historian David Kennedy notes, ‘The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world,’ with American GDP nine times that of Mexico.” (Chapter 15: Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy).
If I’ve whet your appetite for learning more about the importance of geography on historical and current events, I encourage you to read the fascinating The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan.
Do you have recommendations in this area?
My best to you all,