Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of GeographyNicholas R. Jeelvy
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics
London: Elliot and Thompson (2015)
The physical realities that underpin national and international politics are too often disregarded in both writing about history and in contemporary reporting of world affairs. Geography is clearly a fundamental part of the “why” as well as the “what.”
Ever since I was a small child, roughly from age three or four, I remember staring transfixed at any map I could get my hands on. Atlases, globes, wall charts, everything to satisfy my voracious appetite for map-reading. It’s important to not confuse the map for the territory, but a map is a story of the territory, for those who know how to read it. I would scan maps for hours on end, learning to the best of my ability the various geographical features, the names of countries, cities, and capitals. Much of it I still remember even at my embarrassingly advanced age. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I was positively giddy when I heard that a book about maps that explain the world exists. And indeed, Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About The World claims that such maps exist.
The premise of the book is remarkably solid — you could even call it self-evident: the foreign policy and geopolitical decisions made by world leaders are constrained by geography, that nations, states, and leaders are in many ways prisoners of geography. For example, no matter the political system or leadership structure, a leader of Russia has an interest in exerting influence over Poland due to the geography of the European Plain, which is narrowest in Poland — therefore, control of Poland means control of the land gateway between Western Europe and Russia. A Chinese leader, irrespective of political system or leadership structure, has an interest in controlling Tibet, given that all of China’s major and life-giving rivers spring from the Tibetan plateau. And an American state, regardless of political system or leadership structure, must control the port of New Orleans and its gates to the outside world – Florida, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Only then can the world oceans communicate with the vast inland of the North American continent through the many navigable waterways of the Mississippi-Missouri watershed. And of course, dreams of a politically united Europe remain just that: dreams. Unlike North America, a map of European watersheds reveals a patchwork of medium and small riverbeds, with the notable exceptions of the Danube, Dniepr, Don, and Volga.
But aside from the great insights with regard to geography, Tim Marshall’s erstwhile effort gives us a case study of what mistakes smart and insightful people make when they are blinded to certain realities of the world. Indeed, how can the author — a British journalist and international correspondent in good standing — do something as crass as noticing the biological realities of nation and race?
A good example of the inner contradictions within the book itself resulting from race-blindness, and more importantly, blindness to racial conflict, arise when comparing and contrasting chapter 3 (which deals with the United States) and chapter 7 (which deals with India and Pakistan).
Marshall rightfully criticizes Pakistan as having no internal cohesive mechanism outside of Islam and opposition to India given that Pakistan consists of several squabbling ethnic groups. It’s dominated by and resentful of a Punjabi majority, and Marshall predicts a turbulent future for it. But he also gleefully predicts that the United States will keep on going, even as it wanes in power, completely ignoring the problem posed by the emergence of ethnic groups resentful of America’s historic people who are now on the way to becoming a minority. The crux of the argument for America’s continued wealth and power is predicated on the assumption that the port of New Orleans, connecting the Mississippi watershed to the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida peninsula — the gateway between the Gulf and the sea — will remain in American hands. But it is precisely these lands in America that are facing intense replacement migration. A majority Hispanic Florida might choose to leverage its geographic position, possibly in concert with Cuba and other Caribbean nations, and dictate terms to America’s inland, whose navigable rivers are meaningless without access to the high seas. Marshall describes the absolute necessity of the Mexican-American war and the importance of pushing the potentially hostile Mexican state far away from the port of New Orleans, but fails to see the danger that a majority-Hispanic Texas, or even Louisiana, could have on that same port. If the loyalty of the Pakistani Pashtuns to the regime in Islamabad cannot be counted on, can American Hispanics, especially Mexicans, be counted on to be loyal to the regime in Washington?
Nowhere are the epicycles explaining away racial and ethnic differences more obvious than in the section on South America. The wealth of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina is due to the Rio de la Plata and the natural harbor of Buenos Aires, and in no way due to the white majority in South America’s Southern Cone. Or could it be that European settlers had the foresight to settle these productive regions? Hmm. Either way, a good deal of rationalization could be done away with if only the element of race were to be taken into account. Sadly, what could be an excellent exploration of African geography in chapter 5 descends into similar epicycles.
What can we, as Dissident Rightists and white nationalists, garner from this book? First of all, let’s look at the situation in America. Whites on the North American continent have leveraged the interconnectedness of its waterways to great effect and wealth, but, as mentioned before, the economic utility of the Mississippi-Missouri watershed depends on control of the gates of New Orleans and Florida. Many people assume that the Midwest, possibly the Pacific Northwest, and parts of inland Canada could become a homeland for whites on the North American continent. However, without control of New Orleans and Florida, or at the very least parts of the East Coast, such a country would have no means of entering the Atlantic and coordinating with Europe — preventing the cross-Atlantic cooperation that we have hitherto had for better or worse. Absent the Rio Grande, there are precious few natural barriers between the proposed Midwestern-Pacific Northwestern white homeland and Mexico — opening up the state to hostile invasion and infiltration. All of these factors will dictate the extent and borders of the proposed new homeland. It is important to remember that the USA and Canada took the shapes they took due to geographic expedience and constraints.
Second, we must look to Europe and her defenses. I’ve already written extensively about the possibility of a European alliance to defend the continent’s borders. Geography works to our advantage here — Europe is easily defensible from the south and south-east, and extra layers of defense can be added by exerting influence on the Mediterranean’s south and Eastern shores. The Atlantic to the West seems to be an unlikely route of attack, as does the Arctic to the north (although, as chapter 10 points out, the Arctic is now very much in play as icebreaker technology advances and the polar ice cap recedes). This leaves the East and our old friends of Velikaya Rus, whose loyalty to a potential alliance of European nations and potential imperial ambitions on Europe are something we have yet to determine. Poland will once again take center stage in world history, as it is there that the European plain is narrowest.
Thinking about maps and geography is good for its own sake, too. Obviously, it is fun, but more importantly, we who would be thinkers and rulers must of necessity take into account the facts on the ground; including the literal ground, the climate, the populations, the tides and ebbs and flows of rivers, the mountains, the woods, the deserts, and the seas. The land speaks.
But maps and lands do not tell the whole story. History and the future are tales not only of geography, but also of biology. Tim Marshall is fond of pointing out that geography is destiny, that nations and leaders are prisoners of geography. Our movement’s most emblematic maxim is that demographics are destiny. But a view of one without the other is incomplete. Just as a man needs two eyes to see properly, to perceive depth and nuance, so too does a geopolitical thinker need both geography and biology.
In any case, I warmly recommend everyone imbibe this excellent tome. Unfortunate though his blind spots may be, Marshall has much to teach us.
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“Marshall rightfully criticizes Pakistan as having no internal cohesive mechanism outside of Islam and opposition to India given that Pakistan consists of several squabbling ethnic groups. It’s dominated by and resentful of a Punjabi majority, and Marshall predicts a turbulent future for it.”
As this particular chapter shows, Tim Marshall knows nothing about the region. He just recycles previously done ‘research’. He should not be taken seriously.
The ethnic groups share ties of blood and common culture. ‘Punjab’ is a geographical term. It is an area that contains different tribes that happen to be ethnically diverse. There are ethnic Pashtun tribes who speak Punjabi dialects. Then, there are folks ancestrally belonged to the Iranian and North Indian stock but they also consider themselves ‘Punjabis’ today. Also, the country is not dominated by a ‘Punjabi majority’. It is a convenient canard deployed by some intellectually lazy ‘experts’ robotically and uncritically repeating what their predecessors have written in their ‘researches’. Nobody has ever conclusively characterized the fundamental features of this ‘Punjabi majority’.
As for the ‘cohesive element outside Islam’, well, why should there be?
What does the author of the book have in his mind?
Language? Well, I am dead sure that the author is not familiar with the languages spoken within Pakistan today, else, he wouldn’t have made such a pedestrian observation. They are all organically linked to one another. And the national language, Urdu, has always been an instrument of higher literary expression alongside its mother, Persian.
Ethnicity? As state earlier, almost all are racially and ethnically connected.
“If the loyalty of the Pakistani Pashtuns to the regime in Islamabad cannot be counted on……”
Pakistani Pashtuns are THE regime in Islamabad. I wouldn’t go any further. I forgive Mr. Jeelvy as he grounds his argument on the ‘observations’ of Tim Marshall.
Just an amendment.
I forgot to mention that the languages of Pakistan all carry strong undercurrents of religion. Arabic is recited by every faithful (whatever his linguistic or ethnic background is) whenever he prays. The Holy text is also in Arabic. The vernacular scripts are written from right to left like Arabic. Alphabets and phonetics are also shared across the board. Therefore, if there was to be any ‘cohesion’ outside Islam it would still have been something very close to the faith.
Dear Muhammad Aryan
As the expert in such matters here, what is your opinion of the Dardish minority people that live throughout this region? Is is true that some practice an ancient faith akin to Zoroastrianism? Are they tolerated or is there pressure to convert them to Islam? Do they speak an indo-european language like Persian?
Dear Mr. Vehmgericht,
Firstly, I am not an expert. It is a heavy term. I am not strong enough to bear it. I just happen to belong to the Indo-Iranian region and therefore can speak from first-hand experience.
Secondly, most of the Dardic family belong to the Islamic faith. And they are no-nonsense, fervent believers. They take their faith very seriously. A small minority still adhere to the pre-Islamic pagan traditions which predates Zoroastrianism. And when you are surrounded by an overwhelming majority of people who parctice a totally alien faith (Islam) as compared to yours, there is always pressure. But I wouldn’t say they are persecuted. Because if they were there wouldn’t be any of them left today.
Thirdly, though it belongs to the Indo-European family of langauges, the Dardic branch phonetically is a bit distant from Farsi. However, it might use the Farsi script for writting purposes.
Dear Muhammad Aryan, thank you for your very informative answer.
My interest was sparked by speaking to a Serb who stated that in prehistory the ancestors of the South Slavonic peoples had migrated from Western Asia. And of course certainly we know that from the time of Alexander there was much trade and cultural exchange between Greeks, Scythians and Persians.
The eastern branches of the Indo-European peoples are still being investigated archaeologically. The true story of the region is much richer than the one dimensional belligerent narrative being foisted on us by the so-called Neo-conservative foreign policy of the Anglo-Americans.
Indeed, these (((mainstream))) media journalists and think-tankers turned ‘experts’ of the region cannot even describe their own dwellings correctly let alone places thousands of miles afar.
Marshall’s book sounds similar to Guns, Germs and Steel author Jared Diamond’s assertion that the “major axes” of continents drives the fate of populations; his conclusion being that this, rather than the cognitive vigor, or lack thereof, of specific races accounts for the varied trajectories of peoples.
Essentially Diamond’s theory says that since it is “easier” to transport goods and ideas on an iso-climactic east-west axis than a poly-climactic north-south axis, therefore “Europe was destined to be a cultural melting-pot”. A conclusion essential for the acclaim of his book by current Academia.
Guns, Germs, and Steel (published in 2000) was very reassuring to middlebrows who were disturbed by the Bell Curve (published in 1994.) That’s my theory on why such a mediocre book got so much acclaim. Indeed, in a debate about race, IQ, and civilization accomplishment, I had the title of the book spoken dropped without further elaboration, like it was some magical formula to drive the badthink demon away.
Your meaning is obscure, to say the least, but the last sentence makes absolutely no sense. What did you intend to say? Care to give it another go?
What I mean is, my debate partner mentioned the title of the book and didn’t say anything about its contents. It is considered such a Holy Book by race/IQ denialists that saying it’s title is considered a sufficient BTFO that you don’t need to elaborate on what it actually says.
The people make the country, not the dirt.
Indeed, here is a graphic demonstration of that idea :
Dominican Republic : Population 10,735,896 , Ethnic Groups : 70,4% Mixed (58% Mestizo/Indio, 12,4% Mulatto), 15,8% Black, 13,5% White, 0,3% Other.
Nominal GDP per capita : $9,195
Haiti : Population : 11,123,178, Ethnic Groups : 95%Black, 5% Mixed and White.
Nominal GDP per capita : $719.
Same soil, different racial composition, different treatment of the environment and different level of wealth.
The people make the country, not the dirt.
Come now. The incredible natural wealth (rich soil, fish, forests, minerals, wild animals & other natural resources) in the sparsely populated North Amerikan lands had plenty to do with the development of the USA into a powerhouse of wealth, prosperity and comfort. It wasn’t only because Europeans settled it.
It is true that the Indians (abos) didn’t do much with all that natural wealth compared to the Europeans, but it is not accurate to say that the quality of the people alone determines the trajectory of a geographical area. You need the right people + the right natural wealth for optimum results. If you have tough people but little or none of the above listed natural advantages, you are doomed to be (maybe) a tourist spot and will have to use that revenue to import just about everything you need.
Mind you, the USA’s natural advantages are being mightily ruined by greed.
You also need a free market economy, and an economically rational legal system protecting property titles and upholding contracts. Basically National [per capita] Wealth is some combination of:
IQ + natural/geographical resource base + economic system
Resources may be the least important. One must have both the IQ to develop national resources, and the free market system to incentivize and maximize that development.
On the biggest scale, geopolitics: the Mackinder Heartland Theory. The fight for survival… the fight for power… is not pretty: when you are the sea power: then, on pain of your ruin, you will have to destroy heartland unity. So there you stand: oh Russia and Germany are friends now, nice, more peace in the world… ah and we will from now on be second place, we will in every matter be dominated by that heartland force, they will rule over us. Or… you say: well… peace is nice but when I have the chance… I´ll smother the competitor in the craddle before he subjugates me.
Similar with pipelines: if you can deliver your gas… you, and all your descendants down to the tenth generation, will live, and live in abundance; otherwise… it´s the others whose descendants will live. So… if the president denies you to build the pipeline through his country: will you start an international dirt campaign plus subsequent war to get the unwilling president out of office?
I wrote in a comment elsewhere that the jew may be the one example where the immigrant does the work that the White doesn´t want to do: the jew does run international dirt campaigns and “sees to” that some president won´t stay in office. By our relying on the jew for doing the dirty work… the jew gets power… which he then uses for his own purposes: the purpose of becoming the most powerful player of all.
P.S.: my hope would be that, with good will and sacrifice, there are solutions for all conflicts (creativity can alter the entire paradigm and make conflicts irrelevant) so that we Whites won´t any longer rely on the jew to deal with conflict… but it may mean very big efforts… so at least, in that sense there is certainly no end of history… ! (i.e. there´s a lot left to do and it won´t get boring, by no means are all problems settled).
I was turned onto geography by my parents’ wallpapering my bedroom with world maps when young. Mercator, or any projection, damages one’s perceptions of the higher latitudes, though. To this day, I can’t grasp how close Newfoundland is to Ireland. Reading Farley Mowat’s classic Grey Seas Under, about an oceangoing rescue/ salvage tug based in Halifax and St. Johns in the 1930s and 40s, more than once I was surprised to learn of a stricken ship “off” Newfoundland being rescued and towed by European tugs and taken to Ireland or Liverpool, which was just as easy, apparently, as being towed to Canada.
Also, no matter how many times I see it’s not true, I think of New England and England as being on the same latitude. That’s because of the Gulf Stream warming the British Isles are fortunate enough to receive. Without it, no doubt, their population would be significantly lower and world history would be…what?
Kudos to Jeelvy for re-starting the conversation about racial geopolitics. I long wanted to write an article entitled “Georacialism”, the idea being to link thinking about white preservation with classical geopolitical analysis, which focuses on the role of geography and natural resources in influencing politics, and, ultimately, national power. For “national” substitute “racial” power.
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