The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate

By Farhat-Holzman, Laina | Comparative Civilizations Review, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate


Farhat-Holzman, Laina, Comparative Civilizations Review


Kaplan, Robert D., The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate Random House, 2012

It is apparent when one looks at a map of the world that geography matters. The people who live in the oxygen-thin altiplanos (the Himalayas and the Andes) have a different relationship with their natural world than those who live in jungles or deserts. Island natives have a different relationship with the sea than those who have never seen great bodies of water. However, the modern world is divided by man-made boundaries into nation states that, if they have geographic integrity, are easier to govern than those cobbled together out of often-contrasting geographies. We are learning this to our pain in today's conflicts.

Robert Kaplan, a journalist-historian, has a constitution that permits him to travel, often on foot, across the globe in some of the world's least savory territories. In one of his books, From the Ends of the Earth, he began a trek from West Africa, living on quinine and bottled Coca Cola, all the way to the borders where China meets Central Asia. He walked, hitched rides from truck drivers, talked to urban cabbies, and asked questions based on his keen curiosity.

This man knows the geography of the earth-on the ground-probably better than any other geographer alive today. His book is a summary of what he has learned from his many treks and voluminous reading. Kaplan is also one of the world's best geo- political experts; his suggestions and advice are taken seriously by political and military planners.

In this book, Kaplan demonstrates how geography plays an enormous role in explaining current conflicts, conflicts that those ignorant of history do not recognize as not new at all. Beginning with the great Greek historian and traveler, Herodotus, Kaplan provides us with summaries of the most influential geographers, masters of an art that has somehow declined from its heights in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kaplan is no geographic determinist. He never claims that geography is the only factor in how human beings organize their lives; there are always powerful individuals, cultures and religions, and the effects of earth-bound events (volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, prolonged droughts, sudden global cooling), and the effects of choices, often bad ones, that human societies make.

However, geography is always there as a backdrop for human history. To ignore it is to make decisions that can doom actions to failure.

Scholars and Visionaries

The Revenge of Geography reviews in some depth the scholars and visionaries who enriched the scholarship of history with the addition of geography: W. Gordon East (1902-1998); Nicholas J. Spykman, who wrote in the 1940s); John Keegan ,who noted that America and Britain could champion freedom only because the sea protected them from the land-bound enemies of liberty; Herodotus, the great geographer of ancient Greece; William H. McNeill; and Marshall G. S. Hodgson, who made geography an important part of history. Hans Morgenthau, a practitioner of geopolitics, defined realism for the present age.

Kaplan's discipline is the intersection of geography and politics. In its negative state it treats geography as the only determinant of politics. Sir Halford J. Mackinder wrote a single essential article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," The Geographical Journal, London, 1904. His thesis is that Central Asia, forming the Eurasian Heartland, is the pivot on which the fate of great world empires rests. Mackinder's point is that out of that heartland, traveling both west and east, the grasslands people affected both European and Chinese history. "Man and not nature initiates, but nature in large measure controls."

Nicholas J. Spykman, who founded the Institute of International Studies at Yale in 1935, said that history is made in the temperate latitudes where moderate climates prevail. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Southern Cone of South America matter today, but they cannot have the effect on world issues that the northern zones have. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.