Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Marshall, Tim "Divided"

Marshall, Tim "Divided: Why We're Living in an Age of Walls" (aka "The Age of Walls. How Barriers Between Nations Are Changing Our World") - 2018

Build bridges - not walls. That is the message of this book.

It combines my main interests, geography, history and politics. I grew up in a country that was divided by a wall and even though I lived on the "free" side of that wall, it had a huge impact on all our lives. Needless to say, I am against all of those walls that are described in this book.

Granted, the author describes many of the problems in this world in about 300 pages.  I doubt that he wants to give the full picture with all the details. But if you have no idea about all the walls being built in this world and think the one in your country is the only one, you can learn a lot from this.

Same as the Berlin Wall, a lot of those borders stem from foreign intervention (interference), sometimes colonies, sometimes other political upheavals. We all know the Chinese Wall, the one in Berlin, the one between the US and Mexico, the one in Israel/Palestine. But how many of us have ever heard about other walls in the Middle East or Africa? Or that there are still walls in Africa? Morocco for instance? Why is Sahrawi not a country? Why are there still walls in Belfast?

Tim Marshall also quotes David Goodhart who in his book "The Road to Somewhere" explains that people today are divided into "Anywheres" and "Somewheres". While the Anywheres usually have left their home town and not only travelled the world but also lived abroad, the Somewheres live within a short distance of their birthplace and are less open to changes. Interesting concept. I suppose, having lived in four different countries, I definitely belong to the former group.

Every chapter is preceded by a quote about freedom and a picture of a wall.

These are my two favourite quotes:
"Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption." Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

"The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart." Kwame Nkrumah

And there are plenty of maps within the chapters to explain where the walls are.

So, this is a great book that helps you understand the divisions in today's world.

From the back cover:

"Tim Marshall, author of the international bestseller Prisoners of Geography, returns to the arena of global affairs, combining keen analysis of current events with world history as he examines the borders, walls, and boundaries that shape our world in book three of his Politics of Place series.

We feel more divided than ever.

This riveting analysis tells you why.

Walls are going up. Nationalism and identity politics are on the rise once more. Thousands of miles of fences and barriers have been erected in the past ten years, and they are redefining our political landscape.

There are many reasons why we erect walls, because we are divided in many ways: wealth, race, religion, politics. In Europe the ruptures of the past decade threaten not only European unity, but in some countries liberal democracy itself. In China, the Party’s need to contain the divisions wrought by capitalism will define the nation’s future. In the USA the rationale for the Mexican border wall taps into the fear that the USA will no longer be a white majority country in the course of this century.

Understanding what has divided us, past and present, is essential to understanding much of what’s going on in the world today. Covering China; the USA; Israel and Palestine; the Middle East; the Indian Subcontinent; Africa; Europe and the UK, bestselling author Tim Marshall presents a gripping and unflinching analysis of the fault lines that will shape our world for years to come."

I definitely want to read his two other books (and any he should write on those subjects in future) of his "Politics of Place" series:

"Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics"

"Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags"


  1. This sounds like a worthy and important book!

    1. Well said, Judy. Very worthy, very important.