Prisoners of geography philstar.com electricity meme

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I have always been an avid student of history since my high school days. Over the years, I began to appreciate the indisputable fact that the history of any people is heavily influenced by geography. This learning developed my interest in geography and maps. Perhaps, that is also the reason why I have a very modest collection of 17th and 18th century Philippine maps which I bought in trips to Madrid, London and even one 1750 map I bought in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What is the importance of geography in world history and global affairs. How do maps affect geopolitics? Try to imagine how different Philippine history and its present state of politics would be if this archipelago was located in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean and not on the border of the South China Sea.

For those who are interested in learning more about geography, maps and how they affect history and geopolitics, here are a few books I would recommend. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall published by Scribner 2015.

The ten maps shown in the book are Russia, China, United States, Western Europe, Africa, Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and the Arctic. Each map is accompanied by a chapter explaining how the map has impacted the country’s or region’s history and geopolitics.

Marshall says: “ The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the politics, and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is highly important and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion inhabitants of the planet will to some degree be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes and seas that constrain us all – as they always have.

Broadly speaking, geopolitics looks at the ways in which international affairs can be understood through geographical factors and not just physical landscape –the natural barriers of mountains or connections of river networks for example – but also climate, demographics, cultural regions and access to natural resources.”

Shining a light on the unavoidable physical realities that shape the fates of nations, Prisoners of Geography is the critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs. A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton published by Viking 2012.

Brotton writes: “ The world is always changing and so are maps.” This is the incentive for antique map collectors to find the oldest maps. This book is a collector’s item because it has a reproduction of beautiful maps including the earliest known world map, the Babylonian world map from Sippar, Iraq believed to have been done sometime 700-500 BC.

To illustrate the breadth of the book, it begins with the ancient Greek scholar Ptolemy’s Geography and ends with the “…satellite powered behemoth of Google Earth. Brotton vividly recreates the environments and circumstances in which the maps were made showing how each conveys a highly individual view of the world: the Jerusalem-centered Christian perspective of 14th century Hereford mappamundi, the earliest Korean map showing the world, the first truly globalized world view by Portuguese sailing pilot Diogo Ribeiro in the early 16th century; the Peters Projection of the 1970s which aimed to give equality to the ‘third world’; and the world according to Google.” The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan published by Random House 2012

According to Henry Kissinger: “Robert Kaplan’s fascinating book, prodigiously researched, and important new book shines light on an ancient truth: Geography has been the predominant factor in determining the fate of nations, from pharaonic Egypt to the Arab Spring.”

The chapter titled The Geography of Chinese Power mentions the Philippines three times. It ends with a warning: “ …the very fact of Chinese economic power – increasingly accompanied by military power – will lead to a pivotal degree of tension in the years ahead…the United States, as the regional hegemon in the Western Hemisphere, will seek to prevent China from becoming the regional hegemon over much of the Eastern Hemisphere. This could be the signal drama of the age.” Philippine Campaigns by Uldarico Baclagon published by Graphic House 2012

This is not really a book about geography or maps; but this is the most comprehensive book on the Philippine military history. It includes detailed narratives on the campaigns during the Spanish Regime; War with the United States; Defense Against the Japanese Invasion; the Resistance Movement; and the Liberation Campaigns. It includes detailed maps of the USAFFE withdrawal and the disposition of troops during the Bataan defense; and disposition of guerrilla forces in Negros, the Leyte landing; and the campaigns in Central Luzon. Summer creative writing workshop for kids and teens

Write Things Summer Workshop, a six-day creative writing workshop, is scheduled at Fully Booked BGC on May 7, 9, 11, 14, 16 and 18 (1:30-3:30 pm for 8-12 years old and 4-6 pm for 13-17 years old). Facilitators are award-winning authors Russell Molina, Mikael de Lara Co, Weng Cahiles, and Write Things’ mainstay facilitator, writer and educator Roel Cruz. ?The workshop is now on its 5th year.