Can geography explain history?
October 24, 2012 7:25 PM   Subscribe

From the same author: Romnography: Syria’s March to the Sea
posted by homunculus at 7:28 PM on October 24, 2012

Neal Ascherson makes fun of geographical determinism in this rather wonderful lecture [iTunes] about Europe and Neutral Moresnet. The Gopnik article is what led me on the webwalk that left me with the material for my last post. I think geographical determinism is hokum, but as far as bullshit goes, it's fairly interesting. Not that geography doesn't shape history, how could Egypt have existed without the Nile, for instance, but I find it fascinating that some people feel the need to go a step further and that everything about Egypt can be explained by the particulars of the Nile.
posted by Kattullus at 8:24 PM on October 24, 2012

Surprised not see Jared Diamond get a mention there.
posted by Artw at 12:22 AM on October 25, 2012

In my gluttonous gulping-down of Samarkand links yesterday I came across Tom Bissell's absolute savaging of Robert D. Kaplan from 2006. Here's a bit where Bissell lays out what view of Kaplan he sympathizes with:
To be sure, there has been previous unrest in Kaplanistan. In 2000, the historian Robert Kagan noted Kaplan’s “cheap pessimism,” his indifference “as to whether societies are governed democratically or tyrannically,” and his “weak” grip on history: “Just about every historical event or political philosopher he discusses he gets at least half-wrong.” In 1993, the Balkans expert Noel Malcolm gutted Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts for its many errors of fact and judgment; Kaplan’s hapless response earned this rejoinder from Malcolm: “The basic problem, I think, is that Mr. Kaplan cannot read.”
posted by Kattullus at 9:34 AM on October 28, 2012

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