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An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist: A Compendium of Fifty Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States

An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist: A Compendium of Fifty Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States

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An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist: A Compendium of Fifty Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States

evaluări:
5/5 (1 evaluare)
Lungime:
232 pages
55 minutes
Lansat:
Mar 21, 2017
ISBN:
9781452158839
Format:
Carte

Descriere

What is a country? Acclaimed travel writer and Oxford geography don Nick Middleton brings to life the origins and histories of 50 states that, lacking international recognition and United Nations membership, exist on the margins of legitimacy in the global order. From long-contested lands like Crimea and Tibet to lesser-known territories such as Africa's last colony and a European republic that enjoyed independence for a single day, Middleton presents fascinating stories of shifting borders, visionary leaders, and "forgotten" peoples. Beautifully illustrated with 50 regional maps, each country is literally die-cut out of the page, offering a distinctive tactile experience while exploring these remarkable places.
Lansat:
Mar 21, 2017
ISBN:
9781452158839
Format:
Carte

Despre autor

Nick Middleton is a geographer, author, and television documentary writer and presenter. A fellow of St Anne's College, he lives and teaches in Oxford, England.

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An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist - Nick Middleton

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INTRODUCTION

Leopold II, King of the Belgians, was known for his prodigious appetite. He frequently ordered another entrée after finishing an enormous meal, and once ate two entire roast pheasants at a Paris restaurant. It is not surprising, therefore, that he used a culinary metaphor when declaring his determination during the nineteenth-century scramble for African territory to obtain the largest possible slice of what he called the ‘magnificent African cake’.

At the Berlin Conference on Africa in 1885, Leopold secured his own private colony seventy-five times larger than Belgium, as Europe’s leading powers carefully divided up the entire continent between themselves. Studying a 5-meter-high wall-map of Africa, the diplomats agreed the ground rules for taking possession of its territory, and began negotiating the boundaries between their various colonies. And so concluded the final phase of the global process of European colonization that had begun more than 300 years earlier with Spanish and Portuguese explorers.

Everybody knows what today’s political map of the world looks like. The bold colors and sharp boundaries show the global land surface neatly divided between sovereign states. But it hasn’t always been like this. For most of human history, before the Europeans started exploring and colonizing, people lived in small cultural communities or larger civilizations that were hardly interlinked at all. With time, as more people moved more frequently and more quickly—exploring, conquering, trading and traveling—so the contemporary world of countries, tightly defined by their boundaries, developed.

The final phase of this process is really quite recent. It is only after the end of World War II, with the creation of the United Nations and the process of decolonization, that we came anywhere near to the map of many colors we know today. A truly global international society of countries.

Not that the political world map is static. Countries come and go. Towards the end of the twentieth century, the disintegration of the Soviet Union spawned no fewer than fifteen new states and East Germany joined its western counterpart to become a reunified country. These were quickly followed by Czechoslovakia undergoing a ‘Velvet Divorce’ to create the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Already in the twenty-first century we have seen more new states emerge in Asia (East Timor), Europe (Montenegro) and Africa (South Sudan).

But at the same time, we are constantly being reminded that we live in an era of unprecedented global communication, a time when globalization is eroding the importance of the nation state. Our planet is becoming an increasingly borderless place, where national boundaries matter little to the movement of goods and investment (though the movement of migrants is another story). National governments have had their power diluted and usurped by some new actors on the global stage, including international organizations, transnational corporations and non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. A world of fixed spaces is giving way to a world of flows, and the idea of national territory is giving way to supra-national communities such as the European Union. With its echoes of Aldous Huxley, this is the ‘New World Order’.

However, while the notion of fixed territories is in one sense under threat from globalization, the rise of the internet, virtual communities and the diffusion of ideas, there is no question that the national space itself remains of great importance. Individual countries still dominate all of our lives. Much as some might like to think of themselves as ‘Citizens of the World’ rather than citizens of any one nation state, they won’t get very far in seeing that world without a travel document issued by their national government. Granted, the European Union has, to a large extent, done away with its internal boundaries, but the EU is still a relatively small chunk of the world. An EU citizen who ventures outside the EU can only do so legally with a passport.

Which brings us back to that political map of the world. Announcements of the end of the nation state may be premature. National territory still has an enduring allure. And nation states work hard to keep it that way, defending borders and encouraging many schemes to strengthen national cohesion.

What most of us probably don’t realize about that world map is what it conceals: a multitude of unrecognized and largely unnoticed states whose claims to legitimacy are made invisible by the bold, self-assured slabs of color. This is the shadowy, surprisingly large, and literally unofficial world of countries that don’t exist.

This atlas presents fifty of these wannabe nation states. Each has its own flag and legitimate claim to some territory but, for a variety of reasons, none has quite made the grade, to join the exclusive club of internationally recognized countries.

WHAT IS A COUNTRY?

Selecting which non-countries to include in this book was complicated by a lack of consensus on what exactly constitutes a country. The concept is old, but also notoriously slippery. As soon as you set out to find a clear definition you start running into discrepancies, exceptions and anomalies.

An apparently straightforward answer might be that all ‘real’ countries have a seat at the General Assembly of the United Nations, the world’s most important and prestigious statebased international organization. That certainly covers most generally accepted countries of the world, but it is not a definitive solution. Israel became a member of the world body in 1949, but more than thirty other UN member states, from Cuba and Bangladesh to Morocco and Saudi Arabia, do not recognize Israel’s existence.

To complicate matters further, the UN recognizes other countries that do not have full membership. In 2012, Palestine joined the Holy See to become a non-Member Observer State at the UN. However, when the UN recognized the state of Palestine, not all of its members agreed. Some still refuse to recognize Palestine as a country at all. Interestingly, the Holy See is not actually a country either. The Holy See is, in effect, the pope, or at least his office—the papacy—and not the Vatican, the small state where it is based.

Even full UN membership is not necessarily a guarantee of country status. A case in point is TAIWAN (here in capitals, indicating that the state appears in this atlas as one of the ‘countries that don’t exist’). In the early years of the United Nations, most countries recognized the Chinese regime in Taiwan (also known then as ‘Free China’) while the mainland communists (or

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  • (4/5)
    I took this book to a picnic and several people found it very interesting, as did I. It's not necessarily a book that you read in one sitting. I found myself going back to the book over a period of time. The book has an interesting way of placing the "country".On a solid red page the outline of the country is cut out. On the following page there is a map of the regional area with the country outlined in red. This places the disputed area for the reader. I will keep this on my coffee table for a while.
  • (4/5)
    The first thing you'll notice if you happen to have a hardcover edition of An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist by Nick Middleton is its gorgeous design. I don't just mean the cover art, which is elegant as well, but the quality of the paper, the color schemes, and how the chapter pages have cutouts of the countries as a kind of reveal showing where they're located on the world map. My explanation doesn't do it justice. You'll have to see it for yourself.
  • (2/5)
    This one sounds more interesting than it actually is. Each region gets a full page map and approximately half of a page of text, so readers learn less than they would have if they had just consulted Wikipedia.As it styles itself an atlas one would think it would have good maps, but that is not the case: they do not show recognized national borders within the regions discussed, making it difficult to know what country is claiming them (the text rarely makes this clear, either); the scales are hidden so deep in the gutter that I didn't even notice they were there until halfway through the book; and all of the maps were rendered in an unattractive combination of blue-grey and red.In short, it's definitely not worth the $30 cover price.
  • (4/5)
    It's a book about 50 countries that lack (or lacked as some no longer exist) general outside recognition as independent states. Each country is given four pages. Page one has the country's name, a one sentence description, and its flag(s). Page two has some basic data and a cutout through which you can see the shape of the country. Half of page three is taken up by the cutout on the other side of the page, and the other half is a brief description of the history of the country. Page four is a map that is really only useful for showing the country's geographic location. It's an interesting concept, but it lacks in depth.
  • (3/5)
    The physical book itself is beautiful and must have cost quite a lot to produce. Each "country" is presented with a two-page introduction on red paper with a cut-out revealing the shape of the country that is printed on the next page. It's very stylish and I'm at a loss to figure out how the publisher created these cut-outs short of doing them by hand. They made an odd choice when they decided to use an italic font for the half-page article that accompanies each "country". It's a little hard to read and takes away from the pleasure of reading I normally get. The selection of "countries" seems a little odd too. Some are all but legitimate sovereignties with seemingly strong legal claims to their own government. Others however are pretty farcical and the way the book is laid out makes no distinction between the two.My biggest complaint however is that no matter how legit, ancient, and interesting the claim, each "country" gets the same short half-page write-up. It seems to me that some of these entries deserved at least a couple of pages to more fully explain the history and debate of the claim.So to sum up, beautiful physical book but poorly executed "one-size-fits-all" format with a bad font choice to boot.NOTE: If you'd really like to read a story about a failed "country", read Kurt Vonnegut's editorial Biafra: A People Betrayed. It'll break your heart, and the story of Biafra didn't even get a mention in this book!
  • (3/5)
    An interesting book that is beautifully put together, but shallow on the subject. Mr. Middleton examines the notion of what is the standard for a nation, how they form and how they get recognized. The book compiles some "nations" that have or had some degree of existence, but some lesser degree of legitimate political recognition. These range from the pirate radio formation of Sealand to the globally preserved Antarctica.
  • (4/5)
    In terms of looks, this gets 4 stars, being rather handsomely designed (though the type, being italic, is harder to read). In terms of content, however, I found myself wanting more, sometimes quite literally. The selection of "countries" seems rather arbitrary, as the author admits, and has both formerly independent entities, often forcibly annexed to bigger neighbors, and quixotic libertarian projects. While this itself doesn't bother me (I appreciate books that have humor as well as seriousness) it's more of an issue that each receives half a page of text no matter the circumstances. As a result some countries get short shrift while others receive way more attention than their historical importance, current influence or number of inhabitants seem to warrant. I suspect if I want fuller stories on any of these, I'll have to turn to Wikipedia or Google -- especially since no bibliography is included.
  • (5/5)
    This is a beautiful book. A lot of attention to detail and care has been put into the design of this amazing book, from the color scheme of subtle gray-blue and cherry red, to the way each location is set in a map, with the previous page having a cut-out so that the reader first encounters the country, and then its place on the globe. This isn't the kind of book designed to help children with their geography homework, or to be an information-filled guidebook, instead, each entry is features a flag and some basic information, with a few paragraphs telling the story of each state, with the intention of arousing curiosity and interest, rather than providing a lot of details. These stories are often poignant or weird, but always interesting.I loved Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands, and this book falls into the same wheelhouse, being more about the idea of these places than anything else. The places featured range from the well-known and expected (Greenland, Catalonia) to the off-beat and obscure (Transnistria and Somaliland) to the downright odd (Elgaland-Vargaland, Atlantium), but all are fascinating.
  • (2/5)
    5486. An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist A Compendium of Fifty Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States, by Nick Middleton (read 16 Jul 2017) This kind of spoofy book will appeal to people interested in geography. I recall when I was in 3rd grade in a room with 4th graders I envied them because one of the subjects they had was geography, which we third graders did not have. This book lists 50 "countries" some of which we all recognize, such as Greenland, Antarctica, Isle of Man, Somaliland, Taiwan,and even maybe Ruthenia. But Pontinha? Even the whiz kids who participate in geography contests would no doubt miss on that one. For good reason: its population is 4. (It is an island near Madeira--we know where that is, right?) And it is not the least populated "country" listed in this book. Akhzivland's population is given as 2. And there is one "country", Minerva, listed with its population given as 0. So no matter how skilled you are in geography, you are bound to learn from this uniquely designed book. (I think I am supposed to tell you that it was given me free in return for a published review, so I do so tell you.)
  • (4/5)
    A partly serious, partly cheeky geographers look at the world. Some of these hidden countries are deadly serious - Northern Cyprus, Catalonia, Crimea, Tibet, Bangsamro - and some are a lark: Sealand and seemingly countless fantasy islands. I was left wanting more about the serious countries and much less about the fantasies, but I suppose that isn't keeping in the spirit of the book. A good book to set aside for punctuated reading in bursts.
  • (4/5)
    Great concept and well executed.
  • (5/5)
    I love the design of this book and the bits and pieces of information for a variety of places, from those I've heard of, like Catalonia or Rapa Nui, to the unfamiliar, such as Barotseland. I like maps and place names and good design. I saw this book in a store before I saw it offered on Early Reviwers, so I was really excited to snag a copy. I will admit that I wasn't sure if the states would be real or imaginary, and also that I didn't care.