Carving Up the Globe: An Atlas of Diplomacy

Belknap: Harvard Univ. Jun. 2018. 256p. ed. by Malise Ruthven. maps. index. ISBN 9780674976245. $39.95. HIST
Ruthven, a former BBC journalist and a scholar of Islam and fundamentalism (Islam: A Very Short Introduction) introduces her work with a lucid and fascinating history of the practices and products of diplomacy, as that art evolved in conjunction with emerging European nation states. The first of 100 beautiful full-color maps shows the approximate territorial impact of the Treaty of Mesilim (2550 BCE). A brief entry on the treaty is followed, in chronological order, by concise (unillustrated) accounts of agreements in Syria and then Sparta. Maps vary in size and scope; punctuating global spreads describe "The World in 1 CE," 1400, 1800, 1900; and 2000. Short entries offer key details about terms, motives, and significance. A dozen world-shifting treaties get double-page coverage. Besides territorial, sectarian, ethnic, legal, political, or economic agreements, pacts cited here regulated use of weapons (nuclear, chemical, biological, land mines) and of the environment. Further reading is listed, but the index is limited ("China" finds only four treaties). The focus on diplomacy bypasses discussion of cartographic naming, e.g., Persian/Arabian Gulf; and nontreaty "carving," e.g., the Partition of India. Western pacts dominate, but large pages and small type ensure a splendid bounty of information, including a diplomatic glossary.
VERDICT A sweeping but succinct overview, this work will be important to historians but ought to interest every global citizen.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month