The Edge of the Plain: How Borders Make and Break Our World

Norton. Jan. 2023. 432p. ISBN 9781324037040. $30. HIST
Crawford (Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of History’s Greatest Buildings) examines humanity’s destructive reliance on borders as both conceptual divisions and physical barriers. Starting with some of the earliest documented borders in Mesopotamia and Greece, Crawford explores how borders, through to the present era, have worked to cast anyone outside their lines as the “other,” disrupting ancient routes of trade and migration and pitting people in competition rather than facilitating cooperation. Visiting modern border zones in Palestine, Morocco, and the southern United States, Crawford uncovers the cost of these divisions in terms of human suffering, economic inequality, and environmental degradation. The book returns repeatedly to the concept of no man’s land, the perilous space between borders brought to its most lethal incarnation outside the trenches of the Somme. Crawford illustrates the futility of borders to either repel or contain in a chapter devoted to the COVID pandemic. Another chapter about the Austrian-Italian border highlights how climate change is altering boundaries in unexpected ways. Throughout the book, Crawford talks to innovators challenging traditional concepts of borders through art, journalism, and environmental restoration.
VERDICT A timely, valuable discussion of a pivotal issue.
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.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing