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The Revenge of Geography (2012)

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Random House Publishing Group

The Revenge Of Geography (2012) - Plot & Excerpts

protected as they were by mountains, deserts, and sheer distance.1 Of course, this protection was partial, for as we know, Greece was ravaged by Persia, China by the Mongols and the Turkic steppe people, and India by a surfeit of Muslim invaders. Nevertheless, geography provided enough of a barrier for three great and unique civilizations to take root. Lying in the immense space between these civilizations, as noted in an earlier chapter, was what McNeill’s Chicago colleague Marshall Hodgson referred to as the Oikoumene, an antique Greek term for the “inhabited quarter” of the world: this is Herodotus’s world, the parched temperate zone of the Afro-Asian landmass stretching from North Africa to the margins of western China, a belt of territory Hodgson also calls Nile-to-Oxus.2 Hodgson’s vision captures brilliantly several key and contradictory facts: that the Oikoumene—the Greater Middle East—is an easily definable zone existing between Greece, China, and India, distinctly separate from all three, even as it has had pivotal influence on each of them, so that the relationships are extremely organic; and that whereas the Greater Middle East is united by Islam and the legacies of horse and camel nomadism—as opposed to the crop agriculture of China and India—it is also deeply divided within by rivers, oases, and highlands, with great ramifications for political organization to this day.

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