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The Peculiarities of Gibraltar and Other British Overseas Territories

By Martin W. Lewis | August 25, 2010 | 7 Comments

Gibraltar’s position as a British Overseas Territory makes it a geopolitical anomaly. Britain’s scattered overseas colonial remnants are under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom but are not part of it*. Since the passage of the British Overseas Territories Act of 2002 their inhabitants have enjoyed full British citizenship, but they are not under

The Guinness Phenomenon in Nigeria and Cameroon

By Martin W. Lewis | August 6, 2010 | 4 Comments

Nigeria and Cameroon may have their differences, but they share a passion for Guinness Stout. Guinness ships out unfermented wort extract from Dublin, but the beverage sold in Africa is brewed on the continent, and has been for decades. While Guinness sells strongly throughout West Africa, it is wildly popular in Nigeria and Cameroon

India and China: The World’s Demographic Giants

By Martin W. Lewis | July 15, 2010 | 2 Comments

It is common knowledge that China and India are the two most populous countries in the world. What is less commonly appreciated is the fact that they demographically tower over almost every other sovereign state. Whereas China has some 1.3 billion inhabitants and India is closing in on 1.2 billion, only two other countries have

The Global Geography of Armed Conflict

By Martin W. Lewis | June 15, 2010 | 3 Comments

Mapping contemporary warfare is a challenge. For starters, it is not easy to determine what constitutes a war when few are formally declared. Most sources adopt a broader category like “armed conflict” or “political conflict.” But violent conflict is ubiquitous; a threshold of carnage must be established. According to the U.N., major conflicts

Underfit Nation-States

By Martin W. Lewis | April 27, 2010 | One Comment

The boundaries between so-called nation-states rarely correspond perfectly with those of the ethno-linguistic groups for which they are named. In most cases the discrepancies are relatively minor, with external members of a given ethno-national group forming a small minority relative to those inside the country in question. In some cases, however, they are more substantial

The Oromo and the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization

By Martin W. Lewis | March 26, 2010 |

The Kurds, who number some 30 million, are often describes as the world’s largest nation without a state of their own. They have also often been depicted as a “forgotten people,” generally overlooked by the global media. Yet the Oromo of Ethiopia and environs also number some 30 million, and they too have national aspiration

The Knights of Malta: Sovereignty without Territory

By Martin W. Lewis | March 18, 2010 | One Comment

The global political system is founded upon the idea of sovereignty, defined by the Wikipedia as “the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a territory.” The independent countries that make up the geopolitical order are all purportedly sovereign entities, exercising complete power over their territorial domains. Such domains need not be large.

How Many Continents Are There?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 4, 2010 | One Comment
Zealandia, New Caledonia

The main problem with the continental scheme of world division is its mixture of physical geographical criteria (continents are defined as landmasses more or less separated from each other by waterways) with human geographical criteria (Europe is separated from Asia not by the physical landscape but by historical and cultural features). Intellectual coherence calls

Nonsense about Continents

By Martin W. Lewis | March 3, 2010 | 5 Comments

Basic geographical education in the United States remains, in a word, pathetic. As students are required to learn virtually nothing about the world, we should not be surprised that few young Americans have any idea where Iraq or Afghanistan are located. And the one locational lesson in global geography that young students are required

Militias, Private Armies, and Failed States

By Martin W. Lewis | February 27, 2010 | 2 Comments

Max Weber famously defined the modern state as an entity claiming a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence to enforce order over a specific territory. By this definition, many of the countries that constitute the international geopolitical order fall well short of being genuine states. Consider Lebanon. From 1976 to 2005, a sizable

The Republic of Hau Pakumoto?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 12, 2010 |

The globe-spanning European empires of the 1800s were essentially dismantled in the decades following World War II, with one important exception. In the maritime realm, empire lingers in the form of continuing colonial control over small oceanic islands, some inhabited, others not. If one includes the 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zones that sovereign states

Maps and Stats, Good and Bad

By Martin W. Lewis | January 22, 2010 |

World thematic maps that treat each country as a holistic entity can be highly misleading. Consider, for example, the ubiquitous economic development map based on per capita gross domestic product. Here we see such countries as Brazil, India, and China uniformly colored, as if the goods and services they produced were evenly distributed over their

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