Pickering, Steve (2017) Understanding Geography and War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 199 pp.

ISBN: 978–1–137–52217–7

Paul F Diehl

University of Texas at Dallas

Geography and war have a long, and not always distinguished, history in scholarship and policymaking. This work deals with contemporary scholarship, specifically with what has been labeled critical geopolitics. At various junctures, the book seeks to bridge the gap between critical geography and research that uses geography in political science studies, especially that using quantitative methods. The book is sweeping and impressive in its command of geopolitical thought throughout history, but less so in terms of the empirical literature on war and peace. The critical analysis concentrates largely on the 'mountain terrain' variable that is pervasive in quantitative studies of civil war. This is an easy target, but the analysis is cogent and the author makes a compelling case not only for the limitations of the variable but for an alternative based on 'ruggedness'. The other case study in Chapter 6 – on a variable dealing with infrastructure development – is less convincing and less central to international conflict scholarship. Most of the other seminal works on war, including many using GIS and spatial analysis, are ignored. The author devotes a chapter each to tracing the development and recent history of feminist approaches, 'popular geopolitics', and religious geopolitics respectively. The chapters on the first two are excellent introductions to these subfields for scholars outside the area. They are presented free of jargon all too common in critical theory and the suggestions for future research are insightful. Thus, the book has many uses for multiple audiences, even as it is unlikely to stir the kinds of reflection and reevaluation the author desires among this journal's core readership.