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Summary

When you see your nation's flag fluttering in the breeze, what do you feel? For thousands of years flags have represented our hopes and dreams. We wave them. Burn them. March under their colours. And still, in the 21st century, we die for them. Flags fly at the UN, on the Arab street, from front porches in Texas. They represent the politics of high power as well as the politics of the mob.

From the renewed sense of nationalism in China, to troubled identities in Europe and the USA, to the terrifying rise of Islamic State, the world is a confusing place right now and we need to understand the symbols, old and new, that people are rallying round.

In nine chapters (covering the USA, UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, international flags and flags of terror), Tim Marshall draws on more than 25 years of global reporting experience to reveal the histories, the power and the politics of the symbols that unite us - and divide us.

©2016 Tim Marshall (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

Critic reviews

"This might be the comprehensive flag volume we've all been waiting for - a slick yet detailed and well-researched journey through some of the world's most infamous and interesting flags…. Marshall guides us through this myriad of stories admirably." ( Geographical Magazine)
"A fascinating tour of the world's ensigns, their histories and meanings...a sobering lesson in just how silly we human beings can be." ( Daily Mail)
"Marshall points out that we often forget the aggressive symbolism of established flags...[they] are a quick, visual way of communicating loyalties, power and ideas." (Robbie Millen, The Times)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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    3 out of 5 stars
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meh!

Some interesting bits, but ultimately weighed down by the dry narration which makes for an effective sedative. Not anywhere near as good as Prisoners of Geography.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting

Some slightly dubious accents from the narrator. They were not necessary and sometimes distracted from the dialogue

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

Brilliant. This is a well performed audiobook, a fascinating story, with detail, intrigue, and humour.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Worth reading

As stated in the introduction, not a comprehensive guide to all flags but a slightly more general view at the flags and concept of a flag. Still, you do get the stories for all major flags, how they came about, what they stood and stand for. And a great ending.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Arrgh - the Narrator

Subject matter is fascinating; the author's writing is sublime, the research is of a high quality, though in no way academic. But the flipping narrator is beyond annoying. If the narrator had only maintained his normal speaking voice through, this book would be wonderful. But the faux put on attempts at accent are beyond bad. It's difficulty to know whether the fake American, the appalling Trump impression, the cringeworthy Scots accent or the incredibly grating Northern Irish attempts are worse. I haven't mentioned the Slavic attempts, or the countless others (though I am conscious I just did) which detract from the author's hard work and craftsmanship. Narrator hang your head in shame - you are ruining this wonderful book.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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You’ll learn something new..probably

Not an in depth analysis of flag usage but a potted history of how different countries flags came to be. But it’s an interesting journey and well worth a purchase.

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Could be better

Poor audio quality as I can tell when each section has been cut - no other audiobooks apart from this series has this issue so blatantly unfixed. . Used x1.5 as too slow to listen to. Information interesting though delivered in a relatively C grade way.

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Ok. But just ok.

I tend to find Marshall a bit smug.

His work is decent entry-level, blanket-statement stuff. A good all-round surface level skim over the links between flags, "worship" in some senses, propaganda and politics. But personally it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. (Smug did you say?!)

I hoped for an (at least) fairly deep dive on the psychology between flags and being willing to die for one's country. How pieces of cloth can inspire feelings of tremendous patriotism and nationalism and self sacrifice. No such luck...

Indeed areas of "Worth dying for" struck me as being somewhat dense or unthinking of Marshall. He seems to want to brush over the long lasting effects of colonialism/imperialism and it's symbology; basically suggesting we need to forget the horrors of empire and look upon the union flag in the spirit of that which it was intended...

For instance, his assertion that anyone seeing issues with the Union Jack is a "self hating westerner" is exactly the opposite of my life experience thus far. I'd actually put it to Tim that anyone fighting (or whom have fought) for our language, culture & our lands against gentrification (etc.) are the exact opposite of self hating.

He also echoes the thoughts of many a right-wing YouTuber here by asking that very popular question. Which makes me wonder whether this book was aimed at 6th formers or the market surrounding that age bracket.

Why is it the Nazis are seen as more evil than the Stalin's USSR & Mao's China? Well, this is a huge question and demands a huge answer, that I'm nowhere near qualified to give. And I think we can safely say the same for Marshall here. He simply wishes to compare death tolls and be done with it; not taking into consideration historical context etc. That's fine as an at-a-glance introduction to these subjects but is typical of shallow, centrist thinking, and it isn't helpful in the long run. Also... Perhaps Marshall could adopt his approach to the union jack to leftist politics? You know, forget the horror of dictatorship and look forward to a new era of socialism!?! (Never that simple, is it Tim? And always odd when something so ridiculous is spun back on oneself.)

Another point on the Nazis worth noting is that something called the Nuremberg laws were most definitely inspired by Jim Crow laws and had huge support in American from very early on. Now, Marshall admits the latter; mentioning the American German Bund. But then proclaims that anyone suggesting a link between American values and Nazism doesn't know their history. I'd argue the opposite. I'd argue that anyone drawing links between certain periods in American history & Hitler's vision for Nazism has a point. BUT, as Marshall suggests, if by drawing swastikas instead of stars on 'old glory' you think you're contributing anything of value to the conversation you're sorely wrong.

On Islam Marshall is fair and reasonable. He insists on more than one occasion that the Wahhabism pushed by the Saudis & ISIS is not the same as regular old Islam. This is a very important point that I cannot drive home enough.

Over all I found the style of writing paired with the narration to be enjoyable. Tim has a flair for the colourful & fun and perhaps it was indeed the narration that made his words seem smugger than they would have had I have read this as opposed to listening to it.

About the narration... I've noticed others claiming that Ric Jerom's narration put them to sleep or grated on them. I must admit I had no real issue with it. In fact i'd say it was the best bit of this production, smug or otherwise.

The book, on the whole was a disappointment. I'm not sure whether I'll now delve into his other work after listening to this. If Tim's work is all surface level blanket statement stuff, I'll probably not.

I'm not saying this is an awful book, it's just not for me. Sorry.

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an interesting diversion

interesting and informative covering national flags from all continents and sporting and international groupings. and.

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Very interesting, but aggravating

Love the subject matter, well written and thought provoking. A binge listen was however prevented by the narrator’s bizarre delivery and lame accents. I had to stop every so often and take some deep breaths. The content is great and really interesting, the delivery not so much. I’d recommend it but be ready to lol.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful