I saw youtube videos like how geography doomed Africa and heard how Japan's prosperity is an anomaly due to its isolation and they got me interested.

  • $\begingroup$ Paul Krugman has done a lot of work on economics and geography. pr.princeton.edu/pictures/g-k/krugman/… I will make a post with more information/ resources shortly. $\endgroup$
    – Mike J
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeJ Krugmans work does not really focuses on economic development though. Rather he tries to explain why so many industries tend to cluster together like Silicon Valley and some puzzling results from international trade that were not already explained by classical trade models. I don’t think that’s what the OP is looking for although of course everything in economics is interconnected so these are part of the big picture. $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 21:18

2 Answers 2


A good starting point which should be accessible to people at all levels is the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond.

I believe this is one of the first and main seminal works in this area.

That being said, it is not settled science that geography (alone) can doom a country's economy.


As mentioned by @BBKing, "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond is a great book. Another interesting one is "Why Nations Fails" by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.

They argue that geography is insufficient in explaining the political and economic success or failure of states. They support their thesis by comparing country case studies.

They identify countries that are similar in many of the above-mentioned factors, but because of different political and institutional choices become more or less prosperous. The most incisive example is Korea, which was divided into North Korea and South Korea in 1953. Both countries' economies have diverged completely, with South Korea becoming one of the richest countries in Asia while North Korea remains among the poorest. Further examples include the border cities Nogales (Sonora, Mexico) and Nogales (Arizona, USA). By referencing border cities, the authors analyze the impact of the institutional environment on the prosperity of people from the same geographical area and same culture. (source Wikipedia)

Regarding @PulseReborn's comment

I was expecting more of textbook recommendations

I can recommend "Modern Economic Growth" by Acemoglu, a graduate textbook. In particular, Chapter 4 has a section called "Geography". He presents some arguments for and against this explanation.

  • $\begingroup$ I already read Why Nations fails. GGS is one of the first books I come across when searching the topic, the other being Prisoners/Revenge of Geography. I didn't finish Revenge and GGS. I feel lost at the introduction, of the former and GGS's size makes it seem like it's full of fluff or repetition. I didn't mind size and density but after reading Why Nations failed and others I became sceptical of popular books. I was expecting more of textbook recommendations; books that relatively to the point, makes it clear, has summaries, talks of relevant topics and with actually usefu table of contents $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2020 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ I updated my answer! $\endgroup$
    – emeryville
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ @PulseReborn could you tell us a bit about your level of economics training? Many textbooks on this can be fairly technical and mathematical if you are a beginner so that information would be important. $\endgroup$
    – BB King
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 0:17

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