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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags’ by Tim Marshall


As a big flag fan, I am constantly on the lookout for new reading material. There are a lot of “Flags of the World” guides out there that skim over every single national flag on the planet. And don’t get me wrong, those are great to get an overview of the world’s flags. However sometimes, a little more depth is needed. And this is what I think ‘Worth Dying For’ provides!

Firstly, I like the structure of the book. Chapters 1 and 2 focus specifically on the flags of the USA and the UK. Then, each chapter gives some insight into the flags of different regions: Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, Africa and South America. This means that, while we don’t get to hear the tale of every national flag, we get some really fascinating insight into a number of them from across the globe.

 Not only that, but there is a chapter looking at the flags of a number of terrorist groups – an area of vexillology that I am personally not well versed in at all. However it isn’t all gloomy, and there is a chapter explaining the origin of flags that are not representative of an area. Some of these include the LGBT rainbow flag, the Jolly Roger and even the checkered flag used to end a race! There are many flags covered that I had not given much thought to, but that actually have really interesting backgrounds!

Indeed, the stories are ones that you would want to tell to anybody that would listen (I won’t do that here, but I’m sure a lot of them will warrant their own articles!). But we all know how compelling flags are, so instead I will try to focus on the book itself rather than the tales it recounts!

Tim Marshall was a foreign affairs correspondent for the BBC and Sky News (among others), and this shines through in his writing. He expertly breaks down many, quite complex, political situations into a more digestible form. This gives a great base upon which to build a deeper understanding of the flags being discussed. 

At times I did feel that the flags took a little bit of a sideline to some of the political commentary however, so if geopolitics sends you to sleep, maybe this isn’t the book for you. It is a good starting point though. I’m not totally ignorant of what is going on in the world, but I certainly don’t claim to be an expert either! The writing was never condescending, yet was digestible enough so that you could understand some of the history and politics behind the flags. And this is something that really made me feel as though I had gotten a deeper understand about some of these flags.

In terms of how the book flows, each story seems to blend smoothly into the next. None of the transitions feel jarring when moving from country to country, and this makes it very difficult to put down! If you are anything like me, don’t start a chapter unless you have time to finish it! 

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. As I’ve mentioned, it gets pretty political, but this does help add new dimensions of meaning to the flags. I can see why it wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste, but if you find the backstory of flags fascinating, I think you will love it! It’s a shame that it doesn’t cover more flags, but sadly you wouldn’t be able to fit such a great amount of information about all the national flags into a single book!

If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Worth Dying For’, follow the link below!

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Have you read the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! You can get in touch in the comment section of this article, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! And if you decide to buy a copy, send us a picture of it to let us know! Enjoy!

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