The Edge of the Plain

How Borders Make and Break Our World

James Crawford

The Edge of the Plain by James Crawford (Paperback ISBN 9781838852061) book cover

Available as Paperback, Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

Blending history, travel and reportage, this is a wide-ranging journey through the history of borders and an examination of their role in shaping our world today


No matter where you turn, it seems that the taut lines of borders are vibrating to – or even calling – the tune of global events

Today, there are more borders in the world than ever before in human history. Beginning with the earliest known example, Crawford travels to many borders old and new: from a melting glacial landscape to the conflict-torn West Bank and the fault-lines of the US/Mexico border. He follows the story of borders into our fragile and uncertain future – towards the virtual frontiers of the internet and the shifting geography of a world beset by climate change.

As nationalism, climate change, globalisation, technology and mass migration all collide with ever-hardening borders, something has to give. And Crawford asks, is it time to let go of the lines that divide us?

“A richly essayistic account of how borders make and break our world, from Hadrian’s Wall to China’s Great Firewall”

See more reviews

“The borders that mark our world are either ineffective, inhumane, or both. The Edge of the Plain asks us to envision alternatives”
new York Times

“Erudite and engaging … [A] fine book”
the Irish Times

“Why do lines on a map hold such power over humanity? Will we ever do away with them? These are some of the questions pondered - and answered - by James Crawford. Fascinating”

Nihal Arthanayake
bbc R5

James Crawford

James Crawford is an acclaimed historian, publisher and broadcaster. Born in Shetland in 1978, he studied History and Philosophy of Law at the University of Edinburgh, winning the Lord President Cooper Memorial Prize, and for over a decade he worked for and researched Scotland’s National Collection of architecture and archaeology. He is the author of Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of the World’s Greatest Lost Buildings, which was shortlisted for best non-fiction book at the Saltire Literary Awards, and he has scripted and presented three series of the landmark BBC One documentary Scotland from the Sky. In 2019 he was named as the first-ever Scottish ambassador for the UK Archive and Records Association’s ‘Explore Your Archives’ campaign. He lives in Edinburgh.

@Jdcrawf |