While reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to his daughter, Nick Middleton got excited by the idea of an unchartered country behind the back of a wardrobe.
The travel writer and Oxford geography don started thinking about the places our conventional political map of the world doesn’t show.
“Once I started digging into it, I was amazed at how many there are,” he tells Kathryn Ryan.
The result is An Atlas of 50 Countries That Don't Exist.
What is the definition of a country?
Frank Zappa thought, at miminum, it was a place with its own beer and airline.
“It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer” he said.
Middleton says a universally accepted definition of ‘country’ (or ‘state’ and ‘nation’ - terms which are often used interchangeably) has never really been reached.
The defining factors of the 50 “countries” included in his book are: a permanent population, some form of government, a claim to territory, a flag, a lack of international recognition and no seat on the United Nations.
Yet while UN membership is often viewed as the “gold standard of recognition” when it comes to nationhood, Middleton points out that there are exceptions, such as Taiwan, which lost its UN seat in 1971.
“Most countries do not recognise Taiwan, and yet to all intents and purposes, it behaves just like a country.”
Middleton predicts that of the 50 countries in the book, Greenland – which is self-ruling, despite still remaining officially a part of Denmark – is the most likely to attain sovereignty during his lifetime.