The ‘Indispensable’ CIA World Factbook

There are 267 world entities. Each one has a history, people, government, and economy. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aims to summarize that information in just a few pages. The World Factbook, prepared by the CIA using information from a half-dozen cabinet-level agencies, profiles basic intelligence on all areas of the world. GPO makes available the latest edition of the U.S. government’s complete geographical handbook.

The World Factbook 2016-17

The World Factbook 2016-17 (002)This U.S. has been involved in basic intelligence gathering since the days of George Washington. As for the World Factbook, its beginnings predate the establishment of the CIA itself. During WWII, military decision-makers lacked detailed and coordinated information. So, they initiated a joint effort to collect and publish strategic intelligence. That information remained classified for nearly two decades.  According to the book’s own brief history, “the first classified Factbook was published in 1962, and the first unclassified version was published in June 1971.” Since 1975, GPO has made the almanac-style resource available to the public writ large.

The World Factbook is an encyclopedic listing of each country’s society, geography, energy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues. It includes full-color maps of the major world regions including physical geography, political capitals, and world oceans with major shipping lanes, ports and checkpoints.

Here are a few geography facts that just may help you win at trivia night:

The CIA World Factbook covers Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and every country in between.

The CIA World Factbook covers Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and every country in between.

  • Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world.
  • Reykjavik, Iceland is the northernmost national capital in the world.
  • Indonesia is the world’s largest country composed entirely of islands.
  • Uzbekistan, along with Liechtenstein, is one of only two “doubly landlocked” countries in the world i.e., a country that is surrounded by landlocked countries.
  • Tonga remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.
  • The temperature in Aruba is almost constantly 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

The Factbook’s current and actionable intelligence isn’t just for national-level policymakers. It’s a reference resource for everyone. The CIA World Factbook is “the indispensable source for basic intelligence,” the sort of world knowledge that can have a significant impact on people’s lives.


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Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Blogger contributor Chelsea Milko is a Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.

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