Hot Best Seller

Armas, Germes e Aço: Os Destinos das Sociedades Humanas

Availability: Ready to download

Neste livro, Jared reúne um cruzamento de descobertas conjugando arqueologia e epidemiologia com história e geografia. Para o autor, é óbvio que fatores ambientais e geográficos moldaram o mundo moderno. Com isso esclarece como e porque as sociedades humanas dos diferentes continentes seguiram caminhos de desenvolvimento diversos e explora as razões da dominação e submissã Neste livro, Jared reúne um cruzamento de descobertas conjugando arqueologia e epidemiologia com história e geografia. Para o autor, é óbvio que fatores ambientais e geográficos moldaram o mundo moderno. Com isso esclarece como e porque as sociedades humanas dos diferentes continentes seguiram caminhos de desenvolvimento diversos e explora as razões da dominação e submissão. 'Armas, Germes e Aço' derruba teorias racistas e mostra que a superioridade da Europa e da Ásia se deve às suas respectivas geografias, mais propícias ao cultivo da terra, à domesticação de animais e ao trânsito de informações. O livro mostra, ainda, como a história e a biologia podem dar suporte uma à outra para produzir um profundo entendimento da condição humana.

Get        Armas, Germes e Aço: Os Destinos das Sociedades Humanas  Now!

Compare

Neste livro, Jared reúne um cruzamento de descobertas conjugando arqueologia e epidemiologia com história e geografia. Para o autor, é óbvio que fatores ambientais e geográficos moldaram o mundo moderno. Com isso esclarece como e porque as sociedades humanas dos diferentes continentes seguiram caminhos de desenvolvimento diversos e explora as razões da dominação e submissã Neste livro, Jared reúne um cruzamento de descobertas conjugando arqueologia e epidemiologia com história e geografia. Para o autor, é óbvio que fatores ambientais e geográficos moldaram o mundo moderno. Com isso esclarece como e porque as sociedades humanas dos diferentes continentes seguiram caminhos de desenvolvimento diversos e explora as razões da dominação e submissão. 'Armas, Germes e Aço' derruba teorias racistas e mostra que a superioridade da Europa e da Ásia se deve às suas respectivas geografias, mais propícias ao cultivo da terra, à domesticação de animais e ao trânsito de informações. O livro mostra, ainda, como a história e a biologia podem dar suporte uma à outra para produzir um profundo entendimento da condição humana.

30 review for Armas, Germes e Aço: Os Destinos das Sociedades Humanas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This is what happens when you take an intelligent person, and casually make a few mentions of a field of study they have no knowledge of. Mr. Diamond, NOT an anthropologist, takes Marvin Harris' theory of cultural materialism and uses it to explain everything in life, history, and the current state of the world. Materialism is a way of looking at human culture which, for lack of a better way to explain it easily here, says that people's material needs and goods determine behavior and culture. For This is what happens when you take an intelligent person, and casually make a few mentions of a field of study they have no knowledge of. Mr. Diamond, NOT an anthropologist, takes Marvin Harris' theory of cultural materialism and uses it to explain everything in life, history, and the current state of the world. Materialism is a way of looking at human culture which, for lack of a better way to explain it easily here, says that people's material needs and goods determine behavior and culture. For instance Jews stopped eating pigs because it became so costly to feed pigs they themselves were starving. On the surface, materialism seems very logical. Like any theory it has to be at least somewhat probable sounding, and since people are used to thinking of life, these days, in terms of materialistic values already, Harris' theory sounds logical and likely very often. But like every other time you attempt to explain everything that ever happened in the history of man with one theory, this falls desperately short of reality. Materialism is likely ONLY when coupled, sensibly, with other theories and, need I say it, actual PROOF, of which Diamond has little. As an exercise in materialist theory this book is magnificent. I would recommend this book ONLY to people in Anthropology with a great understanding of theory, less educated or unwarned people might think this book is fact rather than an exercise in speculation. As an explanation of why the world is the way it is, it is an utter and complete failure.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    “Why you white men have so much cargo [i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization] and we New Guineans have so little?” Jared Diamond is a biologist, who had a passion for studying birds, particularly the birds of New Guinea. But as he came to know and appreciate the many native people he met in his work, the question asked by a New Guinean named Yani remained with him. Why was it that westerners had so much relative to New Guinean natives, who had been living on that land for forty t “Why you white men have so much cargo [i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization] and we New Guineans have so little?” Jared Diamond is a biologist, who had a passion for studying birds, particularly the birds of New Guinea. But as he came to know and appreciate the many native people he met in his work, the question asked by a New Guinean named Yani remained with him. Why was it that westerners had so much relative to New Guinean natives, who had been living on that land for forty thousand years. Many found an explanation in racial exceptionalism. Diamond decided to find out. Was one group of people smarter than another? Why was there such dimorphism in the amount of cargo produced and toted by different groups? The arguments he seeks to counter are those stating that since "civilization" came to full flower in the Eurasian countries and not in places where other races dominated, that this success indicated innate superiority. He offers a stunning analysis of why civilization emerged in the places in which it did. Jared Diamond – image from The Guardian Guns figure large in why some societies were able dominate others, but the development of guns was not a universal. The materials necessary are not equally distributed over the planet, and there are technological prerequisites. It turns out that not every locale is ideal for the emergence of farming. He offers some detail on why farming flourished in some areas more than in others. The importance of domesticated animals is considered. Diamond shows how it was possible for them to have been domesticated in some, but not all of the theoretically possible locations. He discusses the impact of germs, the immunity defense developed by more urban dwellers, and the harm those germs can cause when those urban dwellers come into contact with peoples who lack such immunities. Although "Steel" figures prominently in the title, and is significant in its use in weaponry, this aspect is given the lightest treatment in the book. Diamond closes with a plea for history to be redefined as History Science, claiming that, as with many other "historical" sciences, it holds the elements necessary to merit the "science" designation. While I might have been happier if the title had been Guns, Germs, and Seeds, it remains a seminal look at the whys and wherefores of how some societies came to flourish, often at the expense of others. It has nothing to do with genes. Guns, Germs and Steel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages An excellent National Geogrtaphic documentary was made of this book. Here is a link to the first of its three episodes. Diamond's book Collapse, is also amazing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I liked this book, and it taught me a bunch of things I hadn't known before I read it. Jared Diamond has clearly had a more interesting life than most of us, and spent significant amounts of time in a wide variety of different kinds of society, all over the world. He says he got the basic idea from a conversation he had back in the 70s with a friend in New Guinea. His friend, who later became a leader in the independence movement, wanted to talk about "cargo" (manufactured goods, technology). "W I liked this book, and it taught me a bunch of things I hadn't known before I read it. Jared Diamond has clearly had a more interesting life than most of us, and spent significant amounts of time in a wide variety of different kinds of society, all over the world. He says he got the basic idea from a conversation he had back in the 70s with a friend in New Guinea. His friend, who later became a leader in the independence movement, wanted to talk about "cargo" (manufactured goods, technology). "Why is it," he asked, "that you Europeans have so much more cargo than we do?" Diamond thought he had come up with a good question, and wrote the book in an attempt to answer it. The core of Diamond's explanation is that Europeans were essentially lucky in two respects. First, we have unusually many easily domesticable plant and animal species. Second, since Europe is oriented East-West rather than North-South, a species which is domesticated in one part of Europe has a good chance of thriving in another, so there are many opportunities to swap farming technology between different areas. It helps that there is an easily navigable river system, and also that there are no impassible deserts or mountain ranges. These conditions are not reproduced in most other parts of the world; Diamond has a range of interesting tables, showing how few useful domesticable species there are elsewhere. Because we got efficient farming earlier than most other people, we also got cities and advanced technology earlier, and everything else followed from that initial lead we established. One objection you could make is that it wasn't luck, but rather that Europeans were more enterprising than people in other areas about finding good species to domesticate. Diamond's answer to this is fairly convincing. Having lived extensively with pre-industrial people, he says that we city-dwellers just don't understand how well they know their flora and fauna, and how active their interest in them is. I guess a New Guinea tribesman would, conversely, be surprised at how quickly word gets around on the Internet when a cool new website appears. Basically, what he's saying is that pre-industrial people tried everything that could be tried, and when they didn't find anything good, it's because it wasn't there. Systematic studies by modern scientists do seem to support this conclusion. Another criticism some readers have leveled at Diamond is that he makes history completely deterministic - once the geography was fixed, everything that happened after that was inevitable. I don't actually think that's fair. Diamond is open about the fact that his theories make one embarrassingly incorrect prediction: if it was all about being first to domesticate plant and animal species and set up efficient farming, then China should be the world's preeminent civilization. Even though he makes some attempt to explain why this isn't so, there does right now seem to be a fair case for saying that it's not only geography. Luckily, George W. Bush has been working hard to try and smooth things out. If the Western world can just arrange two or three more leaders like him, all of Diamond's data will hopefully come out the way it's supposed to, and the last few hundred years of Western history can be written off as a statistical blip. Way to go, Dubya! _________________________________ I was surprised this morning to discover that Darwin, in On the Origin of Species, expressed an opinion diametrically opposite to the one Diamond argues for:If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture. It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.Does Diamond mention this? Unfortunately, I don't have a copy to hand.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1) the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2) the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et. al. is because of the geographical features of where each civilization happened to develop. Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-a Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1) the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2) the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et. al. is because of the geographical features of where each civilization happened to develop. Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-and-trade condusive geography and easily-domesticable plants and animals. I'm not sure I agree that why the Spanish obliterated the Mayans instead of visa versa is the most interesting question of human history. (How about the evolution of ideas, or the impact of great leaders and inventors?) But it is an interesting question, and worth exploring. Diamond is a philosophical monist, neatly ascribing just about every juncture in human history to a single cause or related group of causes. Given his extensive background in botany and geology, it makes sense that he would look for the impact of those factors in the human story. Unfortunately, those factors are all he regards as important; he relegates to insignificance the contribution of ideas, innovations, and the decision-making of individuals or cultures. His view is fatalistic, seemingly motivated by a P.C.-era desire to pronounce all cultures equal, and their fates the product of random circumstance. A contradiction here is that fatalistic viewpoints are incompatible with moral pronouncements. (If nobody can control their actions, who's to blame for anything?) Diamond is condemnatory of the Spanish incursion into Mayan lands, but the logical consequence of his theory is that the Mayans would have done the same to the Spanish if they had been first to develop the musket and frigate. Taking Diamond's theory seriously means we'd have to view imperialism as natural and unavoidable, like the predation of animals, and be unable to criticize any culture's actions whatever. All that said... this is a fascinating and worthwhile read. There's no doubt that the factors Diamond identified had some role in human progress, however, and if you can put aside the author's predisposition towards his own field and somewhat sketchy philosophical foundation, the book is a compelling and vivid account of what life was like for the earliest civilizations. Diamond describes the evolution of agriculture, written language, and other indispensable facets of human history, giving us a crash tour through the earliest days of human history. The specialized expertise that ultimately derails Diamond's overview at the same time offers a compelling and detailed view of the rise of mankind.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    It took me a while to complete Diamond's book (and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime) because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The central thesis that it is not racial biology that determines the victors in history but rather a complex combination of agriculture, geography, population density, and continental orientation is a fascinating and compelling one. The style is not academic (and did admittedly put me off by using sen It took me a while to complete Diamond's book (and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime) because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The central thesis that it is not racial biology that determines the victors in history but rather a complex combination of agriculture, geography, population density, and continental orientation is a fascinating and compelling one. The style is not academic (and did admittedly put me off by using sentences with "!" in them), and yet does come across as the fruit of years (or decades) of research in an astounding number of fields simultaneously: biology, agriculture, history, climatology, sociology, etc. I can understand why Mr. Diamond received accolades and a Pulitzer for this complex work written at the level that the layman, non-scientist can still grasp. The funniest story that struck me was the QWERTY keyboard one which apparently is the least ergonomic design but due to its rapid adoption by typists due to capitalist competition and afterwards its ubiquity once computers became important, it is impossible to dislodge. (I still find it easier to use than the AZERTY one here in France LOL). The one thing that struck me - and here I warn readers that I climb on my soapbox near the Marble Arch for a moment - is the abundance of corroborating evidence for human evolution and development that has solid artefacts and proof going back 40000 years and more by the most precise dating methods available by today's scientists. For anyone with a shred of intelligence to try and say the world is only 6000 years old and created in-state as it were is pure insanity and blindness. And yet, we now have high-placed individuals in the US holding these beliefs and poised to poison American youth with medieval and ignorant ideas such as young-earth creationism. If one is to take reality at face value rather than with massive filters eliminating reason and coherence from it, then one cannot possibly justify believing that all humans came from Adam and Eve and that they were white as snow and racially superior to their offspring. This book proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that just because one has white skin, that this is not a determinant in the development of the individual and his/her peers as human beings. It is critical that works like this get wide diffusion in order to debunk racial superiority theories that gave rise to the horrors on Hitler and continue to inform white supremacists and Islamic radicals and all other religious or racial bigots because their underlying fundamentals are based on patently false principles. OK, down from soapbox now. The book was well-written (if a bit repetitive at times) and presents eye-opening and inventive analysis that will help me see the world I live in differently. Highly recommended. Especially in view of the rise of revisionist, white supremacist bullshit.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. The point he is making is that we in Western Civilazation haven't built skyscrapers, made moon landings, mass produced automobiles, eradicated polio (or for that matter lived indoors with running water) while aborigines in certain remote outposts still hunt and gather in isolated tribes because we are inherently any smarter or more industrious than those individuals. Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is t This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. The point he is making is that we in Western Civilazation haven't built skyscrapers, made moon landings, mass produced automobiles, eradicated polio (or for that matter lived indoors with running water) while aborigines in certain remote outposts still hunt and gather in isolated tribes because we are inherently any smarter or more industrious than those individuals. Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is this considered such a novel idea, and why does he have to be so BORING about it? Don't believe the hype.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Misleading! The actual title should be Germs, More Germs and a bit about Steel And Guns, but not very much on those last two really...I mean, we want to put Guns first because it's more attention-grabbing than Germs, but let's face it, this book is mostly about Germs. Why has no publishing house knocked down my door trying to obtain my book titling services yet?!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Parkinson

    In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and a band of 168 Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Why didn’t it happen the other way around? Why didn't the Incas sail to Europe, capture Charles V, kill his subjects, and loot his castles and cathedrals? Jared Diamond attempts to answer this question in Guns, Germs & Steel. Why have Europeans tended to dominate other peoples on other continents? Does it have somethi In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and a band of 168 Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Why didn’t it happen the other way around? Why didn't the Incas sail to Europe, capture Charles V, kill his subjects, and loot his castles and cathedrals? Jared Diamond attempts to answer this question in Guns, Germs & Steel. Why have Europeans tended to dominate other peoples on other continents? Does it have something to do with race? Were Europeans cleverer than other races? Diamond says no. It wasn't racial characteristics that tipped the scales of fortune for the Europeans; it was their geography. Their geography gave them access to the best domestic grains and animals, which led to specialization and advanced technologies like steel and guns. Their domestic animals also helped them develop potent germs, and the antibodies for those germs. The importance Diamond lays at the hoofs and paws of domesticated animals is, in fact, one of the fascinating themes of the book. According to Diamond, our animals have played an uncanny role in our cultural and economic development, both in a negative sense (human contact with farm animals facilitated the germ-exchange that produced man’s deadliest diseases) and in a positive sense (men from the Russian steppes, riding their newly domesticated horses, spread the Indo-European language both westward into Europe and southeastward into Persia and India). Diamond's point is that people living in areas with more domesticable animals (sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, etc.) gained an important advantage over people without them. For example, Native Americans had only three domesticated animals before 1492: llamas, turkeys, and dogs. Why only three? Weren’t there wild horses and cattle in America too? Actually, fossil records show huge populations of horses, oxen, and millions of other large mammals in the Americas until about 11,000 BC. What happened around 11,000 BC? You guessed it: man showed up via the Bering Strait. The American horses, oxen and other large mammals, having never experienced a human predator, approached the new arrivals like slobbering puppy dogs, and were consequently turned into steaks. In fact, it was steaks every night for a couple thousand years for the new immigrants, until most of the continents’ large mammals— and all but one suitable candidate for domestication— were wiped out. Now this is fascinating enough, but then consider that because the Native Americans didn't have any horses, oxen, pigs, etc. left to exploit as beasts of burden and domesticated food sources, they also lost the civilizational benefits those animals would have brought (and did bring to Eurasians), not the least of which is germs. Yes, germs. Because the Native Americans didn't live in close proximity to a plethora of "farm animals" like their counterparts in Eurasia, they lacked the "petri dish" wherein deadly germs could grow and proliferate. They thus failed to develop the infectious diseases and (more importantly) the antibodies to those diseases that might have protected them from the germs of invading Europeans when Señor Columbus and his crew showed up. It was for this reason that when the Conquistadores did finally show up, they were able to wipe out 80% of the indigenous population before ever unsheathing their swords— with germs— with small pox and influenza, both diseases generated by the passing back and forth of germs between domesticated animals and their human caretakers (small pox between cattle and humans, and influenza between pigs and ducks and humans). If that doesn't blow your mind, your mind is blowproof. Then again, you may well ask: “What about moose and bison? Why didn’t Cortés and his boys float up to the Mexican shoreline and find a bloodthirsty cavalry of Aztecs on mooseback, energized by the milk and meat of their plentiful herds of bison?” Diamond surmises that by the time most the large mammals in America had been digested into extinction by their hungry human friends, there was only one suitable candidate left for domestication: the llama/alpaca. Every other large mammal that remained (including moose and bison) lacked the qualities that allow for domestication. In all of human history only 14 large mammals have ever been domesticated: sheep, goat, cattle, pigs, horses, camels (Arabian and Bactrian), llamas, donkeys, reindeer, water buffalo, yaks, and two minor relatives of cattle in southeast Asia called Bali cattle and mithrans. Outside of these, no other large mammals have been transformed from wild animals into something useful to humans. Why? Why were Eurasia's horses domesticated and not Africa's zebras? Why were Eurasia's wild boar domesticated and not America's peccaries or Africa's wild pigs? Why were Eurasia's five species of wild cattle (aurochs, water buffalo, yaks, bantengs, and gaurs) domesticated and not Africa's water buffalo or America's bison? Why the Asian mouflon sheep (the ancestor of our sheep) and not the American bighorn sheep? The answer is simple: we tried and it didn't work. Since 2500 BC not one new large mammal (out of the 148 worldwide candidates) has been domesticated, and not for lack of trying. In fact, in the last 200 years, at least six large mammals have been subject to well-organized domestication projects: the eland, elk, moose, musk ox, zebra, and American bison. All six failed. Why? Because of one or more of the following problems: diet, slow growth rate, nasty disposition, tendency to panic, captive breeding problems, and/or social structure. Diet: Why don't we eat lion burgers? Because raising lions, or any other carnivore, is uneconomical. You need 10,000 lbs of feed to grow a 1,000 lb cow. You would likewise need 10,000 lbs of cow to grow 1,000 pounds of lion. That means you’d need 100,000 lbs of feed to produce 1,000 pounds of lion. Hence the lack of lion burgers on the Wendy’s drive-thru menu. Growth rate: Why don't we eat rhino burgers? Simple, it takes 15-20 years for a rhino to reach adult size while it only takes cows a couple. Nasty disposition: Here's where we eliminate zebra burgers, hippo burgers, grizzly burgers and bison burgers. These animals retain their nasty and dangerous tempers even after several generations of captive breeding. Did you know zebras injure more zookeepers per year than do lions and tigers? Tendency to panic: No deer or gazelle burgers either. Why? Because they take flight at the first sign of danger and will literally kill themselves running into a fence over and over to escape the threat. Captive breeding problems: Many animals have elaborate breeding rituals that can't happen in captivity. Social structure: This may be the most important requirement for domesticates. The best candidates for domestication live in herds, maintain a clear herd hierarchy, and overlap ranges with other herds rather than having exclusive ranges. Here humans just take over the top of the hierarchy. They literally become the herd leader (think “Dog Whisperer”). So the reason European explorers didn't find Native American ranchers with herds of bison and bighorn sheep is because these animals can’t be domesticated. Diamond contends that if there had been any horses left in the Americas, or any of the other 13 candidates for domestication, the Native Americans surely would have domesticated them, and reaped all the attendant benefits. But alas, their great-great-grandpas had already killed, grilled and digested them all. Diamond's book is a great read. If you're a student of history, it’s a must read. The way I see it, the story of man (and the story of all things, for that matter) is the story of varied states of disequilibrium moving violently and inexorably toward equilibrium. What was Pizarro's vanquishing of Atahualpa's empire if not an example of such violent re-balancing? The beauty of Diamond's book is that it seems to pinpoint, with surprising simplicity, the original source of disequilibrium among men: geography. Roughly put, some got born in the right place and some didn’t. Skin color had nothing to do with it. Race has always been nothing more than an arbitrary mark to show the geographical birthplace of one's ancestors'. By the way, if you do read this book, take note of the way we humans first discovered agriculture. According to Diamond, it happened at the latrine. We'd go out gathering seeds, eating some along the way, and then come back to camp and defecate, all in the same spot. Guess what started growing in that spot? Yes, my friends, as crude as it may sound, we humans shat are way to civilization. Thank your ass when you get a chance.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. What makes the book particularly good is the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this. The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13,000 years Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. What makes the book particularly good is the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this. The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13,000 years we cover in this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    Terrible. This is one of those books which seems at face value as if it has an interesting and persuasive thesis, and indeed there are a couple of reasonable points in here, but by and large Guns, Germs, and Steel is a poorly written book, shoddily argued and riddled with factual errors. Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variet Terrible. This is one of those books which seems at face value as if it has an interesting and persuasive thesis, and indeed there are a couple of reasonable points in here, but by and large Guns, Germs, and Steel is a poorly written book, shoddily argued and riddled with factual errors. Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variety and nutritional value of available crops, the number of animals which could be domesticated, the geographical axes of the various continents. Diamond claims that this is an anti-racist theory because it points out that white people were just lucky, not inherently more deserving or more talented or more resourceful than people anywhere else in the world. However, Diamond's intention to write an anti-racist book doesn't mean that he succeeded in doing so. There are layers of problematic assumptions and unconscious Eurocentrism underlying his writing, layers which make Guns, Germs, and Steel an uneasy read: you (for the reader whom Diamond seems to hypothesise in the book is a white Westerner--there's no sense that a PoC from, say, Malaysia or Egypt might have picked it up) should not feel a sense of accountability or responsibility or guilt for colonialism or imperialism or the ongoing exploitation of most of the world's population by those living in the developed world. It's no one's fault--it's just geography! When it comes to assessing the reliability of Diamond's arguments, the fact that there are no footnotes and no full bibliography make that a somewhat difficult task--but I know enough about sub-Saharan African history to know that he characterises several key things incorrectly, and just enough about the history of the Americas to be very suspicious about things that Diamond claims. There are numerous minor factual errors, like saying that "oi" means "sheep" in Irish (p. 343). The Irish word for sheep is "caora", and as far as I know, there's no such word as "oi" (or even "oí") in Irish. This is admittedly minor, but if you indulge in repeated bouts of carelessness like that, you're going to make me suspicious about the factual foundations of the rest of your arguments. And indeed, while I can't assess the validity of some of Diamond's scientific claims--though the continent axis theory falls apart the more you start to think about it, as does his failure to consider the impact of human alteration of the environment--I do know that I'd expect better historical argumentation from an undergraduate history major. For instance, when about to describe the meeting of the conquistador Pizarro with the Incan emperor Atahuallpa, he says: What unfolded that day at Cajamarca is well known, because it was recorded in writing by many of the Spanish participants [...] by six of Pizarro's companions, including his brothers Hernando and Pedro. (pp. 68-69) Which of course is nonsense. What we have is a record of what six individual Spanish men--and no Incans--wanted the Spanish king to think had happened on that day. A moment's thought would tell you that there are multiple problems with using their writings as a straightforward means of assessing anything about Incan culture and society. Rookie errors like that made me roll my eyes extra hard at the epilogue in which Diamond explains to historians what our discipline should look like and how we should think of it. How about no, sir--if you've repeatedly demonstrated a lack of ability to think historically, you don't get to decide what historians should do. It's also worth pointing out that even if one accepts Diamond's thesis as persuasive, it doesn't actually answer the question he sets out to answer: why it is that European/Western societies set out to establish political and cultural hegemony over the rest of the world and were so successful at it. Just because a society is more technologically or economically complex than its neighbour doesn't mean that it automatically sets out to conquer it--that's a question you can't answer with "geography." You have to theorise power and social structure, and Diamond can't do that. Avoid.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The Purist I give you now Professor Twist, A conscientious scientist, Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!" And sent him off to distant jungles. Camped on a tropic riverside, One day he missed his loving bride. She had, the guide informed him later, Been eaten by an alligator. Professor Twist could not but smile. "You mean," he said, "a crocodile." That bit of Ogden Nash whimsy came into my head as I thought about Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a reflection on human history through the lens of e The Purist I give you now Professor Twist, A conscientious scientist, Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!" And sent him off to distant jungles. Camped on a tropic riverside, One day he missed his loving bride. She had, the guide informed him later, Been eaten by an alligator. Professor Twist could not but smile. "You mean," he said, "a crocodile." That bit of Ogden Nash whimsy came into my head as I thought about Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a reflection on human history through the lens of evolutionary biology. Diamond, unlike Professor Twist, is seeking answers to real world problems. In this case, he seeks to understand the plight of indigenous peoples and their subordination to European and Asian cultures in light of evolutionary pressures. Even so, Diamond seems awkward in his attempts to justify the ways of the Blind Watchmaker to men as so. One false note comes early in the book, when he departs from his evenhandedness to assure us that not only should we not hold New Guineans to be less intellectually endowed than Europeans (a reasonable enough assumption), but that they are probably intellectually superior. He admits that he can't demonstrate that superiority empirically, so that assertion strikes the reader as an attempt to curry favor by a politically correct reverse bias. On the other hand, there's a lot of really stimulating and interesting stuff in this book. Diamond talks about: what kinds of foodstuffs are necessary to support civilization; why disease almost always flowed from native Europeans to native Americans (and not vice-versa), whereas Europeans encounter many new diseases when they attempted to enter Africa; why those previous two topics are related; how innovation happens; etc. It seems like there's an interesting fact or point of view whenever you turn the page. The book seeks a complete explanation for the course of human history. It has that sort of broad, sweeping intellectual appeal that a hefty work of philosophy or science has. For example, after someone learns Newtonian mechanics, he tends to see the entire universe as the interplay between physical forces that are expressed in terms of differential equations. A similar dynamic happens here, where the reader suddenly sees commonplaces in a new light. As with most grand theories, it's important to see that there are some important limits to the analysis. While we can see why, in broad strokes, European and Asian peoples might have overwhelming advantages in human history in purely biological and geographical terms, Diamond's analysis is of no help in answering historical questions that still might strike us as large, but come within the realm of European or Asian culture, instead of at the border with other peoples. For example, it's hard to see how his analysis adds anything to our understand of conflicts such as the Greco-Persian wars, the rise and decline of Rome, the Napoleonic Wars, or the American Civil War. Certainly these questions are important, and we rightly inquire into agricultural, military, political, and culture causes for these events. In these cases Diamond's analysis is largely impossible, since we are dealing with peoples that share genetics, foodstuffs, climates, terrains, etc. Perhaps I'm nit-picking. It's an excellent, thought-provoking book. I'd just like to temper the inevitable temptation to view all history through this lens.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol.

    Stopped on page 88 for the time being, because, man, do people ever suck. We historically sucked. But since humans used to invade other humans' territory and do a lot of killing, at least things have changed now. Oh, wait.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.” - Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel This is one of those books “In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.” - Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel This is one of those books that once you finish, you sit back and say "yeah, um, duh". Since I'm reading this about 18 years after it was first published and probably 14 years since I bought and first perused it, it never seemed very shocking to me. Look, certain civilizations came to dominate based on a couple random, accidental, and nonracially-based situations that combined to give the Eurasian people a slight advantage once these civilizations came into contact with each other. First, the domesticated food and animals of Eurasiaa contained more protein and more varieties of domesticated animals (pigs, cows, goats, etc) that allowed the people on the Eurasian continent to achieve a certain population density that allowed them to move from band > tribe > chiefdom > state > empire first. This density also allowed for more technological advances, more exposure and protection against herd diseases, so that when cultures collided, the more advanced societies were able to dominate. End of book. Q.E.D. Is it still worth reading? Certainly. Just because you get the basic premise of Natural Selection does not mean you shouldn't read Darwin's classics. I'm not comparing Jared Diamond to Charles Darwin. This book isn't that good, but the apparent simplicity of the book's premise only appears simple. The argument that Diamond delivers is tight and simple but hides a lot of work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. There is a mind-boggling amount of information presented: some of it is fascinating, some of it seems repetitive, and overly long. When my husband, who is a big fan of "farming books," thinks that there was WAY TOO MUCH about agriculture. . . well, that kind of tells you something. I listened to this on audio, (al Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. There is a mind-boggling amount of information presented: some of it is fascinating, some of it seems repetitive, and overly long. When my husband, who is a big fan of "farming books," thinks that there was WAY TOO MUCH about agriculture. . . well, that kind of tells you something. I listened to this on audio, (all thirteen discs!), and one line really caught my, um, ear: Some societies seem hopelessly conservative, inward looking, and hostile to change. Wow! Hmm . . . right now I can think of a country that is fast adopting isolationist policies, a country that is constantly looking to the past as "the ideal time," and whose politicians are doing all they can to turn back the clock, denying climate change, shunning education as "elitist," and deleting scientific data from public websites, all in an attempt to stick to the "old ways" that have been so profitable for so few. Did Jared Diamond, writing in the late 1990's, just describe the United States today? And will we become like one of the more primitive societies, sitting and watching while the rest of the world makes strides in science, technology, and the development of clean energy sources? Yes, our agriculture is mighty nice, and, yes, we have plenty of steel and tons of guns, but with our scientific community both muzzled, and strapped for cash, will we be able to fight off new diseases, epidemics, or attacks by biological weapons? Will we become one of those once great cultures Diamond discusses that once flew high, then crashed and burned? The choice is up to us, and I'm not feeling too optimistic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    WarpDrive

    This is a thought-provoking, deeply interesting, controversial book investigating the reasons behind the bafflingly different rate of development of human societies in different parts of the world. The main thesis of the author is that geographic aspects represent the overwhelming ultimate set of causal factors, and they played out mostly at the very beginning of societal development, mainly in prehistoric times. The author uses very broad brush strokes to develop his main themes, both in geogra This is a thought-provoking, deeply interesting, controversial book investigating the reasons behind the bafflingly different rate of development of human societies in different parts of the world. The main thesis of the author is that geographic aspects represent the overwhelming ultimate set of causal factors, and they played out mostly at the very beginning of societal development, mainly in prehistoric times. The author uses very broad brush strokes to develop his main themes, both in geographical terms (he treats the whole of Eurasia plus North Africa as one single entity, which he then subsequently compares with the whole of the Americas, the rest of Africa and Australasia), as well as in temporal terms (the last two thousand years of human history are virtually ignored), and even in political terms (all societies more complex than an egalitarian tribe are defined “kleptocracies” managed by self-serving elites that extract tribute). This very broad approach is compounded by his methodological tendency to artificially identify and distinguish between ‘ultimate’ explanations and mere ‘proximate’ ones; an approach which brings him to minimize aspects of cultural idiosyncrasies, randomness, and all local cultural factors unrelated to the environment; approach which pushes him to assert that the most critical influences on modern history had already occurred mostly in prehistoric times, and definitely before the birth of Christ, virtually discounting the last two thousand years of history as a foregone conclusion determined by prior developments. I have the feeling that his view is ultimately based on a Marxist-like type of historical perspective, whereby specific historical events are merely accidents, there is little or no role for chance, randomness and individual action, and where complex feedback loops, culture and ideology, religion, war outcomes and politics are just super-structural elements derived from more fundamental materialistic aspects. This view is now considered obsolete by many mainstream historians (or at least incomplete). The author also seems to have a pretty “linear” vision of history, whereby the same collection of factors invariably determine the same outcome – my personal feeling is that many historians would disagree with this perspective and state, on the contrary, that one of the complexities of the study of history is that history is not physics, as the interaction “laws” and the independent variables themselves might vary depending on the period and particular sets of circumstances: for example, the weight of geographical factors in more technologically advanced periods as opposed to prehistorical or less advanced eras. And we should always bear in mind that phenomena such as chaotic behaviour lurk even in seemingly simple physical systems, so a deterministic approach to the study of history presents many potential dangers. Even more quantitative and more limited in scope disciplines pertaining to human behaviour (such as economics) have repeatedly proven how identification of context-independent causal chains and prediction of future behaviour can be extremely problematic to achieve. Yes, it is true that the author pays lips service (in the epilogue, which is the best balanced part of the book) to the irreducible complexity and to peculiar nature of any science based on the study of human behaviour, but this attempt to dilute and balance his geographical determinism is too little too late, IMO (and the author does not fail to re-iterate, even in this section, his faith in a ultimately fully deterministic long chain of causation that can fully explain all main trends of historical development). There are also some wide generalizations in the book that are questionable at the very least: for example he uses the Spanish American conquests as a model for all European colonial expansion, and he also comes up with claims that are wrong or should be, at least, heavily qualified (such as the horse being the most decisive factor in warfare since it was domesticated 6000 years ago, until WWI – has the author ever heard of Agincourt and Crecy ? And Republican and Early Imperial Rome did not rise to military supremacy due to a superior use of cavalry). There is also, at the beginning of the book, a really bizarre and totally unsubstantiated claim by the author that “in mental ability New Guineans are genetically superior to Westerners, and they are superior in escaping the devastating developmental disadvantages under which most children in industrialized societies now grow up”. Such a statement is scientifically very dubious (like any similar statements trying promote a naive (if not racist-driven) view to connect genetics with race and intelligence - and what is "intelligence" anyway ?); moreover it appears almost self-contradictory in this book, as the author himself, in the rest of the book, very successfully dismantles any racist claim that the difference rate of development between societies is caused by genetic differences between the races. Coming back to the main themes of the book: the broad patterns of history, according to the author, are all ultimately caused by essentially “geographical” factors: the availability of a variety of easily domesticable crops facilitating an early adoption of agriculture, of big domesticable animals, and the longitudinal gradient (the Eurasian east-west axis being favourable compared to the North-South axis of the Americas) facilitating or impeding diffusion of agriculture, trade and technology. It must be said that the author main thesis is argued and documented very convincingly (however I must say that I can't assess the validity of some of the author's scientific claims in fields such as genetics, anthropology, botany, linguistics and evolutionary biology – and the referencing material is strangely lacking, which is slightly suspicious), and the book is brilliantly written, very readable, full with fascinating insights and rich with extremely interesting information in many different fields. It has been a reading pleasure and I learned quite a bit from it. The author's main theory of the critical importance of geography is well supported by several examples (even though it must be said that the author appears somewhat selective in his analysis, conveniently alternatively over- or under-emphasizing the importance of geographical barriers in the diffusion of agriculture, trade and technology - he also under-emphasizes the important role played by internal wars, competition and migration in the development of Europe and the Middle East in historical times) and the book contains many ideas that are, in my opinion, very important (even if not complete nor conclusive) in the debate over the reasons why some historical patterns diverged so significantly among the different parts of the globe. It is a pity that the author leaves out so many important factors, and so many questions very partially answered (such as why did Europe gain supremacy as opposed to China, considering that China, soon before the start of the big European expansion, was as advanced – probably more advanced than – its European counterparts ? ). But make no mistake – with all its problems, it is a nevertheless a good, highly readable, informative, fascinating book, recommended to all lovers of history who want to gain original insights and perspectives into the broad patterns of historical development. I definitely learned many interesting things and gained a better appreciation of geographical factors as significant determinants in the development of human societies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    What a terrific book. 😍 One sentence review: Human history is a function of geography. Detailed review to follow!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Without overdoing the pun, everything by Diamond shines and shines. This is his greatest work. Occasionally in life you can feel a book shifting the way you see the world, shifting what you thought you knew about the world. There is a documentary made around this book, but read the book - trust me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    My first intention reading this book is not to seek knowledge in the real world, but to understand more about the setting/world making of fantasy fiction and science fiction. But this book gave me so much more than that, it gave me answers or some revelations about some of my personal thinking all these years. I cannot comment much about the contents, there are a lot of reviews that describe the contents well. Some interesting points on this book for me: 1. In my opinion, this book has pristine des My first intention reading this book is not to seek knowledge in the real world, but to understand more about the setting/world making of fantasy fiction and science fiction. But this book gave me so much more than that, it gave me answers or some revelations about some of my personal thinking all these years. I cannot comment much about the contents, there are a lot of reviews that describe the contents well. Some interesting points on this book for me: 1. In my opinion, this book has pristine description the 1966 revolution in Indonesia. 2. This book has interesting theory of the losing of China vs. European since 15th century. 3. I found the epilogue is reminding me some with Asimov’s psychohistory, with chapter title: “THE FUTURE OF HUMAN HISTORY AS A SCIENCE”. For people who had read Foundation, please try the epilogue of this book. There is at least one hint about a leading civilization destroying its own environment… but it is another story. Mr. Diamond described this idea on his next book, Collapse.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    I have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history of plant and animal domestication. "But Rhiannon," you might say, "doesn't that remove his entire thesis, that geography determined just about everything about the course of human civilization?" And, I would respond yes, it does. "And, isn't that kind of removing the whole book?" No, I counter. It just removes the douche-y social Darwinist parts. Plus, i I have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history of plant and animal domestication. "But Rhiannon," you might say, "doesn't that remove his entire thesis, that geography determined just about everything about the course of human civilization?" And, I would respond yes, it does. "And, isn't that kind of removing the whole book?" No, I counter. It just removes the douche-y social Darwinist parts. Plus, if he weren't trying to prove an overarching point about the entirety of human history, readers wouldn't be subjected to his style of argument, which largely consists of applying only certain parts of his thesis at certain points (see his arguments regarding the lengths of human habitation of North American versus how those same arguments are applied regarding Africa), waving away pieces of evidence that would call his thesis into question, and neglecting to include any citations, instead relying on a "Further Reading" section. Removing all of this would leave the only parts really worth reading: the stuff about plant and animal domestication. Which was awesome.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Telander

    GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES BY JARED DIAMOND: This is one of those books that takes you a while to read -- it's pretty heavy non-fiction -- and yet at the end of it, you feel like Hippocrates, a Muslim scientist, or Leonardo Da Vinci must have felt at the realization of a great discovery. The Eureka! moment. This book is kind of like the movie Hotel Rwanda: the movie was life-altering for me, and just made every other movie that came out that year seem tawdry and unimpor GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES BY JARED DIAMOND: This is one of those books that takes you a while to read -- it's pretty heavy non-fiction -- and yet at the end of it, you feel like Hippocrates, a Muslim scientist, or Leonardo Da Vinci must have felt at the realization of a great discovery. The Eureka! moment. This book is kind of like the movie Hotel Rwanda: the movie was life-altering for me, and just made every other movie that came out that year seem tawdry and unimportant; it was one of those movies that everyone should see (especially Americans and Western Europeans) just to understand the world and its history better. Guns, Germs, and Steel is one of those books that everyone should read to better comprehend their existence at this specific moment in time. The premise of the book is revealed in the prologue in a conversation between the author and a New Guinea native who lives his very simple life in Stone Age conditions. The thesis that arises in their conversation is what specific events led to the fact that Europeans were the ones to reach New Guinea and interact with its people, and why it wasn't the New Guinea people to develop the technology and abilities to travel the world and make first contact with the Europeans. With the concept in place, Diamond sets about doing this in his conversational and, quite frankly, mind-blowing and ingenious way. As a professor, with studies in anthropology and biology, he has an astounding way of seeing things and being able to explain ideas in a simple manner that make so much sense and you're left saying to yourself: "Oh, that's how that happened," or "that's why it's like that." At times he can bog you down with details, mainly because he explains them on minutest and seemingly most insignificant level (such as different seeds around the world). And yet you are left with that adage of chaos theory: everything on this planet happens for a reason and has a knock-on effect. Some of Diamond's ideas that I found and still find most astonishing include: The reason the continent of Eurasia was able to develop to a much more advanced level than the rest of the world, with its complex empires, cradles of civilizations, and large amount of farming and domesticated species was due to its latitude on a specific east-west axis. The other continents -- North and South America, Africa, Australasia -- are all on a north-south axis. What does this difference mean? For one, climate is greatly changed the further north or south ones goes, which has an effect on the migration of people, animals, and plants, as well as the spread of information, technology and culture. Because of this, Eurasia was able to develop more crops and have them spread around the continent through trade, as well as the spread of domesticated animals, culture and more importantly, technology. The other continents did not have this ease, which Diamond explains in clear detail with facts and dates. Of course, I am vastly over-simplifying the book and it's really necessary for one to peruse its pages to get the full understanding. Another concept that I was very happy to be made so clear is the explanation of why whites conquered most of the world was not because they were a superior race in any way. And how is this simply explained? To use Jared Diamond's example: If you liked this review, and would like to read more, go to BookBanter.

  21. 5 out of 5

    فهد الفهد

    هذه ليست مراجعة كاملة، وإنما هي رد كتبته على قراءة الأخ خالد المغربي، وقد طلب الأخ الكريم بلطفه نقل الرد ليكون بمثابة مراجعة للكتاب، وها أنا أفعل رغم قناعتي أنه سيكون مراجعة عرجاء وناقصة كثيرا ً. قرأت هذا الكتاب العام الماضي، ولانشغالي حينها لم أكتب عنه للأسف، رغم قيمته الكبيرة وأهميته. يخبرنا مؤلف الكتاب جارد دايموند كيف جاءته فكرة الكتاب خلال محادثة له مع أحد سكان نيو غينيا الأصليين، الذي سأل دايموند لماذا لديكم أيها الغربيون الكثير من الشحنات – Cargos جمع شحنة، وهي الكلمة التي استخدمها الرجل لي هذه ليست مراجعة كاملة، وإنما هي رد كتبته على قراءة الأخ خالد المغربي، وقد طلب الأخ الكريم بلطفه نقل الرد ليكون بمثابة مراجعة للكتاب، وها أنا أفعل رغم قناعتي أنه سيكون مراجعة عرجاء وناقصة كثيرا ً. قرأت هذا الكتاب العام الماضي، ولانشغالي حينها لم أكتب عنه للأسف، رغم قيمته الكبيرة وأهميته. يخبرنا مؤلف الكتاب جارد دايموند كيف جاءته فكرة الكتاب خلال محادثة له مع أحد سكان نيو غينيا الأصليين، الذي سأل دايموند لماذا لديكم أيها الغربيون الكثير من الشحنات – Cargos جمع شحنة، وهي الكلمة التي استخدمها الرجل ليعني بها لمَ لديكم كل هذه المخترعات؟ – وليس لدينا نحن مثلها، هذا السؤال لم يجب عليه دايموند حينها ولكنه شغله لسنوات طويلة تالية وكان هذا الكتاب الذي تحول أيضاً إلى فيلم وثائقي ممتع قدمه المؤلف نفسه. الجواب الذي قدمه دايموند يلخصه عنوان الكتاب (أسلحة، جراثيم وفولاذ)، حيث يخبرنا دايموند أولاً باللقاء الشهير بين كورتيز وموكتيزوما إمبراطور الأزتيك وكيف استطاع رجل وبضعة جنود القضاء على إمبراطورية كاملة، ويتخذ من هذه الحادثة التاريخية مدخلاً، ليشرح لمَ كان هناك فارق تقني هائل ما بين الغربيين والأزتيك، شارحا ً عوامل تطور الحضارات، من البيئة النباتية والحيوانية التي تنشأ فيها، وكيف تصنع هذه البيئة فروقات كبيرة على مدى طويل من أعمار الحضارات، وكيف أن تعايش الحضارات وتقاربها يمنحها الفرصة للاستفادة من بعضها، بينما عزلة بعضها يجعلها منكمشة، كما يشرح بعد ذلك أهمية ودور الأسلحة والحديد كأدوات للإنسان، ودور الجراثيم وكيف كان الأوربيون محصنين ضدها لأنهم كونوا مناعة، بينما قضت على السكان الأصليين بشكل مفجع، بحيث مات ملايين البشر بسبب أوبئة وأمراض جاءت مع الأوربيين. الكتاب متين ومهم جدا ً، وإن كان دايموند استفرغ جهده في شرح لمَ كانت حضارات العالم القديم متفوقة على حضارات العالم الجديد – أمريكا وأستراليا -، وأظن أنه يحتاج إلى عمر ثانٍ وكتاب ثانٍ ليشرح لما تفوق الأوربيون كحضارة على بقية حضارات العالم القديم، وهو ما عالجه في هذا الكتاب بشكل مقتضب وسريع.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth King

    Germ Guns & Steel It is a thesis, His thesis being; that all animals are created equal… but not all animals sleep in a bed with sheets. Why? Because in addition to needing tree for wood to make looms, herders to shear sheep & weavers to make sheets, you also need (DHU) SHEEP. Yep, if you are unlucky enough to be born on a continent or onto part of a continent with only anteaters, there is no fucking way you are going to get sheets, no matter how smart you are. All well and good…but not so very Germ Guns & Steel It is a thesis, His thesis being; that all animals are created equal… but not all animals sleep in a bed with sheets. Why? Because in addition to needing tree for wood to make looms, herders to shear sheep & weavers to make sheets, you also need (DHU) SHEEP. Yep, if you are unlucky enough to be born on a continent or onto part of a continent with only anteaters, there is no fucking way you are going to get sheets, no matter how smart you are. All well and good…but not so very readable... We all believe that. Or want to believe it. Or pretend we want to believe it and it’s nice to have such a dry, logical explanation. Oh some of his facts are interesting, (like the spread of animal to human diseases. In fact I ran right out and made my next store neighbor stop suckling her piglets!) But generally his writing is like his name, Diamond, hard, cold & brilliant, but not particularly gripping. Now Pollan (Botany of Desire,) not only has a more gripping style, but, to my mind at least a much more unique and interesting premise. OK so the idea of Co evolution is not new... But the idea that we humans are involved, not just as manipulators but as part of the co in co evolution is an idea.. An idea that disturbs… Some Physicists & chemists are not unlike religious folks, They believe man is the measure of all things.. All right, maybe not man, but chemists & physicists. They believe that all is knowable & that we will eventually know it. (Or rather they will, they tell us the bits we need.) So they can read Germs , Guns & Steel.. But they can’t even get through the prologue of Botany of Desire. OK I’m talking about 2 of the 3 physicists I know… Not I grant you a large sample. But I was reading the biography of Wilson the noble prize winning Harvard ant-omoglist (Myrmecologist) & even he talks about the great war between biologists & micro-biologists. They wouldn’t even talk to each other unless it was to say “So where did you get your research from… Reader’s Digest”? Ugly, ugly, ugly. So either there is co- evolution.. Which we sort of get, but can’t totally understand… or God is sitting in heaven designing flowers to look like bee genitalia Jared Diamond, who has his own Pulitzer for Guns, Germs And Steel, described (Wilson) as "one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers." I have my own issues with E.O. Wilson, not the charges of racism, misogyny & eugenics, which I believe were unfounded, but with his early scientific experiments. He wanted to create a “living lab.” To investigate how far, fast & wide evolution would spread insect & crustacea life to islands. So he took some tiny islets in the Everglades and doused them with Malathion, exterminating the entire insect & crustacean population. Crustacean…so it must have gotten into the water. Now that’s what I call killing the horse before the cart

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded up because the PBS adaptation was better than I had expected it to be I read this in the 1990s and was blown away by the fact that environmental determinism was back in the forefront of the have-vs-have-not debate. Well told tale. Persuasive, goodness knows. Maybe even partially correct, who knows, since we're facing the consequences of climate change on our civilization and they aren't good. They're only going to get worse, too. So who do we look to for models of ho Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded up because the PBS adaptation was better than I had expected it to be I read this in the 1990s and was blown away by the fact that environmental determinism was back in the forefront of the have-vs-have-not debate. Well told tale. Persuasive, goodness knows. Maybe even partially correct, who knows, since we're facing the consequences of climate change on our civilization and they aren't good. They're only going to get worse, too. So who do we look to for models of how to change our food production? Anyway, the 2007 revision isn't different in any significant way to the 1997 version and you'll get a lot out of reading it. I still think the 2005 PBS version is the easiest to absorb because there are no awful dreary tables and the pretty pictures are pretty. Plus, let's face it, Peter Coyote sounds great. But do absorb the information somehow. This horror movie is real and will be your grandchildren's reality if you live in the "First World" now.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Having read Charles C. Mann's 1491 immediately before Guns, Germs, and Steel, I was all-too aware of the dated nature of many of Diamond's assumptions about the New World. (And therefore I would highly recommend 1491 to anyone interested in learning about the latest and greatest developments in knowledge concerning the early history of the Americas.) This seed of doubt concerning the accuracy of Diamond's assumptions about the Americas prevented me from fully appreciating what he had to say abou Having read Charles C. Mann's 1491 immediately before Guns, Germs, and Steel, I was all-too aware of the dated nature of many of Diamond's assumptions about the New World. (And therefore I would highly recommend 1491 to anyone interested in learning about the latest and greatest developments in knowledge concerning the early history of the Americas.) This seed of doubt concerning the accuracy of Diamond's assumptions about the Americas prevented me from fully appreciating what he had to say about the histories of the other continents, of which I am even less familiar. True, the theories promoted in Diamond's book are not disrupted by the accuracy of details concerning the peoples and societies under discussion, but this raises another concern for me: the theories are so generalized, they don't suffer for the potential inaccuracy of described events. In other words, instead of starting with objective histories (and or/references to ongoing research into such histories), the book starts with a central premise and cites historical examples to support that theory. The central theory may be summarized as follows: * People with agriculture can produce food surpluses * Food surpluses can support larger populations * People located in geographical areas with animals to domesticate were able to use such animals for labor as well as meat * Large populations with food surpluses can support artisans and bureaucrats * Artisans and bureaucrats lead to more complex social structures and technical innovations (tools, weapons, metallurgy) * Dense populations (especially those with domestic animals) contract and evolve immunities to germs and diseases * Eurasian populations, due to favorable conditions for agriculture and their head-start on many other populations around the globe, acquired the "guns, germs, and steel" to conquer populations lacking the equivalent weaponry, diseases, and technology. While the central premise makes general sense, I think it's important to acknowledge that it represents a generality, and thus offers an over-simplified view of human history. Considering the fact that this book leans so heavily on theory, I am surprised that book stores typically shelve it in History and Science sections, rather than Philosophy. After that long disclaimer, I can say that the overall content was interesting. I especially enjoyed the section about the process of domesticating plants and animals. It had never really occurred to me that some plants and animals simply cannot be domesticated, or that the yields of some plants made the domestication of others less desirable or completely unnecessary.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    THIS BOOK ATTEMPTS TO PROVIDE A SHORT HISTORY OF EVERYbody for the last 13,000 years. The question motivating the book is: Why did history unfold differently on different continents?... Diamond immediately takes great pains to shoot down any ideas of one race being more intelligent than another. Yes, some thought so, but they've been refuted for long enough that I thought he belabored the point. This section does introduce us to his method of argument which is to set up straw men & knock them THIS BOOK ATTEMPTS TO PROVIDE A SHORT HISTORY OF EVERYbody for the last 13,000 years. The question motivating the book is: Why did history unfold differently on different continents?... Diamond immediately takes great pains to shoot down any ideas of one race being more intelligent than another. Yes, some thought so, but they've been refuted for long enough that I thought he belabored the point. This section does introduce us to his method of argument which is to set up straw men & knock them down. I don't care for it much since the questions aren't always honest or complete. Eurasia is an iffy area for Diamond's purposes. It often includes northern Africa, but generally not eastern Asia or northern Europe. This makes sense in the context of the plant & animal species available to the humans of the time. Eurasia had the most species of both that could readily be domesticated. Of all the plants, only a few were readily domesticated. In Eurasia, the number made for a critical mass which led to earlier civilization. Giving up hunter-gatherer often isn't an advantage to individuals, but is to the tribes/clans as a whole. More food reserves, more specialization (leaders, soldiers, farmers), better able & pressure to compete & share discoveries. It's amazing how few plants & animals can be domesticated - only 14 large animals by his count. There isn't that much megafauna (animals generally averaging over 100 lbs) that early man didn't wipe out & most of those evolved with man. They survived because they learned early & well to fear & avoid or live with us. In almost every case where they didn't, such as in Australia & the Americas, they went extinct shortly after we showed up. Successful domestication is based on the Anna Karenina Syndrome, a name given due to the first line of the novel. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. IOW, a happy family has many things right while it only takes one of any number of things to make an unhappy one. Plants & animals must have everything right to become domesticated, especially early on. Wheat needed very little modification & we domesticated it (or vice versa) very early while we still don't domesticate oaks because they take so long to mature, breeding characteristics*, & it's so hard to economically pick their acorns due to their size & competition with other animals. (* A complex of genes controls tannin production, so it's very difficult to breed a non-bitter acorn. If only 1 gene were in control, we might have domesticated them (pecans) even if it were a recessive one. Oaks just had too many things wrong.) The proximity to animals & each other also led to more disease. The originating groups of humans survived with immunity, but when they met another group without similar immunity, the new group was often wiped out. Obvious examples are the natives of the Americas & the spread by Europeans of small pox & other diseases. Eurasia also had the most contiguous land along generally the same latitude. This helped spread domesticated plants, animals, diseases, & ideas. North to south, like sub-Saharan Africa or Mexico to South America, is a problem since temperature, hours of daylight, & general climate varies too greatly for many plants & animals to survive a slow expansion across them. While humans could adapt to environments from desert to jungle, their plants, animals, inventions, & diseases often couldn't/didn't. Different environments also slowed humans so not only weren't inventions spread, but there wasn't the pressure to develop/adopt new methods or die. Sub-Saharan Africa is considered an entirely separate area, almost a continent of its own, from northern Africa in terms of evolution. Australia, New Zealand, & Tasmania were all distinct from the rest of the world & even each other. So, the answer to the central question is civilizations developed differently due to their environments: 1) The number & variety of plants & animals that were available to domesticate. 2) The ease of diffusion & migration within the continent & 3) between continents. 4) Continental population size. He really should add a 5th - plain luck. As he points out, in the early 15th century, China was ready to explore the world, but political infighting in their unified government killed the exploration party almost a century before Columbus set out. While Columbus was originally turned down, he had multiple governments to try, one of which eventually opened the doors to expansion which led to many of them - all European - competing around the globe to grab the prizes. The audio edition of this book is abridged, although I hadn't realized that when I started listening & it sure seemed long enough. It wasn't until I got the ebook to see some of the maps & reread certain sections that I realized how much had been cut out. Just the epilogue of the ebook seems to cover the subject matter well enough. Table Of Contents: Prologue: Yali's Question: The regionally differing courses of history 13 Ch. 1 Up to the Starting Line: What happened on all the continents before 11,000 B.C.? 35 Ch. 2 A Natural Experiment of History: How geography molded societies on Polynesian islands 53 Ch. 3 Collision at Cajamarca: Why the Inca emperor Atahuallpa did not capture King Charles I of Spain 67 Ch. 4 Farmer Power: The roots of guns, germs, and steel 85 Ch. 5 History's Haves and Have-Nots: Geographic differences in the onset of food production 93 Ch. 6 To Farm or Not to Farm: Causes of the spread of food production 104 Ch. 7 How to Make an Almond: The unconscious development of ancient crops 114 Ch. 8 Apples or Indians: Why did peoples of some regions fail to domesticate plants? 131 Ch. 9 Zebras, Unhappy Marriages, and the Anna Karenina Principle: Why were most big wild mammal species never domesticated? 157 Ch. 10 Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes: Why did food production spread at different rates on different continents? 176 Ch. 11 Lethal Gift of Livestock: The evolution of germs 195 Ch. 12 Blueprints and Borrowed Letters: The evolution of writing 215 Ch. 13 Necessity's Mother: The evolution of technology 239 Ch. 14 From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy: The evolution of government and religion 265 Ch. 15 Yali's People: The histories of Australia and New Guinea 295 Ch. 16 How China became Chinese: The history of East Asia 322 Ch. 17 Speedboat to Polynesia: The history of the Austronesian expansion 334 Ch. 18 Hemispheres Colliding: The histories of Eurasia and the Americas compared 354 Ch. 19 How Africa became Black: The history of Africa 376 Epilogue: The Future of Human It's important to remember that this book was first published in 1997, before the mapping of the human genome & subsequent discoveries which invalidated many of the hypothesis that he mentions, such as parallel evolution, & has nailed down our origins & migrations across the globe far more accurately. His synopsis & maunderings in the beginning are interesting only from a historic point of view, although he seems to pretty much have the basics right, so it doesn't invalidate his later conclusions. It does stretch that section out a lot, though. It's cool to see how well a different science has nailed down so many questions & in such a short time. Overall, very good, but a bit dated & long. Grover Gardner did a great job reading this & I'd suggest the abridged version backed by a book since the maps help & reading more in some areas was good.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Radhika

    I give this book 4 stars because it has some very interesting ideas that provoke thought and inquiry. It also offers plausible explanations that often ring true. I don't give it 5 stars because it suffers from certain drawbacks. I love his analysis and interpretation of causes that show why civilization arose variously in diverse and distinct locations of the planet. I love how his causes make sense. His rejection of race-based politics is quite clear. I like how his explanations lead us to reexa I give this book 4 stars because it has some very interesting ideas that provoke thought and inquiry. It also offers plausible explanations that often ring true. I don't give it 5 stars because it suffers from certain drawbacks. I love his analysis and interpretation of causes that show why civilization arose variously in diverse and distinct locations of the planet. I love how his causes make sense. His rejection of race-based politics is quite clear. I like how his explanations lead us to reexamine patriotism, nationality, group affiliation, judgment of other cultures... There is definitely a lot to learn and what better way to learn than from someone who loves to learn/teach by engaging. Contrary to another reader on goodreads, I couldn't wait to get to the "around the world" chapters. That is what the book was building towards in my opinion. Towards explaining why the world today looks like it does. Jared Diamond is not much into referencing materials which is strange given that he is an academic. One could claim that this book is written for a wider audience and is meant to be more approachable and if so, Diamond makes some very bald statements which are very hard to substantiate in the absence of citations. For instance, his claim that the hard sciences look down upon softer sciences like history. I heard similar claims in graduate school. But where is the evidence for such claims and should they be taken seriously if there isn't supporting scientific evidence for it? I don't doubt that such evidence may exist if he makes the statement but I have a hard time as a reader who needs more proof. He makes a similar bald assertion towards the front of the book about the prevalence of race-based explanations for differences in development which again I know exist based on similar conversations but which I would never take seriously anyway, unless someone could show it to me using science. There is a lot of redundancy in the book. The four major causes are drummed, driven and pummeled into one. A different organization of the book could have lead to less redundancy and more salient communication of points. That said, he does still get his points across. Lovely pictures in the book. The maps and tables are a little thin on resources but the author tries to provide a reading list toward the end of the book for each chapter. The PBS show based on his book more pithily stated and demonstrated the unequal distribution of material wealth, health and resources around the globe and made clear who has benefited and at whose expense. It is not very often that any westerner, let alone an academic has so openly shown through their work how viciously parts of the human race have treated certain other parts of it. His book does make me want to go further back and look also at what lead to racial distinctions in the first place. In the new edition of the book, there is an especially interesting chapter on Japan and the Japanese people and language and how they might be Korean in ethnicity. This may not go down well with a Japanese audience with their extreme nationalism and their emphasis on superiority over neighboring cultures. However, it is perfectly plausible and a fascinating read. -- www.aprilandradsdiablog.blogspot.com

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Did you ever wonder if there is a certain inevitability in the way world history has evolved? Jared Diamond argues, in effect, that the giant Eurasian continent (Europe and Asia combined) was predestined to take over the world. Everything conspired in its favor: climate, vegetation, population distribution, mineral resources and even bacteria. Compare Eurasia and Australia, for example, and you find that when humans evolved to the point of beginning agriculture, Eurasia had dozens of varieties o Did you ever wonder if there is a certain inevitability in the way world history has evolved? Jared Diamond argues, in effect, that the giant Eurasian continent (Europe and Asia combined) was predestined to take over the world. Everything conspired in its favor: climate, vegetation, population distribution, mineral resources and even bacteria. Compare Eurasia and Australia, for example, and you find that when humans evolved to the point of beginning agriculture, Eurasia had dozens of varieties of natural grains that could feed humans and a dozen potential draft and food animals. Australia had only two puny proto-grains and no potential draft animals. No contest. Eurasia developed settled agriculture, food surpluses, dense populations, cities and complex social organizations. Due to climate and landform zones, Eurasian civilizations were then able to share inventions and culture with each other by trade or conquest, whereas complex civilizations that developed elsewhere, such as those of the Aztecs and Incas, remained relatively isolated. Even the types of germs conspired to "favor" European and Asian expansion. The virulent types of bacteria that developed among dense human populations in interaction with animal populations wiped out low-density indigenous societies on other continents when Europeans explored and settled new lands. On the other hand, non-Eurasian germs brought back from Africa and the New World had little impact in Eurasia. Even if you don't agree with the hypothesis, Diamond has given us a fact-crammed, yet very readable book that won a Pulitzer Prize.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cody VC

    I will say this: he makes some interesting points about geographical and geological determinism and the potential validity thereof. Everything else, however, is basically shit. The Pulitzer this book got must have been the world's biggest and most expensive A for effort. Diamond writes in his introduction that a multi-discipline effort "would be doomed from the outset, because the essence of the problem is to develop a unified synthesis. That consideration dictates single authorship, despite all I will say this: he makes some interesting points about geographical and geological determinism and the potential validity thereof. Everything else, however, is basically shit. The Pulitzer this book got must have been the world's biggest and most expensive A for effort. Diamond writes in his introduction that a multi-discipline effort "would be doomed from the outset, because the essence of the problem is to develop a unified synthesis. That consideration dictates single authorship, despite all the difficulties it poses." He does go on to mention "guidance from many colleagues," but even so this makes no goddamn sense (p. 26). It is actually possible to find people across disciplines who agree on a single theory - like, say, gravity. I'm using theory in the scientific sense here, where the fact of gravity's existence is obvious but there needs to be a framework of mechanical explanation - and this framework has the potential to be proven wrong. That doesn't change the fact of gravity's existence, it just means that one person's (or several people's) proposed explanation of its mechanics was misconceived. You can see similar approaches in the field of history. What this boils down to is, Diamond is saying right in the bloody introduction to the whole book that he was the only one who could do this glorious project and he didn't want to bring other people in because they might not agree with every single thing he's saying. GOD FORBID. This book would have benefited from multiple authorship, particularly a partnership with someone who had some actual experience with historical research and thinking, because the incessant lazy errors are impressively offensive - Diamond keeps predicating his argument on such and such historical facts, but the facts he's using are flawed and wrong. Take his chapter on the Spanish invasion of the Americas. First off, he calls the indigenous naive like the extinct megafauna of the previous chapter - I'm not kidding, he uses that exact word and that exact comparison to animals; for somebody who's so avowedly anti-racist that's a fucking awful rhetorical tactic - but the academic offense is that his primary sources for the capture of Inca leader Atahuallapa are, as far as I can tell, Spanish letters to the king and Spanish personal journals. That's it. (Nothing is properly cited in this book, which is another cringe point.) Even a high school student could tell you that you should use and cite primary sources from multiple sides of an event, cite your secondary sources, and use some goddamn critical thinking. If you look at the Inca sources, sure there's some conflicting accounts - same goes for the Spanish - but what's obvious is that they weren't naive. Diamond asserts that Atahuallpa had bad information and it was an obvious trap supported by the advantages of Spanish literacy, but if you look at all the sources the situation is more that he had the right information but chose to be diplomatic in the Incan tradition. Pizarro was just a dick. (Diamond is right about the significance of germs, but that part's a gimme.) There are a lot of fundamentally flawed arguments like that - e.g. pre-invasion indigenous people on the coast of Australia being described as totally isolated even though the historical record shows them as being brilliant sailors and the numerous islands between Australia and the Asian mainland are reachable by walking in places, or talking about the easy dispersal of animals/crops across a continental "axis" of north/south or east/west despite huge mountain ranges and climate differences across the terrain like in Asia - and his broader assertions are also seriously problematic. Like when he's discussing the supposed advantages of the written word (completely dismissive of pictographs and no mention of signed languages, of course) he name-checks Chinese and Japanese but otherwise devotes his syllabic-complexity argument to Roman-alphabet languages. Which, no. Focusing on the languages that are easiest for you to understand is far from persuasive. (To say nothing of the historical errors in that chapter as well.) And then there's smaller things like the series of photographs of people, all not white and mostly wearing indigenous clothing and unsmiling expressions, which is totally unnecessary - if Diamond's "objection to such racist explanations [of sociocultural differences vis-a-vis a western capitalist definition of success] are is not just that they are loathsome, but also that they are wrong," then what the fuck are these pictures doing in here (p. 19)? Why does it matter what these oh so poor, less successful people look like? Jesus christ. I could go on and discuss the further problem of his trying to fit history into a science framework, when the two have different approaches for a reason - which is, of course, not to say that the philosophies and conclusions of one can't support the other - but I think the point of Diamond's colossal hubris and scholarly failure has been sufficiently made for this review. (There are critical essays by people more professionally accomplished and generally articulate than myself out there.) Is this the worst book ever? No. But it's still a fucking waste of space.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Bastian

    “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” What do Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Francisco Pizarro have in common? Apart from their status as European countrymen, it was the fortuitous confluence of guns, microbes and steel technology which all but ensured their success at colonizing regions occupied by peoples who lacked such historical fulcrums. It should “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” What do Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Francisco Pizarro have in common? Apart from their status as European countrymen, it was the fortuitous confluence of guns, microbes and steel technology which all but ensured their success at colonizing regions occupied by peoples who lacked such historical fulcrums. It should be unsurprising, given this lethal mixture of offense, why invading states comprised of so few have been able to conquer, kill or otherwise displace indigenous societies comprised of so many. These asymmetrical collisions suffuse human history, and it’s no secret that its retelling lends specific favor to Eurasian societies rather than those of other landmasses. In Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond, famed anthropologist and author of The Third Chimpanzee, seeks to answer why history unfolded so differently among the various continents. Not contented with the proximate explanations above, Diamond forages deeper to uncover the ultimate explanations of why some societies procured that fateful triumvirate and why others did not. Pointedly then, why does history record Francisco Pizarro and his confederates storming the Inca Empire and capturing Emperor Atahuallpa in that momentous 1532 collision at Cajamarca instead of Atahuallpa and his band of warriors sailing east, assaulting the Spanish Empire and seizing King Charles I? Were there initial conditions which facilitated the depopulation of so much of the New World by so few of the Old? Traditional solutions to these questions have revolved around genetic differences or innate disparities in race and intelligence, and it is these traditional explanations which Diamond hopes to sweep away. With a starting point at the tail end of the last ice age circa 13,000 years ago, Diamond takes a holistic approach to deconstructing the broad patterns of history. This is no picnic of a task. As Diamond himself points out, compressing 13,000 years of tightly coiled history into roughly 400 pages works out to “an average of about one page per continent per 150 years, making brevity and simplification inevitable.” (p. 408). To Diamond’s great credit, Guns, Germs, and Steel represents the metamorphosis of a topic of impenetrable scope into a cohesive, persuasive and not overly prolix piece of historical literature. He begins by surveying the natural differences among the continents, noting the variations in ecological and biological diversity as well as the orientations of the main axes of the continents, all of which had deep import for the evolution of complex human societies, namely the divergence of larger food-producing cultures from smaller bands of hunter-gatherers. As it turns out, the last ice age played a significant role in the course of our story. Compared with all other natural disasters, ice ages tend to have the most severe and lasting effects on the planet, dramatically disrupting not only climate but the chain of animal and plant life struggling to adapt to the changing circumstances. The Pleistocene drove countless of the planet's large mammals to extinction, especially those indigenous to North America and Australia. Europe and Asia, on the other hand, suffered fewer local extinction events of their large animal species. Following the upheavals of the Pleistocene, a full thirteen of the major fourteen domestic mammals were confined to Eurasia. This propitious outcome presented more options for animal domestication (defined as the regulation of an animal's breeding and food supply). “Thus, part of the explanation for Eurasia’s having been the main site of big mammal domestication is that it was the continent with the most candidate species of wild mammals to start with, and lost the fewest candidates to extinction in the last 40,000 years.” (p. 163). Of equal importance is the inequality of wild plant species distributed across the global landscape. Here again, one contender is lopsidedly advantaged in terms of ecological and topographical diversity. Home to the highest seasonal variation as well as the largest zones of temperate Mediterranean climate, Eurasia is saturated with the most diverse plant life. “The Fertile Crescent and other parts of western Eurasia’s Mediterranean zone offered a huge selection to incipient farmers: 32 of the world’s 56 prize wild grasses. That fact alone goes a long way toward explaining the course of human history.” (p. 139). Diamond discusses in detail the cultural shift from hunting and gathering to food-producing, emphasizing throughout that it was a gradual process. For those regions amenable to a new and more structured way of life, crop farming and pastoralism offered several benefits over the legacy lifestyle in terms of time, effort and payout. This precipitated an incremental transition from complete dependence on wild foods to a diet mainly supported by agriculture. Peoples inhabiting less fortunate regions of the globe either carried on as nomadic hunter-gatherers or were displaced by invading farmers. Australia is perhaps the best example: as the most infertile and biologically most impoverished of the continents, it has contained the largest population of hunter-gatherers into the modern era. To illustrate the attendant, socially formative benefits of food production, Diamond enlists the reader on a voyage of deductive reasoning to link the various feedback loops at play. In low-res, highly paraphrased form, it can be sketched as follows: Whereas the hunter-gatherer existence was nomadic, food production gave rise to more sedentary societies. Farming also created food surpluses, which provided for denser human populations. With increases in human densities came a greater variety of roles to be filled within the community, facilitating the appearance of social hierarchy and political structure. At the same time, denser settlements meant more potential for crafting metal tools, inventing writing systems, and pioneering other technological leaps, while sedentism allowed for more time devoted to innovation and skill specialization. In this way, food production served as a springboard for human innovation, which then radiated to surrounding populations. As the landmass with the most navigable terrain, Eurasia benefited its inhabitants by helping ease the spread of agricultural and other developments. When neighboring cultures convened to trade their goods and wares, technology and ideas were also exchanged, fostering competitive one-upsmanship and ratchet-scale modernization that would eventually sweep the region. Even more critical, when famine and other climate-triggered anomalies struck, Eurasia’s potential for east-west migration ensured that previous developments were maintained and that generational improvements in technology and social complexity kept marching onward. The Invisible Ally For all of its benefactions, the advent of agriculture around 8500 BCE sponsored a most pestilential side effect: increased human exposure to deadly microbes living inside domesticated animals and plants. Food-producing societies evolved resistances to these pathogens over time, or they were wiped out. First contact with foreign germs can upset the balance of a society more than any other contributing factor, and this is exactly what happened when colonizing agricultural societies encountered natives who did not share their immunities. This was, in fact, the most important factor for each of the major collisions throughout history, including the fall of the millions-strong Aztec Empire by Cortes and his mere 600 men, as well as the largest population shift in all of human history: the initial 20 million North American indigenes being reduced by 95% in a matter of a century as a result of European conquest. In terms of their contribution to human depopulation, germs should clearly precede both guns and steel in the book's title. In sharp contrast with the heavily race-dependent, empirically vacuous speculations still in circulation, Diamond's core idea is that geographic advantage proved the decisive factor in shaping the major outlines of history. Diamond links dominant cultures to the largest native palettes of domesticable biota and to the regions most congenial to technological diffusion. Thus while literacy, political organization, firearms, advanced ship technology and infectious disease represent the proximate causes of Pizarro's overthrow of the Inca Empire, Vasco da Gama's success in East Africa, and countless other population shifts throughout history, Diamond insists it was their ancestors' home turf and enduring success in cultivating the local flora and fauna which sit at the bedrock of history's narrative. As is the case with any work of this breadth, any implied monolithic pattern is fraught with qualification. Diamond is careful to mention caveats throughout, such as some of the difficulties involved with homogenizing Eurasia into a unified landmass. He notes that food production should not be synonymous with monotonic progress in any one category, referencing the Japanese injunction against firearms and China's decommission of its maritime fleet in past centuries. The many nuances introduced throughout are a testament to Diamond's attention to detail and responsible scholarship. Closing Thoughts One of the most fascinating gifts of history lies in the interactions among past peoples and their ripple effects down through the ages. Guns, Germs, and Steel sits above the vault of human history, providing first-stage explanations to account for its winners and losers. To a great extent, it furnishes a new hermeneutical lens by which to view history, or at the very least a soak test for assessing historical anecdotes. While Diamond was not the first to connect environmental factors to ruling states, GGS is one of the greatest syntheses of the encompassing subject matter released to date. He debunks with crack empiricism the alternative, largely racist hypotheses for history's manifest imbalance of power, leaving a soundly reasoned case in their stead. I can only add to the avalanche of praise that has been directed toward this book. Guns, Germs, and Steel has forever changed the way I view history and make sense of modern society. It is an academic read, to be sure, but I found it optimally dense so as not to turn away readers less interested in every detail. Some have dispraised Diamond's repetition of common themes, but I personally found this helpful as it allowed the material to ossify more easily in my mind. The book also serves as a model of scientific rigor, with each chapter fastidiously referenced in the ending bibliography. If I had my say, this would be standard high school reading across the country. GGS makes the short list of books which demand to be read at least once. Polymathic in scope, unwavering in its cogency, Diamond has penned a major contribution to our historical understanding which has stood the test of time. I only wished I had read it sooner. Note: This review is republished from my official website. Click through for additional footnotes and imagery.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Curtis Abbott

    Before buying and reading this book, I read some reviews, and frankly, they didn't inspire me. They talked about it being a history of the world, they talked about its immense, ambitious scope. Such talk causes my crap detectors to tingle. I did finally buy it after reading a laudatory review by someone I respect. And I'm glad I did, because I found it to be absolutely top notch. The phrase "history of the world" misguides because the book is entirely about pre-history. The story it tells is his Before buying and reading this book, I read some reviews, and frankly, they didn't inspire me. They talked about it being a history of the world, they talked about its immense, ambitious scope. Such talk causes my crap detectors to tingle. I did finally buy it after reading a laudatory review by someone I respect. And I'm glad I did, because I found it to be absolutely top notch. The phrase "history of the world" misguides because the book is entirely about pre-history. The story it tells is historical in nature, but since it is about societies for which we have no written histories, the nature of the evidence is different, and that is one key to its value. The book is a superb assemblage of evidence from different disciplines, mainly genetic analysis, archeology (including non-human fossil evidence), and linguistics, with a smattering of anthropology. This evidence is woven – with original analysis – into a story of early human history. The result is a story that isn't always pretty but that hangs together well and seems better defended – hence more believable – than I would have thought possible. I suppose this is the origin of those "ambitious scope" comments in the reviews I distrusted. I could not have imagined before reading this book that so much about human pre-history could be inferred. The writing is strong as well: cogent, well paced, never overbearing. Diamond has a gift not only for writing clearly, but for helping you to understand why you should care. For example, even though his scope includes inference of pre-historical migrations and developments (both cultural and technological) throughout the world, he organizes his presentation in terms of a trenchant theme – why did the European cultures win out over so many others? Why did the Europeans colonize Africa, South America, and so on? Why didn't the Bushmen, or the Australians, or the Incas invade Europe? And this gift extends to well-chosen personal anecdotes from Diamond's rather unusual life. He personalizes the key question (why the Europeans won) by having it come from the mouth of a Papuan politician who buttonholes Diamond on a beach, asking why the Europeans have so much "cargo" and the New Guineans so little. He illustrates the challenges of Australia by telling stories of his own adventures there as well as those of some Europeans (who died there) in the 19th Century. By bringing together evidence from a number of disciplines, synthesizing it, and writing about it in an accessible way, Diamond has done something important. It has always been said that the reason to pay attention to history is to learn more about who we are. I believe that this book can be even more powerful in that endeavor because of the vast period (13000 years) and scope (the whole world) it covers, even though the lack of a written record limits the amount of detail. I for one found it stimulating, eye-opening, maybe even life changing.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.