Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the peoples of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their peoples. This edition includes a new chapter on Japan and all-new illustrations drawn from the television series. Until around 11,000 BC, all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers. At that point, a great divide occurred in the rates that human societies evolved. In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders. As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and geography. But how did differences in societies arise? Why weren't native Australians, Americans, or Africans the ones to colonize Europe? Diamond dismantles pernicious racial theories tracing societal differences to biological differences. He assembles convincing evidence linking germs to domestication of animals, germs that Eurasians then spread in epidemic proportions in their voyages of discovery. In its sweep, Guns, Germs and Steel encompasses the rise of agriculture, technology, writing, government, and religion, providing a unifying theory of human history as intriguing as the histories of dinosaurs and glaciers.
Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a densely written but at times informally voiced theory of the rise and fall of civilization. Beginning with the last Ice Age and working his way through thousands of years, Diamond explores the shift from the hunter-gatherer society to agrarian settlements. In this broad but lengthy look at history, Diamond posits that the key to the evolution of the human race lies solely in geography.
At the time of writing Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond was a geography professor at UCLA, but his academic background—which is evident in his work—is varied: He has studied anthropology, history, physiology, biophysics, ornithology, ecology, and an environmental history. While his education is extensive, his theory is narrow and limited, dismissing any biological differences between people groups. As in all academic theories, the author puts forth a hypothesis and presents evidence that could strictly support his theory, generalizing and glossing over that evidence which does not fit his view. Diamond’s theory negates human ingenuity, ideas, and drive and relegates the advance of certain peoples and the subjugation of others to mere happenstance and geographical forces.
As a history of the evolution of agriculture—particularly the history of food production and domestication of animals—and of the organization of people groups, the book is weighty but brilliant. As an explanation of human endeavor, cultural differences, and the rise and fall of civilizations, Guns, Germs, and Steel is shortsighted, moralistic in tone, and filled with pure supposition.
Recommended for those interested in the evolution of agriculture and the organization of people groups, with the caveat that the book is filled with more opinion than fact regarding the rise and fall of human civilizations