Read Guns, Germs, and Steel Online by Jared Diamond
Click Here to Download the Book In this artful, informative, and delightful book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.
Reviews Guns, Germs, and Steel Book Review Rebekah Wolinsky In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that environmental and geographical factors have shaped the "broadest trend in history," the dominance of some groups of people over others. By using archeological evidence, he develops an evaluation of the correlations between environment, food production, and superiority. Though his theories may appear convincing, there are several weaknesses, such as contradicting claims, failure to incorporate factors such as religion and creativeness, and failure to explain exceptions and recent trends. These are important factors that Diamond seems to leave out. An example of one weakness lies in the science underlying Diamondâ€™s argument. The strengths of his argument are the historical dates and archeological evidence that shows the presence of certain crops, animals, and items. However, where would his reasoning explaining the correlations between food production, guns, germs, steel, and geography stand if the dates proved false? The dates of domestication that he gets his diffusion patterns from are based on radiocarbon dating. However, this method has several weaknesses such as contamination and the impact of changing atmospheric conditions. Also, Diamond's argument has limitations in explaining modern history. For example, during the era of New Imperialism, disease played little role in European victory. Whereas political disunity, not a product of geography, of the indigenous states played a really important role. Furthermore, the world wars were waged between the European powers, and therefore, political actions and roles of individual, rather than guns, germs, and steel, were the main determinant of the war. Finally, we need to consider if Diamond's argument will be applicable in the future as we are altering our environment at an extremely fast rate. Diamond provides us with a useful method of evaluating the early rise of civilizations on the Eurasian landmass. However, I feel that our ever-increasing complex world cannot be explained in terms of food production and diffusion of crops. Therefore, I feel that Diamondâ€™s views do not apply to the modern society in which we live today.
Jared Diamond has catapulted himself to the status of America's most well-known contemporary popular scientist, and this was the book that is responsible for it. Much has been written and discussed on Diamond's theory/thesis in Guns, Germs, and Steel so I will only briefly recap.
According to Diamond, the nature of global wealth and poverty, inequality, and conquest came about as both direct and indirect result of the geography upon which societies rested. Certain areas of the world, such as the Fertile Crescent and most of Europe, eastern China, and Central America, simply have greater value for crop cultivation than other parts of the world, such as Australia and Siberia. Following the domestication of certain crops in various parts of the world (such as rice in Asia, wheat and barley in the Middle East, and corn and squash in the Americas), humans began domesticating animals - as animals proved extremely useful by providing humans with additional sources of food (meat and milk) as well as useful products such as leather or wool, and (most important of all) a vital source of labor. Beasts of burden such as horses and oxen were used to till the land and as a means of transportation. Animal excrement yielded greater crops by serving as fertilizer. The domino effect continues...More food led to a growing population. A growing population led to establishment of larger and larger towns, and eventually cities. Such a massive amount of people living in close proximity to one another and animals led to epidemic disease outbreaks (a la chicken pox, measels, mumps, and the bubonic plague) - although humans gradually built up a resistance to these diseases through the biological principle of natural selection. Larger populations of people led to increased social chaos, hence a need for social control - which brings about the rise of formal governments to keep tabs on the population and to raise armies to protect the society from both internal and external threats. Also, because agriculture became quite intensive, only a portion of the population was now needed as farmers; freed from the burden of growing and harvesting crops, the rest of the people had ample time to explore other avenues and accumulate growing amounts of information about the world (leading to development of science). Science then takes off, enhancing virtually all aspects of human life (military weapons and technology, navigation, calendar, environmental knowledge, etc.) At this time, societies have become full-fledged states, which faced no significant resistance or challenge from the hunting-gathering and chiefdom societies that lacked damn near everything I have pointed out in this paragraph. Thus, Diamond accounts for the social/historical/geographical differences that have distinguished the world's haves (Western Europe, China, ancient Egypt, the Aztecs) from the have-nots. Amazingly, Diamond has encountered emotional backlash from both conservatives and liberals for this thesis. Conservatives bemoan the fact that Diamond does not take "culture" into account (essentially arguing that it was the "cultural superiority" of Western Europeans that enabled them to conquer the world, not geography). Funny thing is, the last time I checked, food production and cultivation ARE, INDEED, aspects and dimensions of culture. (Right wingers are incorrect to claim that Diamond does not attribute culture enough credit; what they really mean to say is that Diamond doesn't credit certain ASPECTS of culture, like religion or government). Liberals, on the other hand, have blasted Diamond as a simple Eco-determinist who pays no attention to human agency and innovation (at times issuing arguments that parallel those of conservatives). Many have questioned or dismissed Diamond's idea as simplistic, but I think his central thesis is important and has many more strengths than weaknesses. Critics point out that some of the world's most fertile and productive land today failed to produce great and powerful civilizations in the past (the most often-cited example of this is the Plains Indians of the midwest and the Indians of present-day California). However, this criticism reveals that the readers did not pay attention to detail in what Diamond is arguing. Diamond NEVER stated that land is SOLELY responsible for the rise and fall of civilizations. He points out that land is a starting point, but is never an end point (an important designation that the Diamond haters fail to acknowledge). Equally important is the availability of domesticated animals, particularly beasts of burden, and the contributions they give to society. The Plains Indians and the California Indians, for example, had no domesticated beasts of burden to facilitate the intensification of agriculture. The horse was not introduced until European arrival. This is definitely a must-read book. Take a look at it and judge for yourself. Guns, Germs, and Steel is one of the most important and influential books written in the past decade.
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