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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies [Kindle Edition]

Jared Diamond
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (683 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Amazon

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

From Library Journal

Most of this work deals with non-Europeans, but Diamond's thesis sheds light on why Western civilization became hegemonic: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves." Those who domesticated plants and animals early got a head start on developing writing, government, technology, weapons of war, and immunity to deadly germs. (LJ 2/15/97)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2093 KB
  • Print Length: 488 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B000KISQC6
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (Oct. 23 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (683 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #606 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This intriguing and expansive book gathers knowledge from a number of fields (archaeology, anthropology, ecology, evolutionary biology, horticulture, and more). Its novelty is not in the details, any of which can be found in other books, but in the synthesis of 13,000 years' worth of human history. Diamond argues that many (but not all) of "the striking differences between the long-term histories of peoples of the different continents have been due not to innate differences in the people themselves but to differences in their environments."
Diamond covers so much material that any attempt at summary would be imprecise. The sections I found most compelling dealt with agriculture and animal husbandry--two topics that would have probably induced sleep if covered by another author. For example, he presents the fascinating background that the dominant five "large" domesticated mammals--sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and horses--originated in central Eurasia (and that no easily domesticated, large mammals were available, for example, to North Americans or Australians); that these animals include the world's only widespread "beasts of burden," giving their human handlers additional advantages in mobility and farming; and that most of the world's lethal diseases resulted from proximity to the barnyard, gradually providing Eurasians with immunity to illnesses that later wiped out entire societies upon first exposure. The minor mammals (camels, llamas, reindeer) were too limited by geography and climate to affect the course of history outside their confines. As for zebras, bears, giraffes, tigers, hippos--to this day, nobody has been able to domesticate them.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history of humanity's past 13,000 years Dec 28 2003
How did the West grow rich and conquer the world? It
wasn't racial superiority, as the Victorians thought - indeed, Diamond
gives evidence that the average New Guinean may well be smarter
than the average Westerner. His own one-sentence summary of the
book is: "History followed different courses for different peoples
because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of
biological differences among the peoples themselves"[clunk]. Or, it's the
environment, stupid. Or, the West got lucky.
I'm uncomfortable with history-as-polemics, but Diamond (usually)
keeps his facts and interpretations pretty well separated. And this is a
wonderful one-volume history of the human race. It is unusual, and
refreshing, to read a history written by a distinguished and literate
biological scientist. History isn't generally considered to be science -
"it's just one damn thing after another." But then, you could say the
same for large parts of astronomy, biology & geology.
13,000 years ago, the most recent Ice Age was ending, and people
everywhere still made their living as hunter-gatherers. Diamond starts
his story at the dawn of civilization. By Chapter 3, he's recounting
Pizarro's conquest of the Inca empire in 1532. In an afternoon, 168
Spanish soldiers routed an army of 80,000, killed 7,000, and captured
the Inca emperor. It's not surprising that the Spaniards would feel
superior. But the conquistadores' invisible allies had been at work
since 1492 - smallpox from Spain had killed the previous Inca emperor
and his heir, setting off a war of succession that fatally weakened the
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for all types of readers. July 12 2004
I read this book purely for pleasure, unlike a lot of people I know who have read it for class or as part of an academic exercise. I simply like to pick a book that will challenge me in between fiction books. This book did not disappoint.
This is a rare work in that it can appeal to academics and pleasure readers. The knowledge and research behind the concepts in the book are complex and detailed, but Diamond does such an excellent job of explaining things, that you can easily sometimes forget the vast amount of information that he had to assimilate in order to put forth this hypothesis.
There are also two main points from the book that I took. One is the merely academic and scientific data that you learn from the book. I do not have a science, anthropologic, or linguistic background, so I learned a great deal from this book. But secondly, there is a very clear goal of this book to discount the foundations of racism. This is a lesson that every reader from this book can take with them and actually use in real life. I was struck at how this book can have such a dual purpose, and this makes it truly unique in my opinion.
Sure, there are vast generalizations that are made in a work such as this, just as there are in any history book, but this book has excellent points, is well researched, and makes solid arguments. I would definitely read another book by Jared Diamond and will definitely not forget the lessons I learned in this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Better Histories of Human Civilization Aug. 15 2003
Historians generally have an inferiority complex: history is part of the humanities, and for centuries historians have tried to make their subject matter more scientific. This is the first book which actually succeeds. It is not your typical history book as it is based on the sciences of ethnobotany, ethnobiology and genetics. It attempts to address the question of *why* has Euroasian civilization been so successful. The book demolishes all racist arguments, i.e., that European civilization has reached its dominating position as a result of innate abilities of its citizens. Instead, Professor Diamond convincingly argues that it is the prevalence of domesticable plants and animals that are the core factors leading to the development of civilization, and from thence the guns, germs and steel of the title. The only reason I did not give this book five stars is because it bogs down a bit in the later chapters; Diamond tries too hard to support his theses which have already been adequately presented.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 3 days ago by True Star
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It is an incredible journey on human history!
Published 4 days ago by T. Hardy
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're going to buy just one history book- this is it.
I thought I was fairly well read; that was a real eye opener. An excellent read for a comprehensive overview of why people/civilization/technology developed the way they did over... Read more
Published 1 month ago by papa smurf
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid read, just dated.
I think this book suffered being dated for me. The overall principal has been explained to me in several other books. Good read for the layman though
Published 2 months ago by Matthew Patterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Jared has come out with a winner. If you ...
Jared has come out with a winner. If you ever wanted to know about human origin this is the book.
Published 2 months ago by George
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It explains why aryans are best
Published 2 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars comment on content of book
When I ordered this book, I thought it was more about political history by looking at the title. To my huge very pleasant surprise, it is about the kind of historical info I... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Monica Young
5.0 out of 5 stars A New - and Very Thoughtful - Look at World History
This book changed my view of the world. I cannot say that about very many books.
Published 3 months ago by M. Blauvelt
5.0 out of 5 stars What an interesting book - I loved it as I am and always have been...
What an interesting book - I loved it as I am and always have been curious about how the human race progressed through the millions of years -most logical explanations.
Published 4 months ago by Jean Herring
2.0 out of 5 stars Today's so-called "Ultimate" cause is tomorrow's proximate cause. This...
Today's so-called "Ultimate" cause is tomorrow's proximate cause. This author, who it should be noted is not an historian, presumes to brush aside unconvincingly the field... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Glen Helling
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