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Guns, Germs, and Steel Paperback – Apr 6 1999
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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
empire.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent! One of the most interesting and informative books I have ever read regarding the development of civilization.Published 12 hours ago by Amazon Customer
A fascinating look at how the environment helps shape or hinder civilization. Warning: at times it is very dry reading, but it's quite interesting.Published 29 days ago by Mark Richards
This book is one of the most fascinating historical books that I have ever read, for it explains so much of what has happened when previously separate societies have come into... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Charles Ashbacher
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 morePublished 3 months ago by papa smurf
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 thoughPublished 4 months ago by Matthew Patterson
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