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Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Jared Diamond
Synopses & Reviews
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.
This work abandons the conventional distinctions between history and science. Diamond focuses on what ancient people were endowed with in the way of land, animals and plants, and on the confrontations between less and more advanced people to see how this led to today's inequalities.
The forces that shape our history are always contentious, yet our fascination with what drives the actions of the human race is inexhaustible. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond proposed one set of forces; Willie Thompson, in Work, Sex, and Power, suggests a far more radical and fundamental trio. Deploying decades of experience as a historian, Thompson re-establishes a materialist narrative of the entire span of human history, drawing on a vast range of contemporary research.
Written in a clear and compelling style, this sweeping, ambitious history is accessible to audiences who are new to Marxism. Thompson discusses and explains the foundations of social structures and themes that have recurred throughout the phases of global history in the interaction between humans and their environment. From communities of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to the machine-civilization of recent centuries, Thompson takes us on a journey through the latest thinking in regard to long-term historical development.
A study of how Europe and the Near East became the cradles of modern society, eventually giving rise to capitalism and science, the dominant forces in today's world - and why, until more recent times, Africa, Australasia and the Americas lagged behind in both technological sophistication and political and military power. 32 illus.
About the Author
Willie Thompson was, until his retirement, professor of contemporary history at Glasgow Caledonian University. His books include The Good Old Cause: British Communism 1920-1991, What Happened to History?, and Ideologies in the Age of Extremes: Liberalism, Conservatism, Communism, Fascism 1914-91.
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History and Social Science » Anthropology » General