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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societiesby Jared Diamond
Synopses & Reviews
A global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.
Until around 11,000 b.c., 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...is broadly erudite, writes in a style that pleasantly expresses scientific concepts in vernacular American English and deals almost exclusively in questions that should interest everyone concerned about how humanity developed. . . .Reading Diamond is like watching someone riding a unicycle, balancing an eel on his nose and juggling five squealing piglets. You may or may not agree with him (I usually do), but he rivets your attention." Alfred W. Crosby, Los Angeles Times
"An artful, informative and delightful book." William H McNeil, The New York Review of Books
"The scope and the explanatory power of this book are astounding." The New Yorker
"A fascinating and extremely important book. That its insights seem so fresh, its facts so novel and arresting, is evidence of how little Americans — and, I suspect, most well-educated citizens of the most important forces of human history." David Brown, Washington Post Book Word
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. With a new chapter. The phenomenal bestseller; over 1.5 million copies sold; is now a major PBS special.
In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) 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.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 429-457) and index.
About the Author
Jared Diamond is professor of geography at UCLA and author of the best-selling Collapse and The Third Chimpanzee. He is a MacArthur Fellow and was awarded the National Medal of Science.
Table of Contents
Yali's question: The regionally differing courses of history — From Eden to Cajamarca. Up to the starting line: What happened on all the continents before 11,000 B.C.? — A natural experiment of history: How geography molded societies on Polynesian islands — Collision at Cajamarca: Why the Inca emperor Atahuallpa did not capture King Charles I of Spain — The rise and spread of food production. Farmer power: The roots of guns, germs, and steel — History's haves and have-nots: Geographic differences in the onset of food production — To farm or not to farm: Causes of the spread of food production — How to make an almond: The unconscious development of ancient crops — Apples or indians: Why did peoples of some regions fail to domesticate plants? — Zebras, unhappy marriages, and the Anna Karenina principle: Why were most big wild mammal species never domesticated? — Spacious skies and tilted axes: Why did food production spread at different rates on different continents? — From food to guns, germs, and steel. Lethal gift of livestock: The evolution of germs — Blueprints and borrowed letters: The evolution of writing — Necessity's mother: The evolution of technology — From egalitarianism to kleptocracy: The evolution of government and religion — Around the world in five chapters. Yali's people: The histories of Australia and New Guinea — How China became Chinese: The history of East Asia — Speedboat to Polynesia: The history of Austronesian expansion — Hemispheres colliding: The histories of Eurasia and the Americas compared — How Africa became black: The history of Africa — The future of human history as a science — The future of human history of a science. 2003 afterword: Guns, germs, and steel today.
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