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.
About the Author
Jared Diamond is Professor of Physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Trained in physiology, he later took up the study of ecology and has made fundamental contributions to both disciplines. He is among the worlds leading zoologists and experts on birds. He has made many trips to the mountains of New Guinea to study their unique birds, rediscovered their long-lost bowerbird, and advises New Guinea governments on conservation. As well as writing technical articles in his many fields of interest, Jared Diamond writes regularly for popular science journals. He is married, and has twin sons.
In a boldly ambitious analysis of history's broad patterns, evolutionary biologist Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee) identifies food production as a key to the glaring inequalities of wealth and power in the modern world. Dense, agriculture-based populations, unlike relatively egalitarian hunter-gatherers, bred chiefs, kings and bureaucratic "kleptocracies" that transferred wealth from commoners to upper classes. Such bureaucracies, Diamond maintains, were essential to organizing wars of conquest; moreover, farming societies were able to support full-time craft specialists who developed technical innovations and steel weapons. As a result, European conquerors and their colonizing descendants, bringing guns, cavalry and infectious diseases, overwhelmed the native peoples of North and South America, Africa and Australia. Using molecular biological studies, Diamond, a professor at UCLA Medical School, illuminates why Eurasian germs spreading animal-derived diseases proved so devastating to indigenous societies on other continents. Refuting racist explanations for presumed differences in intelligence or technological capability and eschewing a Eurocentric worldview, he argues persuasively that accidental differences in geography and environment, combined with centuries of conquest, genocide and epidemics, shaped the disparate populations of today's world. His masterful synthesis is a refreshingly unconventional history informed by anthropology, behavioral ecology, linguistics, epidemiology, archeology and technological development.
Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas - Library Journal
Why is history so dramatically different for peoples around the world? Why did some groups become literate industrial societies with metal tools while others remained nonliterate farming societies, and still others remained hunter-gatherers with stone tools? The resultant inequalities have led historically to the extermination or conquest of some groups by more advanced, literate societies. Biologist Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee, LJ 3/15/92) here combines a study of human history with science, specifically evolutionary biology and geology. His starting point is 11,000 B.C., when large differences began to appear in the rates at which human societies evolved. Diamond examines on a global scale the development of farming, domestication of plants and animals, creation of writing, and advancement of technology. He maintains that it was such environmental benefits as the availability of certain key species and plants, as well as geographical placement, that gave the advantage to Eurasia over the rest of the world, rather than any biological advantages of one race over the others. A provocative book that will appeal to general readers as well as scholars; recommended for most libraries.
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 Western world know of the most important forces of human history. --David Brown
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: 17th April 1999
Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.6 x 3.6
Weight (kg): 0.594