Guns Germs And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

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Guns Germs And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared Diamond

WW Norton | April 15, 1999 | Trade Paperback

Guns Germs And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is rated 4.3548 out of 5 by 31.
In this "artful, informative, and delightful (book)" ("New York Review of Books"), Diamond offers a convincing explanation of the way the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Photos.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 480 pages, 9.35 × 6.2 × 1.4 in

Published: April 15, 1999

Publisher: WW Norton

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0393317552

ISBN - 13: 9780393317558

Found in: Civilization

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was o.k. In this book, the author sets out to determine why it is that Eurasians seem to have developed all the technology, and why they've managed to spread and "take over" world-wide, whereas other cultures weren't able to or just didn't do that. It was o.k. I listened to the abridged audio (I hadn't realized it was abridged until I checked it out of the library, but decided to give it a shot, anyway). I'm not sure if some of the stuff that I think I missed (phrases that "suddenly" appeared without a definition, etc) was because I was not paying attention momentarily, or if it was something that was cut out of the book for the abridgment. I don't know if it would have made a difference if the version I had was unabridged, but the book was only o.k. for me. Somewhat interesting, but probably nothing I'll remember for any amount of time. I will probably still try another book by Diamond, however.
Date published: 2011-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FIVE STARS FOR A FLAWED BOOK? Five Stars for a Flawed Book? Although much of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel seems speculative or even flawed, his writing is ground-braking and inspiring. Through the author’s experiences, the book receives depth and color. It is a pleasure to read this beautifully flowing text. It may help in addressing the most pressing issues of modernity, such as poverty, violence, and problems that may be induced by climate change. His case is that modern civilization is essentially branded by the food production capabilities of early civilizations, prompting not only innovation but also the evolution of germs that had enabled them to overtake other people’s lands. Firstly, even though the author attempts a holistic approach, the work is too narrow, missing a bigger evolutionary picture. Secondly, by merely drawing analogies to the invasions of European germs into the American continents, Diamond does not make an evolutionary case for the participation of germs to Eurasian supremacy. Also, the idea of microbes as an aid to conquest can only have played a role for isolated civilizations conquered in the last few hundred years, not for the development of Eurasian peoples that acquired enhanced immune systems. Diamond delivers his own counter argument where the Antonine Plague in the second century did not lead to the conquest of Rome by Middle Eastern forces despite millions of victims at home. Thirdly, the argument may be upside down. Instead, localized abundance of food and human crowding, induced by climate change and geographical bottlenecks, may have led to a rapid rise of civilization (see the experiment below). Lastly, the quality of the book drops significantly from the middle onwards, from Chapter 10, when the author leaves his home turf. His ideas of the different continental axis add an unnecessary complexity with no goal in sight. Meanwhile, the author is out of his league and engages in selective informing when it comes to historic analogies. His chapter about writing is lengthy and deviates into unnecessary details. It does not seem to fit into the narrative in any important way. In short, I do not appreciate it when authors start off with a hypothesis only to throw anything in that may support it, regardless of its relevance or accuracy. My own research laid out in the book The Great Leap-Fraud, Social Economics of Religious Terrorism shows that the development of humanity can be compared to a large wheel that very slowly drives an interdependent mechanism. Actions lead to symptomatic reactions in rather logical and simple ways. For the ancients, if something was not simple, relative to their level of development, it was not adopted. Diamond must know, as a whole, that the human species is lazy and conservative. If it does not have to change, it will not. If it can overfeed, it will. If it does not need to innovate, it will not. Without external forces, hunter-gatherers simply roam deeper into their territory rather than changing their old ways. Modern Fair Trade experiments speak volumes in this respect. Yet, they were able to identify and improve upon the most suitable crops. As Diamond observed, the hunter-gatherers of New Guinea possess knowledge that dwarfs most, if not all, modern biologists. In other words, 50,000 years ago, the species may have emerged just as intelligent as modern humans, but its intelligence evolved in a different, more specialized way (see Jewelry and cave paintings). On the other hand, the dumbest cow can distinguish delicious clovers from bitter weeds. Hence, the selection process may be less impressive than portrayed by Diamond. In my work, it seems rather that two factors played a major role in conquests: scarcity induced aggression in ancient times and religious conflicts during the last 2,500 years. The one with an edge was not blessed with food production but with stronger alliances. It is true, of course, that economic advantages re-enforce not only stronger allies but also a more innovative food production (irrigation). After all, it is (human) nature to favor the strong over the weak. However, the major implications of the text remain unanswered: how can the have-nots be converted into haves? The question is not how to bring the remaining hunter-gatherers into the civilized world or how to turn farmers into city dwellers but how to evolve slumified cities around the globe, even in the West, into a world of human dignity without creating an expectation of a free lunch and dependency by transferring wealth to the poor. Hence, I reject the Diamond’s notion of moral justification for redistributive state control. Nevertheless, the quality of the book cannot depend on my agreement but merely on its originality and substance. This is where it deserves a hearty five stars. A.J. Deus Author of The Great Leap-Fraud – Social Economics of Religious Terrorism Ajdeus.org
Date published: 2011-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mandatory Reading! This is the second time I've read this book. Loved it. Jared Diamond takes us through a journey through human history to shows how some societies dominated over others via guns, germs and steel courtesy of organized agriculture, friendly climates and domestication of plants and animals. In a way, Jared Diamond continues the tradition of Darwinism onto our modern age. The National Geographic companion video to the book is worth a look. GGS should be mandatory reading for all inquisitive people who want to make sense of our crazy world.
Date published: 2011-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Civilization Explained! Guns, Germs, Steel is civilization explained. It concisely summarizes the history of human civilization, starting from the tipping point of technological innovation in 11,000 BC - when humans first engaged in food production and settled down, abandoning its nomadic ways - until today. It explains how differences in the geography and environment dictated the advancement of civilizations, disputing the notion that whites are inherently a superior race. I love anything related to civilization building - I play Simcity 4 and Civilization IV for PC as well as Civilization for Xbox 360, and I play the Settlers boardgame. Now I can say I've the read the pinnacle of literature on the topic - Guns, Germs, Steel. It's pretty lengthy though, so wondering if you should read this book? Ask yourself this: have you ever wondered how humans went from nomadic tribes to complex organized states, how organisms evolve, how ideas and technologies spread, and why Europe settled North America and not vice versa? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you're a science geek or history buff, this is a must read!
Date published: 2011-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Book! Jared Diamond is one of the most genius authors of our time. Sure, he is a little eccentric, but the depth and detail he goes into in his books is nothing short of incredible. Guns, Germs and Steel describes why some cultures evolved into more "modern" societies while others seemed to sit still in the evolutionary process. If the human race started in Africa, why did the America's become the world's leading power? Why are there still parts of the world that remain uncivilized despite all the technological advances that we have seen over the past few decades? All these questions and more are explored in Diamond's book. I would recommend this book to anyone interested the history of the world's evolution into new societies.
Date published: 2008-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cannot wait to read it again I read the book almost 2 years ago and I still consider it one of the best book I have ever read. Diamond is analytical and factual thoughout the book. The book is long, but absolutelly never boring. Bravo Diamond!
Date published: 2008-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from sweeping insightful Diamond takes us on a global journey through time and historical causes and effects. He dispels racial prejudice in offering botanical, climatic and geographical rationales behind seeming cultural advantages in world history. I loved his panoramic view and down to earth research into how we got to this place in time.
Date published: 2008-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing book The thing that sets this book apart from most books is the level of detail. Most books are mostly narrative with the occasional specific detail. Not this one. Every page is filled with specifics. As to whether his basic premise that technology arose in societies that had the right mix of domesticable plants and animals is correct, it's tough to say. I think he makes a compelling argument. I certainly am convinced that it was not some sort of racial superiority that resulted in Europeans dominating the world. I do think that there was a large measure of randomness involved and that it was by no means preordained. One thing is certain, however. This is the work of a towering intellect. The Pulitzer was well deserved.
Date published: 2008-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the read. It took longer than expected to read this book, not because it's over 400 pages, but because of the author's use of a large number of examples to illustrate his main arguments. However, the book is neatly divided into clear sections making it easy to stop reading and then pick up again. The author does a good job of compressing thousands of years of human "pre-history" into convincing arguments of why certain societies developed differently from each other. Definitely recommended.
Date published: 2008-02-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A little tedious While this book presented interesting ideas, and I do indeed feel as if I learned something, I found it rather hard to get through (I stopped and started reading it three times before I finally gave up around pg. 300). I finally had to give up because I just felt as if I was reading a textbook and some of the themes seemed to be repeated. I can't say it was bad because it does set out to do what it says but it is very technical and dry at times.
Date published: 2008-01-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A well argued premise. Jared's take that the fate of human societies and ethnicities is largely a function of geography and timing rather than their DNA is well argued and I buy into it although many find it very controversial.
Date published: 2007-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I absolutely disagree with Craig McFarlane. The book is an easy read. It's enjoyable, rationally informative, profoundly interesting, and it keeps the reader wanting to know more about how some cultures were able to subjugate others so easily and how others were comparatively progressively limited due to their geographical limitations. This book is a must read for anyone interested in getting a bigger picture of how it is that things are as they are.
Date published: 2007-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super Good! Guns, Germs, and Steel should be a required reading for everyone. This book provides many answers in understanding how the world is today by looking at how the world developed. Jared Diamond is an excellent writer. Although some parts tend to drag on a bit, the overall concept of the book is well written.
Date published: 2006-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book Jared Diamond's book is essentialy a crash course in cultural ecology. It explains how and why civilizations have formed in the past; including, how these civilizations have developed advantages over others in the form of technology and resistance to diseases. This book is a must read for anyone interested in how the life cycle of a nation works.
Date published: 2006-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A prism to see our world Jared Diamond's thoroughly researched masterpiece work takes a broad stroke of history and ties together multiple disciplines into a coherent and consistent thesis of how our civilizations got here. I’m amazed at how many details I can remember from the book, and how it’s become a prism for how I look at our world. He easily debunks the common Eurocentric views many of us had simply because we live at this time in history; commonly that European or Judeo-Christian or Western teachings and achievements are the primary reasons for why the world is what it is. I found it at once positive, affirming, and equal. It’s a thesis that shows why some people did better than others not because they were better but because of circumstances. I recommend it highly.
Date published: 2006-07-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting... Read the other reviews for details of what this book is about. I'll just say that while I did not agree with many of Diamond's views or hypotheses, and I tired of hearing the same arguments and examples over and over, this book made me think about things I'd never previously considered, and therein lies its value. Take the book with a pinch or a pound of salt, but it will at least get you thinking and help you develop a broader view of the world around you.
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from it is more of a text book than a light read Compared to "a short history of progress", this book reads more like a text book. I am enjoying it, by sometimes skimming over the detailed facts the author uses in justifying his points. The book goes into great detail about the development of societies. I am finding it very interesting and enlightening. FYI: An easier read (or a starter on this topic) would be "a short history of progress" by Ronald Wright. Guns germs and steel answers the question of why was euro-asian civilization more advanced then to that of hunter-gatherer societies such as those found in the Americas.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The importance of farming, farming, farming... Guns, Germs and Steel?? The title of this book should be the importance of farming, farming, farming. It's an interesting book and its depth is certainly impressive. I guess I was hoping for a little more guns, germs and steel.
Date published: 2005-03-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Informative but tedious Diamond definitely does what he sets out to do. This was to refute the idea that race had anything to do with the development of societies around the world. My quibble is with the writing. I find his style to be extremely tedious. He lists endless exmaples that interrupt the flow of his arguments. The writing reminds me of what I would read in an essay by a university student (that is bad for those who don't remember). He cannot link his arguments or examples together without awkward phrasing that makes the book hard to get through.
Date published: 2005-02-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ethnopolitical apology The whole purpose of writing this book, as the author Jared Diamond freely admits, is to debunk the notion that the human race, culture and traditions had anything to do with the striking differences of the technological progress achieved by different societies on different continents throughout history. His main postulate is that only in the Fertile Triangle of the Middle East were there the right conditions, such as climate, choice of plants and animals to be domesticated etc., to favor food production on a grand scale. These favorable conditions in turn allowed other technological developments, which resulted in – until recently - the technological preeminence of Western civilization. According the Diamond, any other group of humans given the same opportunities would have fared in the same way. Thus, he puts the onus on geography and environment, one of the few theories in the evolution of human societies, which has been kicking around for some time. In support of this, he provides an endless litany of examples, mostly conjectural and hypothetical. Diamond speaks from a totally anthropocentric position: anything and everything in the world throughout recorded, or at least archeologically documented human history, is weighted from the perspective of its usefulness to humans. He seems to completely lack compassion for the non-human living creatures and the biosphere in general. His only concern is how to best exploit the Earth and use all living things to the benefit of man. Given his antiracist position, this anthroporacism is offensive. Somewhat surprisingly for such a politically correct author, is his implicit advocacy of eugenics by stating that New Guineans are smarter than Westerners because only the fittest and smartest survived throughout their history of “high mortality from murder, chronic tribal warfare, accidents and problems in procuring food”. In contrast, Europeans have diluted the quality of their genetic pool by allowing “to survive live-born infants fatal infections as well as reproduce themselves, regardless of their intelligence and the genes they bear “(sic) (Prologue paperback ed. p. 20 - 21). Lastly, one idiosyncratic note: in the Prologue Diamond takes great pains to assure the reader that he is sublimely qualified to write a complete and definitive book on this subject by the virtue of his upbringing, education, and professional and personal experience. Perhaps, this might have been better left for a reviewer to decide.
Date published: 2004-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Guns, Germs and Steel An absolutely fantastic book. For anyone interested in anthropology, human geography and/or the evolution of human societies. I read it 3 years ago and still tell everyone I meet to read this book. A highly intellectual author who writes in extremely accesible language. Buy a hard-cover. You'll be reading it, lending it, and re-reading it for years.
Date published: 2004-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A New Slant on Environmental Determinism The sub-title is a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years . The real title should have been environmental determinism - how agriculture and what was available to domesticate determined who would rule who . There seemed to be several purposes to this book, not the least of which was to deep-six any illusions about race determining who the winners and losers would be. Essentially the author demonstrates quite nicely why Europe became the dominant expansionist culture by the 14th century and why they succeeded. The best crops and best wild crops for domestication were found in the fertile crescent and China. To a large extent this also applied to animals available for domestication. Once agriculture was well established, states could develop - there was time for invention, progress and order. Of course this is a theory and by and large a good one. The book is certainly an education on early agriculture. Agricultural development farther afield was also dependent on ease of diffusion which Eurasia, because of its east west ease of movement, could sustain better than Africa and the Americas. The theory appears to work up until the 12th to 14th century. After that there are too many other variables. His explanation as to why the much more advanced Chinese circa 13th/14th century did not expand to take over Europe, for example, centers solely around the fact that a palace struggle between the eunuchs and another interest group resulted in a more insular China with ocean going ships being done away with. He does make the case that a fragmented Europe with no overwhelming centrist authority was more conducive to free thinking and invention. I believe that aspect has merit as a theory and could be developed further. Essentially it appears that free enterprise, unconstrained by smothering state interference, will innovate and progress faster than undemocratic centralized states bound by a restrictive ideology and/or theology.
Date published: 2003-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from comprehensive and easy to read This book is fantastic for the average consumer who is interested in learning about how and why civilization arose where and why it did. It's a fairly easy read, but comprehensive. Thus, a reader doesn't feel as if the author has purposely dumbed the subject down. A total must read!
Date published: 2003-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societie This is a book which turns on a light bulb in your brain. This book puts an end to the racist myths of why civilizations arose where they did. It had nothing to do with human genetics. It had everything to do with where the best cereals evloved!! Really, this is one of those must-read books that rivals the relevance of the scriptures. It is factual, unpretentious and logical. Bravo! and thank you Jared Diamond for opening my eyes
Date published: 2003-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have to hide the book in order to read it If you have ever wondered why Chinese are Chinese, or how we domesticated poisonous food, or how we are an intricate part of nature then you must read this book. Diamond's writing style will hold you for every chapter including the introduction! Now if my friends would just return it I could read it again.
Date published: 2002-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read If you have ever wondered why different peoples have 'developed' at different rates....then this is a must read. An extremely explanative theory that explains millennia of human development.
Date published: 2001-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get it! Read it! Spread it! Simply brilliant, and a pleasure to read. Strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in anthropology, history and sociology. NOT a cold analysis though: the author makes no mystery about the fact that he was driven to writing this book by events in his own life, and frankly this is partly what makes the book so interesting to read.
Date published: 2000-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from required reading It is a rare individual that has the background, compassion, and depth to provide provocative answers to the central question of this book. This is a book that encourages the reader to re-examine their own understanding of human history by looking through the minds eye of archeologists the world over. It is not the answers given, but the work behind them that impresses.
Date published: 2000-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Where do we go from here? Anyone claiming they could present the extent of human history in a mere 400 pages should be treated with derisive scorn. Yet Diamond has achieved this feat with admirable skill. He poses the question, 'why have whites gained such vast material wealth while black peoples have not'? His response reviews the environmental factors present over the five inhabited continental land masses and how these elements shaped cultural foundations. The most impressive aspect of this book is the thought that must have gone into writing it. The brevity of it belies the fact that Diamond must have shed many preconceived notions [such as we all have] to produce a work of such vast scope. Tracing humanity's progress from its African roots around the planet as each continent was occupied and how each landmass impacted that occupation requires the broadest vision. The only thing missing from his synopsis is what motivated the Third Chimpanzee to spread itself over the whole planet. Rightfully, he calls for this very query in the Epilogue. By viewing history with a scientific instead of the more commonly applied cultural eye, better answers about who we are may be derived.
Date published: 2000-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Your world view will change. This is a stunning book, easily understandable, which may change the way you look at everything. A must for parents who want to answer some of those tough questions children ask, and who want to teach them how to figure out some of the answers for themselves.
Date published: 2000-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read! For anyone who wants a sound, general knowledge about the history of civilizations and the why, where, and how they became, this book is a great read. The book is a real eye-opener in some ways, and helps to define history beyond European roots. I would recommend this book to eveyone!
Date published: 1999-09-06

– More About This Product –

Guns Germs And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared Diamond

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 480 pages, 9.35 × 6.2 × 1.4 in

Published: April 15, 1999

Publisher: WW Norton

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0393317552

ISBN - 13: 9780393317558

From the Publisher

In this "artful, informative, and delightful (book)" ("New York Review of Books"), Diamond offers a convincing explanation of the way the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Photos.

About the Author

Jared Diamond, professor of physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine, is the author of the best-selling and award-winning The Third Chimpanzee. He has published over 200 articles in Discover, Natural History, Nature, and Geo magazines

From Our Editors

This amazing book debunks racially based theories of human development. It explains how human history has progressed to our present state, moving from writing to technology, government, organized religion and so on. Chronicling the geographic and environmental factors that shaped the modern world, Guns, Germs and Steel is wide in scope.
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