Life isn't fair--here's why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better and worse, called the tune that the world has danced to. In Guns, Germs, and Steel,
Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things worked out that way. It is an elemental question, and Diamond is certainly not the first to ask it. However, he performs a singular service by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of European genetic superiority. Diamond, a professor of physiology at UCLA, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to farming, the domestication of animals and the free flow of information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result had more complex forms of government and communication--and increased resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power of competitive innovation in ways that China did not. (For example, the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns and subjugate the New World.) Diamond's book is complex and a bit overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth--examining the "positive feedback loop" of farming, then domestication, then population density, then innovation, and on and on--makes sense. Written without bias, Guns, Germs, and Steel
is good global history.
"A prodigious, convincing work, conceived on a grand scale" (Observer
"The most absorbing account on offer of the emergence of a world divided between have and have-nots... Never before put together so coherently, with such a combination of expertise, charm and compassion" (The Times
"A book of remarkable scope... One of the most important and readable works on the human past" (Nature
"Diamond's sideways-on view of human development may well establish its author as one of the very few scientists to have changed the way we think about history" (Sunday Telegraph
"Fascinating, coherent, compassionate and completely accessible" (Sunday Telegraph