- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (30 April 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099302780
- ISBN-13: 978-0099302780
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.7 x 19.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years Paperback – 30 Apr 1998
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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.
"Monumental and monumentally good" (William Leith, 4 stars Scotsman)
"A book of big questions, and big answers" (Yuval Noah Harari Geographical)
"This is the book that turned me from a historian of medieval warfare into a student of humankind" (Yuval Noah Harari Week)
"A book of remarkable scope... One of the most important and readable works on the human past" (Nature)
"Fascinating, coherent, compassionate and completely accessible" (Sunday Telegraph)
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Top Customer Reviews
By the time the Mongols roared across Asia, or the Moguls invaded India, many cultures around the world already changed so much that bioregional factors, though seminal in the creation of these broadest trends, weren't nearly as important as the political, religious and economic ones. He is not ignoring religion and so on but, he states plainly several times that isn't his focus. He is looking for ultimate causes--before humans had extremely advanced mental concepts like religion.
He also wanted to point out the devastating influence of disease on history. It was surely the European germs that did most of the conquering of Native Americans. The guns and horses were almost incidental. Later on, once Europeans had established themselves, then we can focus on economic and political systems. But we can't ignore the effects of the diseases unleashed on the Americas. These plagues gave the Europeans a very lucky boost that catapulted them beyond the wealth and power of China, India or the Middle East--long before the Industrial Revolution made this gap obvious.
Another thing that some people seem to be having trouble with is his assertions about the native intelligence of tribal peoples around the world. (If you read the book, you notice that he is not just saying this about the New Guineans.)
He takes pains to point out what he means by this. He not talking about some mysterious genetic superiority of tribal peoples.Read more ›
The answer is: sloppy repetition and over-playing his hand. Diamond's commissioning editor should have been firmer and used the red pencil more vigorously. Over and over again, Diamond repeats great chunks of his text almost verbatim. The effect on the reader, who has got half way through the book and is just getting interested in a new point Diamond is beginning to make, of running into the third or fourth reprise of an argument (complete with evidence and rhetorical touches) on another issue is incredibly frustrating. I can't believe Diamond thinks his readers need the repetition in order to understand his argument. The fact that many of the phrases are repeated exactly suggests to me that He has been just a little careless about proof reading and has failed to delete dozens of relicts of the word-processor's "copy and paste" function.Read more ›
That said, I think it's worth reading to challenge your own subconsciously biased assumptions about how Europe came to be the first to reach what we call modern civilisation, although I would've liked more mention of the ideas scientific racism actually puts forth as to why biology matters, in comparison with the geographic stance, and why they are racist nonsense. It would be more interesting, instructive and support the central thesis of the book much better than banging on about the east-west axis and food production packages, which is enlightening the first time, but eventually grates with those who are trying to read it through properly.
Still, it is enlightening, and shapes one's perspective of history in a geographic and chronological sense, making the rise and fall of Rome seem relatively recent and local, and exploring the fundamentals of civilisation in depth. It would be nice if certain 'factual programming' channels could take a broader look at history and create programmes that explore the subjects discussed here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading it the first time and expect to enjoy reading it again. This will definitely be required because there is a lot in here, however enjoyably presented.Published 14 days ago by Gaye Sissons
A long read that got boggy at times but interesting account nonetheless. Feel like I came away from the book with a lot that I didn't have a clue about.Published 24 days ago by M.Kennedy
Diamonds best book with a comprehensive review of world developments and lots of interesting materialPublished 26 days ago by Dr. R. H. Webber
Fascinating read. I would absolutely recommend this book to othersPublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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