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127 of 136 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I guess some folks don't have the patience
I think some of the reviewers here didn't read the book closely enough to understand the context of some of Diamond's arguments. He never says that biogeographical effects are the ONLY causes history. His main purpose is the search for the ultimate, extremely general causes for the broadest of trends in human history and prehistory.
By the time the Mongols roared...
Published on 14 July 1999

versus
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, but ignores role of culture and religions!
This a an excellent book and clarifies much of the reason why Europe and the West prevailed in history, rather than say Africa or N America. Basically Diamond argues eloquently that geography and luck of the draw food resources and animals explain much of the winners success in history. His is a well formed, well researched argument. However, I believe that he turns a...
Published on 3 Aug. 1998


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Triple, But Not a Home Run, 25 Jun. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Guns, Germs and Steel (Hardcover)
I love this sort of book, and it is relatively well written. See the other comments for what's good . . . here's what could be improved.

State the conclusion early on. We have an idea where the author is headed, so there's no need to try to pull us into the book to see what the mystery is all about. Just state simply and succinctly what the conclusion is and a brief list of the primary supporting data. Then let us judge whether the book supports these.

Don't be so repetitive -- especially toward the last five chapters.

Don't gloss over inconsistent data that is not supportive of the theory. For instance, it isn't enough to simply write off the Alps and Carpathian Mtns as insignificant obstacles to the migration of animals, foods and ideas. At least tell us why (easily navigated passes, alternate routes, etc.)

Finally, raise and answer (or dispose of) the obvious questions that follow upon your premise: e.g., did the geographic differences and diversity of flora and fauna effect the evolution of the peoples as well as their history?

All of the above said, I do recommend the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Guns, Germs And Steel: A Short History of Everbody for the Last 13000 Years (Kindle Edition)
Couldn't stop until finish
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, especially if this isn't your field., 29 Dec. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Guns, Germs and Steel (Hardcover)
Dr. Diamond's book covers little in the way of new ground, but he does a reasonable job of bringing together some interesting recent work in a variety of fields, making this information available to those of us that are not professionals in these various areas. Of course, much of what is here should be reasonably familiar to any well-educated person, but there were enough surprises to keep me going through the unfortunate repetitions scattered throughout the book. Diamond dwells to excess on the Pacific area he's most familiar with. It is understandably a micro-example of his wider premise, but surely others must be known as well, and the book could have benefited from additional examples from other geographic areas.
Despite these problems, the basic premise of the book is well-defended and provides a clear and easy-reading statement of the author's ideas.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful scholarship and writing marred by cant, 9 July 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Guns, Germs and Steel (Hardcover)
July 8, 1997

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

At least I bought the book from AMAZON ! I give it a well-deserved 5/10.

The 5 is for the excellent writing and the breathtaking scholarship. I give Jared Diamond a U for analysis and idealogical cant . Starting from a promising and evocative premise Mr. Diamond ends with a load of scholarly fudge so tainted by current fashionable thinking that his great enterprise is very much diminished.

"How is it that you white people have developed all this cargo and brought it to New Guinea and we black people have no cargo ?" The question is seminal. You have more than enough for yourselves and can bring it here and almost give it away; and we have none. Good cheap fish hooks; transistor radios, with batteries; small reliable electric generators; outboard motors that can pull against the fastest-rushing river currets; beautiful rifles that can bring down game at 300 meters; satellite television; --- cargo, cargo, cargo.

Diamond doesn't see the poignancy of the question, he's too busy trying to show his humanity, political correctness and he is on his knees begging for forgiveness from our very insightful Yali. In this case at least, I agree with the author, this New Guinean has more intelligence than at least one Western academic.

Pizzaro was a bad boy. Pestilential vectors operating through close living with animals gave immunity to infection. Colonial loathsomeness. What has this got to do with cargo ?

Yali knows the truth: some civilizations are indeed better than others. Some are indeed more humane and more productive and allow more freedom for human development than others and only an intellectual caught in the web of his own nitpicking could believe otherwise. I do not doubt the innate intelligence of people everywhere, but tick-tack-ticking on a keyboard by a computer operator is several orders of magnitude from the accretion of science and multi-layered technologies that brought Western civilization from Euclid and Archimedes to a 4-million device computer chip.

But, but, you say, old Ed Wilson says its a good book. The great Paul Ehrlich the grandaddy of population studies, writes an approving note. As the old adage has it "I'll write a blurb for your book but please don't make me read it."

Look, I don't want be mean about this but it seems the only way we can reform this kind of wrongheadedness is by refusing to participate. Take your mate to the driving range and shoot a pail of balls. Have dinner out at MacDonalds on me. Save your money in an S&P Index based fund (currently paying 29%). This book was a shrewdly designed marketing plan by WWNorton: with the proliferation of multicultural courses in America's universities, there's almost a built-in sale of about 20,000 books and that will pay for the costs of production and then some. The rest is gravey.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating and convincing explanation for Eurasian success, 10 May 1999
By A Customer
How come the civilisations of Eurasia have been much richer than those of the Americas and Australasia? Jared Diamond provides some very simple and (to me) pretty convincing explanations which have nothing to do with racial stereotypes and everything to do with some basic environmental factors. Sounds dull? Not at all (though could have been a bit shorter). The explanations are unexpected, simple, and convincing. If you want to understand the world you're living in, if you relish the moment when the blur of complexity clicks into the focus of simplicity, you'll remember this book as one of the few that made a difference.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Educational revelation, 13 April 2008
Not being a student of history, I found this book to be an education into the macro history of the last 13,000 years, how some cultures prosper and others flounder. The theories of the author make absolute sense; such that by the end, it was like a door had been opened, enabling a clear view of these large scale historical and cultural patterns.

At times, I found the section covering the rise of food production to a be a ittle cumbersome and the last couple of chapters tend to repeat the same theories, but all in all a fascinating and highly educational read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting!!, 17 Oct. 2014
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A. Tollan - See all my reviews
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Very Interesting!!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping review of the reasons for historical inequities, 16 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Guns, Germs and Steel (Hardcover)
Great book. I was very skeptical at first of Dr. Diamond's ability to cover 13,000 of human history in one book. But like his other books, he brings up great points, that challenge you to think, even at his most speculative. Some chapters are more thought provoking than others, for example the chapter on the Spanish Conquest of Inca Peru, which sort of held the entire concept of the book in one chapter. But overall, you can no longer speak on why some cultures dominate others and have at great historical gain, without referencing this book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but ..., 30 Sept. 1999
Diamond's thesis is that a serendipitous combination of easily domesticated livestock and plants in what we now call the Middle East gave 'Western' society a headstart by allowing people on the shores of the Mediterranean to develop urban centres, manufactures/crafts, writing, and complex political organisations, sooner than anybody else. So far so good, and as a sympathetic critic I think it is quite convincing. BUT, leaving aside a few quibbles here and there (which are to be expected in a book of this sweep), he never really deals with China, which also had a pretty good combination of crops and livestock by his own account, developed writing quite early, created complex bureaucracies and a very sophisticated society. If in A.D. 1400 we had placed bets as to which of China or W.Europe would become the dominant power in the globe in the next 500 years, it is not at all clear that we would have bet right. This hurts his argument, because if he is trying to explain the broad sweep of the remote causes of European dominance, and if these are the serendipity of the livestock/crop/germs 'package' Europe got from the Middle East, then he does not provide clear evidence that the Chinese 'package' was inferior (as he does - quite well - for the Mesoamerican or the Sahel or the Australian 'package'). But if Diamond cannot show why the starting package was not better in the Med than in China, then why did the British colonise Hong Kong and the Chinese not get within shooting distance of the Isle of Wight? The answer, I suspect, is that it was not the original 'package' that made the difference in World Dominance Sweepstakes between the West and China. The 'package gave the West superiority over the Mayas and the Aborigenes, the Bantus and the Indians. But when it comes to China, the West stood out because (as Diamond implies at several points in this very good book) it could use that package with devastating efficiency. And that in turn was the result of widespread literacy, or in other words of a strong, relatively numerous, industrious, scientifically-minded and reasonably well off middle class. In the contest that mattered, the West had the three Rs working for it: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the (Glorious) Revolution.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 12 July 2014
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VERY GOOD BOOK.
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