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 ›
Definitely a book to read if you are interested in history and civilisations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, attempts to answer the question of why the European powers, or rather the Western World, came to power rather than Asian,... Read morePublished 9 days ago by david
Fascinating perspective of how civilisations emerged. Clearly and convincingly written.Published 19 days ago by Allan Fisher
An insightful but frustrating book to read. The main tenets and theories put forward are repeated ad nauseum throughout the book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Cotter
Everybody in the world should read this book. If you want to understand who we are by understanding how we got here, then this book will do that superbly. Read morePublished 2 months ago by M A LEITCH-DEVLIN
Still reading at the moment. From what I've read very insightful and truly a great read from the very first page.Published 3 months ago by Mamon
Fascinating concepts that deal with why particular countries developed at different rates, ie the English sailing across the world with advanced techniques, tools and technology... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Eamon
A long read but worth it. I had to skip some parts to finish but if you want to know what events shaped the world to be as it is then this is the book for youPublished 3 months ago by Aftab
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