National Geographic: Guns, Germs and Steel [DVD]
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Based on the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book. It is perhaps the most fundamental question of world history: why are some civilisations conquered and others conquerors? Author and scholar Jared Diamond's surprising answer, found in his acclaimed bestseller, Guns, Germs and Steel, is the basis of this thought-provoking three-part series. Out of Eden - Evidence from Papua New Guinea to the Middle East supports Diamond's theory that a society's development may have had less to do with skill or ingenuity, than with an ability to raise high-protein grains and domesticated livestock. He suggests that successful farming gave rise to an explosion of sophisticated civilisations, from the Fertile Crescent to the New World. Conquest - Diamond focuses on Spanish conquistador Pizarro's 16th-century assault on the Inca. Was it the Spaniards' advanced weaponry that defeated the empire? Was it also the Europeans' innate resilience to some infectious diseases a resistance born of centuries of contact with domesticated animals? The European triumph of the New World may have rested on an agent of conquest unknown to even the conquerors and that proved deadlier than any human foe. Into the Tropics - Diamond extends his quest to Africa, probing early European attempts to colonise the continent. The conquerors were initially successful, repelling native attackers with rifles and Maxim guns but they met unexpected obstacles when they moved from temperate zones to the tropics. The debilitating scourge of malaria, like the AIDS epidemic of today, overwhelmed their mightiest resources.
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Although the production had a bit more of the american-style "superhero scientist" in it than I would have liked, I nevertheless rate this DVD as offering among the highest value for 3 hours of your time compared to almost any other available from Amazon.
Many of the facts are just down right wrong it is like the tail waging the dog. One good example is that as you can see in the series "The Ascent of Man" (Available in Britten) or the book by Jacob Bronowski it was the natural change in wheat that brought on agriculture not agriculture that brought on the change in wheat; he also misses the boat by ignoring the economic reasons for culture, commerce and war. A good book to read on the subject of plants migration and commerce is "Green Cargoes" by Anne Dorrance. There are too many examples of missed or purposely ignored more logical reasons for differences in cultures for example it is never mentioned, for example, "why" the Chinese, having developed gunpowder used it in a more benign manner.
Now it was not all a waste. First there may be some credence in his theory. However it was very interesting to watch the confutation between the conquistadors and the Natives of Peru.
The subject matter is so complex that most viewers will recognise familiar topics, although some may notice omissions, but in all fairness, there is not sufficient room in both the film and the book for a full explanation of each and phenomina mentioned (eg when the consequence of the difference between temperate and tropical climates is mentioned, there is no real need to mention that this is largely due to the earths rotational axis (currently) being inclined 23.4 degrees from the ecliptic plane.)
As mentioned above, and in other reviews, there is some (understandable?) lack of objectivity, but these reviews also demonstrate that the subject matter is thought-provoking, which is possibly one of the authors aims.
And in another 13,000 years, current evidence suggests:
The inclination of the rotational axis will be reduced to 22.5 degrees
The moon will be very slightly further away
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The documentary is good, solid but not at par.Read more
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