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Civilizations Rise and Fall #1

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

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"Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope ... one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years."

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a national bestseller: the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth Club of California's Gold Medal

498 pages, Paperback

First published May 9, 1997

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About the author

Jared Diamond

70 books6,887 followers
Jared Mason Diamond is an American geographer, historian, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee; Guns, Germs, and Steel; Collapse, The World Until Yesterday, and Upheaval. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,452 reviews
Profile Image for Molly.
64 reviews247 followers
November 22, 2008
This is what happens when you take an intelligent person, and casually make a few mentions of a field of study they have no knowledge of.

Mr. Diamond, NOT an anthropologist, takes Marvin Harris' theory of cultural materialism and uses it to explain everything in life, history, and the current state of the world.

Materialism is a way of looking at human culture which, for lack of a better way to explain it easily here, says that people's material needs and goods determine behavior and culture. For instance Jews stopped eating pigs because it became so costly to feed pigs they themselves were starving.

On the surface, materialism seems very logical. Like any theory it has to be at least somewhat probable sounding, and since people are used to thinking of life, these days, in terms of materialistic values already, Harris' theory sounds logical and likely very often.

But like every other time you attempt to explain everything that ever happened in the history of man with one theory, this falls desperately short of reality. Materialism is likely ONLY when coupled, sensibly, with other theories and, need I say it, actual PROOF, of which Diamond has little.

As an exercise in materialist theory this book is magnificent. I would recommend this book ONLY to people in Anthropology with a great understanding of theory, less educated or unwarned people might think this book is fact rather than an exercise in speculation.

As an explanation of why the world is the way it is, it is an utter and complete failure.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
September 22, 2021
[Original review, Dec 10 2008]

I liked this book, and it taught me a bunch of things I hadn't known before I read it. Jared Diamond has clearly had a more interesting life than most of us, and spent significant amounts of time in a wide variety of different kinds of society, all over the world. He says he got the basic idea from a conversation he had back in the 70s with a friend in New Guinea. His friend, who later became a leader in the independence movement, wanted to talk about "cargo" (manufactured goods, technology). "Why is it," he asked, "that you Europeans have so much more cargo than we do?" Diamond thought he had come up with a good question, and wrote the book in an attempt to answer it.

The core of Diamond's explanation is that Europeans were essentially lucky in two respects. First, we have unusually many easily domesticable plant and animal species. Second, since Europe is oriented East-West rather than North-South, a species which is domesticated in one part of Europe has a good chance of thriving in another, so there are many opportunities to swap farming technology between different areas. It helps that there is an easily navigable river system, and also that there are no impassible deserts or mountain ranges. These conditions are not reproduced in most other parts of the world; Diamond has a range of interesting tables, showing how few useful domesticable species there are elsewhere. Because we got efficient farming earlier than most other people, we also got cities and advanced technology earlier, and everything else followed from that initial lead we established.

One objection you could make is that it wasn't luck, but rather that Europeans were more enterprising than people in other areas about finding good species to domesticate. Diamond's answer to this is fairly convincing. Having lived extensively with pre-industrial people, he says that we city-dwellers just don't understand how well they know their flora and fauna, and how active their interest in them is. I guess a New Guinea tribesman would, conversely, be surprised at how quickly word gets around on the Internet when a cool new website appears. Basically, what he's saying is that pre-industrial people tried everything that could be tried, and when they didn't find anything good, it's because it wasn't there. Systematic studies by modern scientists do seem to support this conclusion.

Another criticism some readers have leveled at Diamond is that he makes history completely deterministic - once the geography was fixed, everything that happened after that was inevitable. I don't actually think that's fair. Diamond is open about the fact that his theories make one embarrassingly incorrect prediction: if it was all about being first to domesticate plant and animal species and set up efficient farming, then China should be the world's preeminent civilization. Even though he makes some attempt to explain why this isn't so, there does right now seem to be a fair case for saying that it's not only geography.

Luckily, George W. Bush has been working hard to try and smooth things out. If the Western world can just arrange two or three more leaders like him, all of Diamond's data will hopefully come out the way it's supposed to, and the last few hundred years of Western history can be written off as a statistical blip. Way to go, Dubya!
[Update, Oct 1 2012]

I was surprised this morning to discover that Darwin, in On the Origin of Species, expressed an opinion diametrically opposite to the one Diamond argues for:
If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture. It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.
Does Diamond mention this? Unfortunately, I don't have a copy to hand.
[Update, Mar 20 2020]

We seem to be well on track. Deadly virus comes out of China, Western leaders react with a mixture of denial and incompetence as infection rates soar and their economies crumble. Diamond's analysis was so accurate that he couldn't believe his own conclusions.
[Update, Sep 22 2021]

And following on from that, anyone who's read this book will think of an argument in favor of the antivax movement that I'm surprised not to have seen more antivaxers pushing. Diamond tells us that the Europeans conquered the world largely due to the fact that they had bigger cities, which could breed deadlier germs. Everywhere the Europeans went, their germs went with them and killed less disease-resistent indigenous populations. But now the largest cities are no longer in Europe, and the West is on the receiving end of natural bacteriological warfare. Even if vaccines offer a temporary respite, the best long-term strategy is to evolve as quickly as possible.

Of course, that does mean allowing a lot of people to die, but it'll be in a good cause. The antivaxers just need to explain the reasoning clearly.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
September 16, 2021
“Why you white men have so much cargo [i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization] and we New Guineans have so little?”
Jared Diamond is a biologist, who had a passion for studying birds, particularly the birds of New Guinea. But as he came to know and appreciate the many native people he met in his work, the question asked by a New Guinean named Yani remained with him. Why was it that westerners had so much relative to New Guinean natives, who had been living on that land for forty thousand years. Many found an explanation in racial exceptionalism. Diamond decided to find out. Was one group of people smarter than another? Why was there such dimorphism in the amount of cargo produced and toted by different groups?

The arguments he seeks to counter are those stating that since "civilization" came to full flower in the Eurasian countries and not in places where other races dominated, that this success indicated innate superiority. He offers a stunning analysis of why civilization emerged in the places in which it did.

Jared Diamond – image from The Guardian

Guns figure large in why some societies were able dominate others, but the development of guns was not a universal. The materials necessary are not equally distributed over the planet, and there are technological prerequisites.

It turns out that not every locale is ideal for the emergence of farming. He offers some detail on why farming flourished in some areas more than in others. The importance of domesticated animals is considered. Diamond shows how it was possible for them to have been domesticated in some, but not all of the theoretically possible locations. He discusses the impact of germs, the immunity defense developed by more urban dwellers, and the harm those germs can cause when those urban dwellers come into contact with peoples who lack such immunities. Although "Steel" figures prominently in the title, and is significant in its use in weaponry, this aspect is given the lightest treatment in the book. Diamond closes with a plea for history to be redefined as History Science, claiming that, as with many other "historical" sciences, it holds the elements necessary to merit the "science" designation.

While I might have been happier if the title had been Guns, Germs, and Seeds, it remains a seminal look at the whys and wherefores of how some societies came to flourish, often at the expense of others. It has nothing to do with genes. Guns, Germs and Steel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

An excellent National Geogrtaphic documentary was made of this book. Here is a link to the first of its three episodes.

Diamond's book Collapse, is also amazing.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,791 reviews1,305 followers
August 2, 2012
Terrible. This is one of those books which seems at face value as if it has an interesting and persuasive thesis, and indeed there are a couple of reasonable points in here, but by and large Guns, Germs, and Steel is a poorly written book, shoddily argued and riddled with factual errors. Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variety and nutritional value of available crops, the number of animals which could be domesticated, the geographical axes of the various continents. Diamond claims that this is an anti-racist theory because it points out that white people were just lucky, not inherently more deserving or more talented or more resourceful than people anywhere else in the world.

However, Diamond's intention to write an anti-racist book doesn't mean that he succeeded in doing so. There are layers of problematic assumptions and unconscious Eurocentrism underlying his writing, layers which make Guns, Germs, and Steel an uneasy read: you (for the reader whom Diamond seems to hypothesise in the book is a white Westerner--there's no sense that a PoC from, say, Malaysia or Egypt might have picked it up) should not feel a sense of accountability or responsibility or guilt for colonialism or imperialism or the ongoing exploitation of most of the world's population by those living in the developed world. It's no one's fault--it's just geography!

When it comes to assessing the reliability of Diamond's arguments, the fact that there are no footnotes and no full bibliography make that a somewhat difficult task--but I know enough about sub-Saharan African history to know that he characterises several key things incorrectly, and just enough about the history of the Americas to be very suspicious about things that Diamond claims. There are numerous minor factual errors, like saying that "oi" means "sheep" in Irish (p. 343). The Irish word for sheep is "caora", and as far as I know, there's no such word as "oi" (or even "oí") in Irish. This is admittedly minor, but if you indulge in repeated bouts of carelessness like that, you're going to make me suspicious about the factual foundations of the rest of your arguments.

And indeed, while I can't assess the validity of some of Diamond's scientific claims--though the continent axis theory falls apart the more you start to think about it, as does his failure to consider the impact of human alteration of the environment--I do know that I'd expect better historical argumentation from an undergraduate history major. For instance, when about to describe the meeting of the conquistador Pizarro with the Incan emperor Atahuallpa, he says:

What unfolded that day at Cajamarca is well known, because it was recorded in writing by many of the Spanish participants [...] by six of Pizarro's companions, including his brothers Hernando and Pedro. (pp. 68-69)

Which of course is nonsense. What we have is a record of what six individual Spanish men--and no Incans--wanted the Spanish king to think had happened on that day. A moment's thought would tell you that there are multiple problems with using their writings as a straightforward means of assessing anything about Incan culture and society. Rookie errors like that made me roll my eyes extra hard at the epilogue in which Diamond explains to historians what our discipline should look like and how we should think of it. How about no, sir--if you've repeatedly demonstrated a lack of ability to think historically, you don't get to decide what historians should do.

It's also worth pointing out that even if one accepts Diamond's thesis as persuasive, it doesn't actually answer the question he sets out to answer: why it is that European/Western societies set out to establish political and cultural hegemony over the rest of the world and were so successful at it. Just because a society is more technologically or economically complex than its neighbour doesn't mean that it automatically sets out to conquer it--that's a question you can't answer with "geography." You have to theorise power and social structure, and Diamond can't do that. Avoid.
Profile Image for Mike Shapiro.
52 reviews20 followers
May 19, 2007
Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1) the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2) the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et. al. is because of the geographical features of where each civilization happened to develop. Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-and-trade condusive geography and easily-domesticable plants and animals.

I'm not sure I agree that why the Spanish obliterated the Mayans instead of visa versa is the most interesting question of human history. (How about the evolution of ideas, or the impact of great leaders and inventors?) But it is an interesting question, and worth exploring. Diamond is a philosophical monist, neatly ascribing just about every juncture in human history to a single cause or related group of causes. Given his extensive background in botany and geology, it makes sense that he would look for the impact of those factors in the human story. Unfortunately, those factors are all he regards as important; he relegates to insignificance the contribution of ideas, innovations, and the decision-making of individuals or cultures. His view is fatalistic, seemingly motivated by a P.C.-era desire to pronounce all cultures equal, and their fates the product of random circumstance.

A contradiction here is that fatalistic viewpoints are incompatible with moral pronouncements. (If nobody can control their actions, who's to blame for anything?) Diamond is condemnatory of the Spanish incursion into Mayan lands, but the logical consequence of his theory is that the Mayans would have done the same to the Spanish if they had been first to develop the musket and frigate. Taking Diamond's theory seriously means we'd have to view imperialism as natural and unavoidable, like the predation of animals, and be unable to criticize any culture's actions whatever.

All that said... this is a fascinating and worthwhile read.
There's no doubt that the factors Diamond identified had some role in human progress, however, and if you can put aside the author's predisposition towards his own field and somewhat sketchy philosophical foundation, the book is a compelling and vivid account of what life was like for the earliest civilizations. Diamond describes the evolution of agriculture, written language, and other indispensable facets of human history, giving us a crash tour through the earliest days of human history. The specialized expertise that ultimately derails Diamond's overview at the same time offers a compelling and detailed view of the rise of mankind.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
November 4, 2021
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond

The book attempts to explain why Eurasian and North African civilizations have survived and conquered others, while arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 trans-disciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «ت‍ف‍ن‍گ‌ه‍ا، م‍ی‍ک‍روب‌ه‍ا و ف‍ولاد»؛ «اسلحه، میکروب و فولاد: سرنوشت جوامع انسانی»؛ نویسنده: ج‍رد میسن دای‍ام‍ون‍د (دایموند)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز نهم ماه اکتبر سال2002میلادی

عنوان: ت‍ف‍ن‍گ‌ه‍ا، م‍ی‍ک‍روب‌ه‍ا و ف‍ولاد؛ نویسنده: ج‍رد میسن دای‍ام‍ون‍د (دایموند)؛ مت‍رج‍م: س‍وس‍ن‌ س‍ل‍ی‍م‌زاده‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌ وزارت‌ ف‍ره‍ن‍گ‌ و ارش‍اد اس‍لام‍ی‌، س‍ازم‍ان‌ چ‍اپ‌ و ان‍ت‍ش‍ارات‌، سال1380؛ در682ص؛ شابک ایکس-964422258؛ موضوع ت‍ک‍ام‍ل‌ اج‍ت‍م‍اع‍ی‌ - ت‍م‍دن‌ - ت‍اری‍خ‌ - قوم شناسی - اشاعه فرهنگ - از نویسندگان ایالات متحده امریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: اسلحه، میکروب و فولاد : سرنوشت جوامع انسانی؛ نویسنده: جرد دایموند؛ مترجم حسن مرتضوی؛ تهران: بازتاب نگار‏‫، سال1387؛ در539ص؛ شابک9789648223378؛ چاپ دوم سال1394؛ چاپ سوم سال1396؛‬ چاپ دیگر تهران، نشر کلاغ، سال1391؛ در544ص؛ شابک9786009298464؛

تلاشی است برای توضیح اینکه چرا تمدن‌های «اوراسیا (به همراه شمال آفریقا)»، موفق به تسخیر، یا مقاومت در برابر دیگر تمدن‌ها شده‌ اند، و در عین حال تلاش در رد باوری که سلطه ی «اورآسیا» را، به برتری «اروپایی‌ها»، و »آسیایی‌ها» از لحاظ اخلاقی، ذاتی، ژنتیکی، یا فکری نسبت می‌دهد

دایموند استدلال می‌کند، که شکاف در قدرت، و فناوری، بین جوامع انسانی، ریشه در تفاوت‌های زیست‌ محیطی دارد، تفاوت‌هایی که حلقه ی بازخورد مثبت آن‌ها را، تقویت می‌کند (به این معنا که برتری محیطی، باعث پیشرفت تکنولوژی می‌شود، و برتری تکنولوژی، باعث پیشرفت‌های بیشتری می‌شوند، که در جای خود پیشرفت بیشتری نیز به دنبال می‌آورد)؛ در مواردی که تفاوت‌های فرهنگی، یا ژنتیکی، به نفع اورآسیایی‌ها عمل کرده‌ است (به عنوان مثال دولت متمرکز در چین، یا مقاومت ژنتیکی در برابر بسیاری بیماری‌ها در میان اورآسیای‌ها)، این مزیت‌ها تنها به دلیل تأثیرات جغرافیایی به وجود آمده‌ اند، و در ژن اروپایی و آسیایی ریشه ندارند

دایموند اشاره می‌کند، که تقریباً تمام دستاوردهای بشری («علمی»، «هنری»، «معماری»، «سیاسی»، و غیره) در قاره ی «اورآسیا» رخ داده‌ است؛ مردمان قاره‌ های دیگر (جنوب صحرای «آفریقا»، بومیان «آمریکا»، بومیان «استرالیا» و «گینه نو»، و ساکنین اصلی مناطق گرمسیری آسیای جنوب شرقی)، به‌ طور گسترده‌ ای مغلوب، و جا به‌ جا شده‌ اند، و در برخی موارد فوق‌ العاده (اشاره به بومیان «آمریکا»، بومیان «استرالیا» و بومیان «خوآسان» جنوب «آفریقا») عمدتاً از بین رفته‌ اند

برهان نخست این سلطه ی «اوراسیائی‌»ها، برتری‌های نظامی و سیاسی آن‌ها بوده، که خود ناشی از پیدایش زود هنگام کشاورزی، در میان این اقوام، پس از آخرین عصر یخ بوده‌ است؛ «دایموند» در این کتاب، برهانهایی برای بازگویی چنین توزیع نامتناسبی از قدرت، و دست‌آوردها پیشنهاد می‌کند

عنوان کتاب نیز اشاره‌ ای است، به راههایی که به وسیله آن‌ها، «اروپایی‌»ها علی‌رغم تعداد نفرات کمتر، ملتهای دیگر را مغلوب کرده، و سلطه ی خود را حفظ کرده‌ اند، سلاح‌های برتر، مستقیماً منجر به برتری نظامی، می‌شوند (اسلحه)؛ بیماری‌های «اروپایی» و «آسیایی» جمعیت‌های بومی را تضعیف کرده، و کاهش داده، باعث می‌شوند، اِعمال کنترل بر آن‌ها، راحت‌تر شود (میکروب)، و دولت متمرکز «ناسیونالیسم» را ترویج داده، و بستری برای سازمان‌های قدرتمند نظامی به وجود می‌آورد (فولاد)؛

کتاب از عوامل جغرافیایی استفاده می‌کند، تا نشان دهد، که چگونه «اروپایی‌»ها چنین تکنولوژی برتر نظامی‌ ای تولید کرده ‌اند، و چرا بیماریهایی که «اروپایی‌»ها، و «آسیایی‌»ها، نسبت به آن‌ها تا حدی از مصونیت برخوردار بودند، جمعیت‌های بومی «آمریکا» را ویران کردند؛ «اوراسیا» پس از آخرین عصر یخ، شانس برخورداری، از ویژگی‌های مطلوب جغرافیایی، اقلیمی، و زیست‌ محیطی را، دارا بوده‌ است

دایموند دو مزیت زیست‌ محیطی «اوراسیا» را، دلایل اصلی توسعه زود هنگام کشاورزی، در این منطقه در قیاس با سایر مناطق می‌داند؛ پس از آخرین عصر یخ، با اخ��لاف زیادی، بهترین بذرهای وحشی، و حیوانات رام شدنی تقریباً بزرگ (مانند «بز»، «سگ» یا بزرگتر)، در طبیعت «اوراسیا» یافت می‌شد؛ این امر مناسبترین مواد اولیه را در اختیار مبتکران «اروپایی» و «آسیایی» کشاورزی، و به ویژه اهالی «آسیای جنوب غربی» (تقریباً «بین‌النهرین» و «ترکیه») گذاشته بود

برتری در حیوانات رام‌ شدنی، عامل پر اهمیتتر بود، زیرا که مناطق دیگر، حداکثر دو و اغلب هیچ حیوان دیگری، در اختیار ساکنان خود نمی‌گذاشتند؛ مزیت دیگر «اوراسیا» در این بوده است، که محور شرقی-غربی آن، یک منطقه بسیار وسیع، با عرض جغرافیایی مشابه، و در نتیجه آب و هوای متشابه تشکیل می‌دهد؛ در نتیجه، برای مردمان «اورآسیا» به مراتب ساده‌ تر بود، که شروع به استفاده از گیاهان و حیواناتی کنند، که از پیش در سایر نقاط «اوراسیا» اهلی شده بودند

در مقابل، محور شمالی-جنوبی «آمریکا»، و تا حدی «آفریقا»، به دلیل تنوع گسترده، در آب و هوا، مانع از گسترش اهلی کردن گیاهان، و حیوانات در سراسر این قاره شد؛ حیواناتی و غلاتی که در مرکز «آفریقا»، یا «آمریکا» قابل پرورش هستند، با جنوب این قاره‌ ها بسیار متفاوت است؛ از بذرهای وحشی قابل کشت، «سرخپوستان» ذرت را داشتند، اما این غله، بر خلاف غلات «اوراسیا»، مواد مغذی اندکی فراهم می‌کند، و از آن مهمتر، می‌بایست یکی یکی کاشته شوند، که کاری بسیار خسته‌ کننده است؛

لازم است گفته شود، که پس از آنکه، به عنوان مثال در تمدن «می.سی.سی.پی»، در حدود سال یکهزار میلادی، میزان کشاورزی به حدی رسید، که محصول مازاد تولید شد، آن‌ها زیستگاه‌های متراکم ،و تخصصی‌تری ساختند؛ «اورآسیایی‌»ها، گندم و جو در اختیار داشتند، که سرشار از فیبر، و مواد مغذی است، و می‌تواند به راحتی با دست، و به مقدار فراوان بذر افشانی شود؛ «اورآسیایی‌»ها، از زمان‌های بسیار پیشتر، مازاد عظیمی از مواد غذایی تولید می‌کردند، که این امکان رشد جمعیت نمایی را، به آن تمدن‌ها می‌داد؛ چنین رشدی، منجر به تشکیل نیروی کاری بزرگتر، و مخترعان، صنعتگران، و امثالهم شد؛ به علاوه غلات (که در «اورآسیا» یافت می‌شده‌) می‌توانست بر عکس محصولات گرمسیری، همچون «موز»، برای طولانی مدت ذخیره شود؛ در حالیکه سرزمین‌های جنوب صحرای «آفریقا»، عمدتاً از پستانداران وحشی، برخوردار بوده‌ اند، «اورآسیا» بر حسب شانس، بیشترین حیوانات بزرگ سربزیر (رام شدنی) را، در سرتاسر جهان در اختیار دارد «اسب» و «شتر» که می‌توانند، به راحتی برای حمل و نقل بشر مهار می‌شوند، «بز» و «گوسفند» برای «پوست»، «پوشاک»، و «پنیر»؛ «گاو» برای «شیرش» و «ورزا» برای خیش زدن زمین، و حمل و نقل، و حیوانات خوش‌خیم همانند «خوک‌»ها، و «مرغ» برای خوردن. «آفریقایی‌»ها، بر حسب تصادف جغرافیایی، با «شیر»، «پلنگ» و همانن اینها طرف بوده‌ اند

دایموند اشاره می‌کند، که تنها جانورانی مفید، برای استفاده ی بشر، در «گینه نو» در واقع از شرق «آسیا» آمده‌ اند؛ اینها حدود چهارهزار تا پنجهزار سال پیش، به «گینه نو» وارد شده‌ اند؛ در انتهای کتاب «دایموند» به طور خلاصه به بررسی این نکته می‌پردازد، که چرا قدرتهای مسلط در پانصد سال گذشته، ساکنین غرب «اروپا»، و نه «آسیا (به ویژه شرق آسیا و چین)» بوده‌ اند؛ در مورد جنوب غرب «آسیا»، «دایموند» پاسخ پرسش را واضح می‌داند: استفاده طولانی مدت و گاه بیش از اندازه، اغلب مناطق جنوب غرب «آسیا» را بسیار خشک، و غیرقابل کشت کرده بود، و جنگل زدایی و دیگر فاجعه‌ های زیست‌ محیطی، از این مراکز اولیه تمدن، صحراهای کم‌آب و علفی ساخته بود، که نمی‌توانستند به راحتی با سرزمین‌های حاصل‌خیز «اروپا»، رقابت ک��ند

در مورد مناطق شرق «آسیا»، «دایموند» حدس می‌زند، که ویژگی‌های جغرافیایی این سرزمین‌ها، باعث تشکیل امپراتوری بزرگ، با ثبات و جدا افتاده‌ ای شد، که هیچ فشار خارجی قابل توجهی، آن را تهدید نمی‌کرده‌؛ این امر باعث تمرکز بیش از حد تصمیم‌ گیری شده، و نوعی خودکامگی بی‌رقابت را، ایجاد کرده‌ است، که خود پس از مدتی، منجر به ایستایی جامعه، و در مواردی (مانند اختراع اسلحه و کشتی‌های اقیانوس پیما) سرکوب تکنولوژی از سوی حاکمان شده‌ است؛ در «اروپا» وجود موانع طبیعی بسیار (مانند کوه‌های عظیم و خلیجها) منجر به ایجاد دول ملی محلی رقیب شد؛ این رقابت کشورهای اروپای�� را (با اینکه مانند «چین» توسط حاکمان خودکامه کنترل می‌شدند) تشویق به نوآوری کرد، و از رکود فناوری جلوگیری شد

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 12/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,533 followers
March 7, 2017
It took me a while to complete Diamond's book (and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime) because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The central thesis that it is not racial biology that determines the victors in history but rather a complex combination of agriculture, geography, population density, and continental orientation is a fascinating and compelling one. The style is not academic (and did admittedly put me off by using sentences with "!" in them), and yet does come across as the fruit of years (or decades) of research in an astounding number of fields simultaneously: biology, agriculture, history, climatology, sociology, etc. I can understand why Mr. Diamond received accolades and a Pulitzer for this complex work written at the level that the layman, non-scientist can still grasp. The funniest story that struck me was the QWERTY keyboard one which apparently is the least ergonomic design but due to its rapid adoption by typists due to capitalist competition and afterwards its ubiquity once computers became important, it is impossible to dislodge. (I still find it easier to use than the AZERTY one here in France LOL). The one thing that struck me - and here I warn readers that I climb on my soapbox near the Marble Arch for a moment - is the abundance of corroborating evidence for human evolution and development that has solid artefacts and proof going back 40000 years and more by the most precise dating methods available by today's scientists. For anyone with a shred of intelligence to try and say the world is only 6000 years old and created in-state as it were is pure insanity and blindness. And yet, we now have high-placed individuals in the US holding these beliefs and poised to poison American youth with medieval and ignorant ideas such as young-earth creationism. If one is to take reality at face value rather than with massive filters eliminating reason and coherence from it, then one cannot possibly justify believing that all humans came from Adam and Eve and that they were white as snow and racially superior to their offspring. This book proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that just because one has white skin, that this is not a determinant in the development of the individual and his/her peers as human beings. It is critical that works like this get wide diffusion in order to debunk racial superiority theories that gave rise to the horrors on Hitler and continue to inform white supremacists and Islamic radicals and all other religious or racial bigots because their underlying fundamentals are based on patently false principles. OK, down from soapbox now. The book was well-written (if a bit repetitive at times) and presents eye-opening and inventive analysis that will help me see the world I live in differently. Highly recommended. Especially in view of the rise of revisionist, white supremacist bullshit.
Profile Image for Nate.
94 reviews15 followers
March 25, 2017
This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. The point he is making is that we in Western Civilazation haven't built skyscrapers, made moon landings, mass produced automobiles, eradicated polio (or for that matter lived indoors with running water) while aborigines in certain remote outposts still hunt and gather in isolated tribes because we are inherently any smarter or more industrious than those individuals. Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is this considered such a novel idea, and why does he have to be so BORING about it? Don't believe the hype.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,225 followers
March 8, 2013
Misleading! The actual title should be Germs, More Germs and a bit about Steel And Guns, but not very much on those last two really...I mean, we want to put Guns first because it's more attention-grabbing than Germs, but let's face it, this book is mostly about Germs.

Why has no publishing house knocked down my door trying to obtain my book titling services yet?!
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,084 reviews6,998 followers
April 24, 2023
[Edited 4/24/23]

Did you ever wonder if there is a certain inevitability in the way world civilization and history has evolved? Jared Diamond’s work Guns, Germs and Steel argues, in effect, that the giant Eurasian continent (Europe and Asia combined) was predestined to take over the world.


Everything conspired in favor of Eurasia: climate, vegetation, topography, variety of wild animals available to be domesticated, population distribution, mineral resources and even bacteria.

Compare Eurasia and Australia, for example, and you find that when humans evolved to the point of beginning agriculture, Eurasia had dozens of varieties of natural grains that could feed humans and a dozen potential draft and food animals. Australia had only two puny proto-grains and no potential draft animals. Were they going to harness a kangaroo or a koala? No contest.

Eurasia developed settled agriculture, food surpluses, dense populations, cities and complex social organizations. Due to climate and landform zones, Eurasian civilizations were then able to share inventions and culture with each other by trade or conquest in a broad east-west zone. Complex civilizations that developed elsewhere, such as those of the Aztecs and Incas, remained relatively isolated and had geographic barriers to trade and broad movement.

Even the types of germs conspired to 'favor' European and Asian expansion. The virulent types of bacteria that developed among dense human populations in interaction with animal populations wiped out low-density indigenous societies on other continents when Europeans explored and settled new lands. On the other hand, non-Eurasian germs brought back from Africa and the New World had relatively little impact in Eurasia.


Many professional geographers and other academicians don’t like Diamond’s synthesis because it smacks too much of environmental determinism: the old “Northern peoples like the Vikings were warlike and fiercely independent; tropical folks were lazy and needed a whip to get them moving," etc.

When what's done is done, a Monday morning quarterback can tell us exactly why it happened that way. But other scenarios were possible. If one pre-Columbus Chinese emperor had not decided that it was a waste of money to build huge sailing ships, China could have discovered California and the 'US' or whatever it would have been called, would have been settled from west to east. All of us in the US would be speaking Chinese. Our history would be the story of crossing the Rockies from west to east. Then Diamond could use these same explanations to demonstrate why it had to happen this way.

A lot of ideas similar to Diamond’s can be found in older works such as Ellsworth Huntington’s 1945 book Mainsprings of Civilization.

Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, Diamond gives us a lot to think about in a fact-crammed, yet very readable book that won a Pulitzer Prize.

Images: Map from slideplayer.com
An ancient Sumerian image from Wikipedia
Profile Image for carol..
1,533 reviews7,860 followers
Shelved as 'don-t-count'
January 12, 2020
Stopped on page 88 for the time being, because, man, do people ever suck. We historically sucked. But since humans used to invade other humans' territory and do a lot of killing, at least things have changed now.

Oh, wait.
Profile Image for Joshua Parkinson.
23 reviews18 followers
April 6, 2008
In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and a band of 168 Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Why didn’t it happen the other way around? Why didn't the Incas sail to Europe, capture Charles V, kill his subjects, and loot his castles and cathedrals? Jared Diamond attempts to answer this question in Guns, Germs & Steel.

Why have Europeans tended to dominate other peoples on other continents? Does it have something to do with race? Were Europeans cleverer than other races? Diamond says no. It wasn't racial characteristics that tipped the scales of fortune for the Europeans; it was their geography. Their geography gave them access to the best domestic grains and animals, which led to specialization and advanced technologies like steel and guns. Their domestic animals also helped them develop potent germs, and the antibodies for those germs.

The importance Diamond lays at the hoofs and paws of domesticated animals is, in fact, one of the fascinating themes of the book. According to Diamond, our animals have played an uncanny role in our cultural and economic development, both in a negative sense (human contact with farm animals facilitated the germ-exchange that produced man’s deadliest diseases) and in a positive sense (men from the Russian steppes, riding their newly domesticated horses, spread the Indo-European language both westward into Europe and southeastward into Persia and India). Diamond's point is that people living in areas with more domesticable animals (sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, etc.) gained an important advantage over people without them.

For example, Native Americans had only three domesticated animals before 1492: llamas, turkeys, and dogs. Why only three? Weren’t there wild horses and cattle in America too? Actually, fossil records show huge populations of horses, oxen, and millions of other large mammals in the Americas until about 11,000 BC. What happened around 11,000 BC? You guessed it: man showed up via the Bering Strait. The American horses, oxen and other large mammals, having never experienced a human predator, approached the new arrivals like slobbering puppy dogs, and were consequently turned into steaks. In fact, it was steaks every night for a couple thousand years for the new immigrants, until most of the continents’ large mammals— and all but one suitable candidate for domestication— were wiped out.

Now this is fascinating enough, but then consider that because the Native Americans didn't have any horses, oxen, pigs, etc. left to exploit as beasts of burden and domesticated food sources, they also lost the civilizational benefits those animals would have brought (and did bring to Eurasians), not the least of which is germs. Yes, germs. Because the Native Americans didn't live in close proximity to a plethora of "farm animals" like their counterparts in Eurasia, they lacked the "petri dish" wherein deadly germs could grow and proliferate. They thus failed to develop the infectious diseases and (more importantly) the antibodies to those diseases that might have protected them from the germs of invading Europeans when Señor Columbus and his crew showed up.

It was for this reason that when the Conquistadores did finally show up, they were able to wipe out 80% of the indigenous population before ever unsheathing their swords— with germs— with small pox and influenza, both diseases generated by the passing back and forth of germs between domesticated animals and their human caretakers (small pox between cattle and humans, and influenza between pigs and ducks and humans). If that doesn't blow your mind, your mind is blowproof.

Then again, you may well ask: “What about moose and bison? Why didn’t Cortés and his boys float up to the Mexican shoreline and find a bloodthirsty cavalry of Aztecs on mooseback, energized by the milk and meat of their plentiful herds of bison?” Diamond surmises that by the time most the large mammals in America had been digested into extinction by their hungry human friends, there was only one suitable candidate left for domestication: the llama/alpaca. Every other large mammal that remained (including moose and bison) lacked the qualities that allow for domestication.

In all of human history only 14 large mammals have ever been domesticated: sheep, goat, cattle, pigs, horses, camels (Arabian and Bactrian), llamas, donkeys, reindeer, water buffalo, yaks, and two minor relatives of cattle in southeast Asia called Bali cattle and mithrans. Outside of these, no other large mammals have been transformed from wild animals into something useful to humans. Why? Why were Eurasia's horses domesticated and not Africa's zebras? Why were Eurasia's wild boar domesticated and not America's peccaries or Africa's wild pigs? Why were Eurasia's five species of wild cattle (aurochs, water buffalo, yaks, bantengs, and gaurs) domesticated and not Africa's water buffalo or America's bison? Why the Asian mouflon sheep (the ancestor of our sheep) and not the American bighorn sheep?

The answer is simple: we tried and it didn't work. Since 2500 BC not one new large mammal (out of the 148 worldwide candidates) has been domesticated, and not for lack of trying. In fact, in the last 200 years, at least six large mammals have been subject to well-organized domestication projects: the eland, elk, moose, musk ox, zebra, and American bison. All six failed. Why? Because of one or more of the following problems: diet, slow growth rate, nasty disposition, tendency to panic, captive breeding problems, and/or social structure.

Diet: Why don't we eat lion burgers? Because raising lions, or any other carnivore, is uneconomical. You need 10,000 lbs of feed to grow a 1,000 lb cow. You would likewise need 10,000 lbs of cow to grow 1,000 pounds of lion. That means you’d need 100,000 lbs of feed to produce 1,000 pounds of lion. Hence the lack of lion burgers on the Wendy’s drive-thru menu.

Growth rate: Why don't we eat rhino burgers? Simple, it takes 15-20 years for a rhino to reach adult size while it only takes cows a couple.

Nasty disposition: Here's where we eliminate zebra burgers, hippo burgers, grizzly burgers and bison burgers. These animals retain their nasty and dangerous tempers even after several generations of captive breeding. Did you know zebras injure more zookeepers per year than do lions and tigers?

Tendency to panic: No deer or gazelle burgers either. Why? Because they take flight at the first sign of danger and will literally kill themselves running into a fence over and over to escape the threat.

Captive breeding problems: Many animals have elaborate breeding rituals that can't happen in captivity.

Social structure: This may be the most important requirement for domesticates. The best candidates for domestication live in herds, maintain a clear herd hierarchy, and overlap ranges with other herds rather than having exclusive ranges. Here humans just take over the top of the hierarchy. They literally become the herd leader (think “Dog Whisperer”).

So the reason European explorers didn't find Native American ranchers with herds of bison and bighorn sheep is because these animals can’t be domesticated. Diamond contends that if there had been any horses left in the Americas, or any of the other 13 candidates for domestication, the Native Americans surely would have domesticated them, and reaped all the attendant benefits. But alas, their great-great-grandpas had already killed, grilled and digested them all.

Diamond's book is a great read. If you're a student of history, it’s a must read. The way I see it, the story of man (and the story of all things, for that matter) is the story of varied states of disequilibrium moving violently and inexorably toward equilibrium. What was Pizarro's vanquishing of Atahualpa's empire if not an example of such violent re-balancing? The beauty of Diamond's book is that it seems to pinpoint, with surprising simplicity, the original source of disequilibrium among men: geography. Roughly put, some got born in the right place and some didn’t. Skin color had nothing to do with it. Race has always been nothing more than an arbitrary mark to show the geographical birthplace of one's ancestors'.

By the way, if you do read this book, take note of the way we humans first discovered agriculture. According to Diamond, it happened at the latrine. We'd go out gathering seeds, eating some along the way, and then come back to camp and defecate, all in the same spot. Guess what started growing in that spot? Yes, my friends, as crude as it may sound, we humans shat are way to civilization. Thank your ass when you get a chance.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,019 followers
February 12, 2014

Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. What makes the book particularly good is the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this.

The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13,000 years we cover in this book.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,291 reviews21.7k followers
July 7, 2007
Without overdoing the pun, everything by Diamond shines and shines. This is his greatest work. Occasionally in life you can feel a book shifting the way you see the world, shifting what you thought you knew about the world. There is a documentary made around this book, but read the book - trust me.
Profile Image for Jim.
25 reviews45 followers
July 27, 2007
The Purist

I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

That bit of Ogden Nash whimsy came into my head as I thought about Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a reflection on human history through the lens of evolutionary biology. Diamond, unlike Professor Twist, is seeking answers to real world problems. In this case, he seeks to understand the plight of indigenous peoples and their subordination to European and Asian cultures in light of evolutionary pressures. Even so, Diamond seems awkward in his attempts to justify the ways of the Blind Watchmaker to men as so. One false note comes early in the book, when he departs from his evenhandedness to assure us that not only should we not hold New Guineans to be less intellectually endowed than Europeans (a reasonable enough assumption), but that they are probably intellectually superior. He admits that he can't demonstrate that superiority empirically, so that assertion strikes the reader as an attempt to curry favor by a politically correct reverse bias.

On the other hand, there's a lot of really stimulating and interesting stuff in this book. Diamond talks about: what kinds of foodstuffs are necessary to support civilization; why disease almost always flowed from native Europeans to native Americans (and not vice-versa), whereas Europeans encounter many new diseases when they attempted to enter Africa; why those previous two topics are related; how innovation happens; etc. It seems like there's an interesting fact or point of view whenever you turn the page.

The book seeks a complete explanation for the course of human history. It has that sort of broad, sweeping intellectual appeal that a hefty work of philosophy or science has. For example, after someone learns Newtonian mechanics, he tends to see the entire universe as the interplay between physical forces that are expressed in terms of differential equations. A similar dynamic happens here, where the reader suddenly sees commonplaces in a new light.

As with most grand theories, it's important to see that there are some important limits to the analysis. While we can see why, in broad strokes, European and Asian peoples might have overwhelming advantages in human history in purely biological and geographical terms, Diamond's analysis is of no help in answering historical questions that still might strike us as large, but come within the realm of European or Asian culture, instead of at the border with other peoples. For example, it's hard to see how his analysis adds anything to our understand of conflicts such as the Greco-Persian wars, the rise and decline of Rome, the Napoleonic Wars, or the American Civil War. Certainly these questions are important, and we rightly inquire into agricultural, military, political, and culture causes for these events. In these cases Diamond's analysis is largely impossible, since we are dealing with peoples that share genetics, foodstuffs, climates, terrains, etc.

Perhaps I'm nit-picking. It's an excellent, thought-provoking book. I'd just like to temper the inevitable temptation to view all history through this lens.
Profile Image for Liong.
131 reviews79 followers
April 4, 2023
This book explains why some countries became more powerful than others.

The author says that it had to do with things like geography and the environment.

Some places had more animals and plants to help people to survive and made them stronger.

Other places did not have as much so they struggled more.

This book is interesting and helps us to understand more history and geography about 13,000 years in the world.

The author, Jared Diamond provides a fresh and insightful perspective on history and social science, making it a must-read for anyone interested in these subjects especially me.

Profile Image for Orhan Pelinkovic.
88 reviews154 followers
December 8, 2020
Why didn't the indigenous people of the Americas, Oceania, and sub-equatorial Africa conquer Europe and its people? Why was it the other way around?

Why didn't agriculture, cities, the wheel, writing, craftsmanship of metal processing originate in Europe? Why did it instead originate in the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia) and its surrounding areas? These are some very intriguing questions discussed in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) written by Jared Diamond.

This book is a brief history of the human evolution of the last 13,000 years with a focus on social evolution, ethnology, and ecology. The book also pays special attention to the regions which boarder the vast Pacific Ocean.

Well, the Europeans discovered and conquered the Americas and Oceania because they were a more advance civilization. The Europeans had firearms, metal weapons, logistical technology that conquered land and sea, written language, centralized political power, and contagious diseases with which they infected and killed the natives, as the Europeans have already become genetically resistant to and acquired an immunity to those contagious diseases.

The reason why the cradle of civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent is due to its specific geographical characteristics of the environment that had more favorable ecological conditions compared to other regions and Diamond states that it had nothing to do with the biology of those people. This region had access to metal based material for their tools and weapons. They were surrounded by animals that could be domesticated for defense, labour, and food. Last but not least, the Mesopotamians had local available plants that were edible and easily cultivated. All in all, in general, the Eurasians had a more favorable environment, a head start, a greater population, larger continent, and this is why they had an advantage on the people of the Americas, Oceania, and sub-equatorial Africa. I am assuming this is part of the story, but I can name several counter arguments. I was expecting a lot more, and I just wasn't satisfied with the arguments presented, nor were they all convincing. I can't recall any creative ideas or clever theories in this book. The influence of culture was discussed, but hardly religion or genetics.

Diamond also very briefly discusses how the development of technology was amplified by a cumulative effect which reminded me of how well Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker (1986) explained the various positive feedback loops and the cumulative effect in biological evolution.

The book is well-written and informative, this is a given, but many things are unnecessarily being repeated throughout the book with too many recapitulations. It could all have been more concise.

Profile Image for WarpDrive.
272 reviews388 followers
January 19, 2016
This is a thought-provoking, deeply interesting, controversial book investigating the reasons behind the bafflingly different rate of development of human societies in different parts of the world.

The main thesis of the author is that geographic aspects represent the overwhelming ultimate set of causal factors, and they played out mostly at the very beginning of societal development, mainly in prehistoric times.

The author uses very broad brush strokes to develop his main themes, both in geographical terms (he treats the whole of Eurasia plus North Africa as one single entity, which he then subsequently compares with the whole of the Americas, the rest of Africa and Australasia), as well as in temporal terms (the last two thousand years of human history are virtually ignored), and even in political terms (all societies more complex than an egalitarian tribe are defined “kleptocracies” managed by self-serving elites that extract tribute).
This very broad approach is compounded by his methodological tendency to artificially identify and distinguish between ‘ultimate’ explanations and mere ‘proximate’ ones; an approach which brings him to minimize aspects of cultural idiosyncrasies, randomness, and all local cultural factors unrelated to the environment; approach which pushes him to assert that the most critical influences on modern history had already occurred mostly in prehistoric times, and definitely before the birth of Christ, virtually discounting the last two thousand years of history as a foregone conclusion determined by prior developments.
I have the feeling that his view is ultimately based on a Marxist-like type of historical perspective, whereby specific historical events are merely accidents, there is little or no role for chance, randomness and individual action, and where complex feedback loops, culture and ideology, religion, war outcomes and politics are just super-structural elements derived from more fundamental materialistic aspects. This view is now considered obsolete by many mainstream historians (or at least incomplete).

The author also seems to have a pretty “linear” vision of history, whereby the same collection of factors invariably determine the same outcome – my personal feeling is that many historians would disagree with this perspective and state, on the contrary, that one of the complexities of the study of history is that history is not physics, as the interaction “laws” and the independent variables themselves might vary depending on the period and particular sets of circumstances: for example, the weight of geographical factors in more technologically advanced periods as opposed to prehistorical or less advanced eras. And we should always bear in mind that phenomena such as chaotic behaviour lurk even in seemingly simple physical systems, so a deterministic approach to the study of history presents many potential dangers. Even more quantitative and more limited in scope disciplines pertaining to human behaviour (such as economics) have repeatedly proven how identification of context-independent causal chains and prediction of future behaviour can be extremely problematic to achieve.
Yes, it is true that the author pays lips service (in the epilogue, which is the best balanced part of the book) to the irreducible complexity and to peculiar nature of any science based on the study of human behaviour, but this attempt to dilute and balance his geographical determinism is too little too late, IMO (and the author does not fail to re-iterate, even in this section, his faith in a ultimately fully deterministic long chain of causation that can fully explain all main trends of historical development).

There are also some wide generalizations in the book that are questionable at the very least: for example he uses the Spanish American conquests as a model for all European colonial expansion, and he also comes up with claims that are wrong or should be, at least, heavily qualified (such as the horse being the most decisive factor in warfare since it was domesticated 6000 years ago, until WWI – has the author ever heard of Agincourt and Crecy ? And Republican and Early Imperial Rome did not rise to military supremacy due to a superior use of cavalry).
There is also, at the beginning of the book, a really bizarre and totally unsubstantiated claim by the author that “in mental ability New Guineans are genetically superior to Westerners, and they are superior in escaping the devastating developmental disadvantages under which most children in industrialized societies now grow up”. Such a statement is scientifically very dubious (like any similar statements trying promote a naive (if not racist-driven) view to connect genetics with race and intelligence - and what is "intelligence" anyway ?); moreover it appears almost self-contradictory in this book, as the author himself, in the rest of the book, very successfully dismantles any racist claim that the difference rate of development between societies is caused by genetic differences between the races.

Coming back to the main themes of the book: the broad patterns of history, according to the author, are all ultimately caused by essentially “geographical” factors: the availability of a variety of easily domesticable crops facilitating an early adoption of agriculture, of big domesticable animals, and the longitudinal gradient (the Eurasian east-west axis being favourable compared to the North-South axis of the Americas) facilitating or impeding diffusion of agriculture, trade and technology.

It must be said that the author main thesis is argued and documented very convincingly (however I must say that I can't assess the validity of some of the author's scientific claims in fields such as genetics, anthropology, botany, linguistics and evolutionary biology – and the referencing material is strangely lacking, which is slightly suspicious), and the book is brilliantly written, very readable, full with fascinating insights and rich with extremely interesting information in many different fields. It has been a reading pleasure and I learned quite a bit from it.

The author's main theory of the critical importance of geography is well supported by several examples (even though it must be said that the author appears somewhat selective in his analysis, conveniently alternatively over- or under-emphasizing the importance of geographical barriers in the diffusion of agriculture, trade and technology - he also under-emphasizes the important role played by internal wars, competition and migration in the development of Europe and the Middle East in historical times) and the book contains many ideas that are, in my opinion, very important (even if not complete nor conclusive) in the debate over the reasons why some historical patterns diverged so significantly among the different parts of the globe.

It is a pity that the author leaves out so many important factors, and so many questions very partially answered (such as why did Europe gain supremacy as opposed to China, considering that China, soon before the start of the big European expansion, was as advanced – probably more advanced than – its European counterparts ? ).

But make no mistake – with all its problems, it is a nevertheless a good, highly readable, informative, fascinating book, recommended to all lovers of history who want to gain original insights and perspectives into the broad patterns of historical development. I definitely learned many interesting things and gained a better appreciation of geographical factors as significant determinants in the development of human societies.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,686 followers
December 29, 2015
“In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.”
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel


This is one of those books that once you finish, you sit back and say "yeah, um, duh". Since I'm reading this about 18 years after it was first published and probably 14 years since I bought and first perused it, it never seemed very shocking to me. Look, certain civilizations came to dominate based on a couple random, accidental, and nonracially-based situations that combined to give the Eurasian people a slight advantage once these civilizations came into contact with each other.

First, the domesticated food and animals of Eurasiaa contained more protein and more varieties of domesticated animals (pigs, cows, goats, etc) that allowed the people on the Eurasian continent to achieve a certain population density that allowed them to move from band > tribe > chiefdom > state > empire first. This density also allowed for more technological advances, more exposure and protection against herd diseases, so that when cultures collided, the more advanced societies were able to dominate. End of book. Q.E.D.

Is it still worth reading? Certainly. Just because you get the basic premise of Natural Selection does not mean you shouldn't read Darwin's classics. I'm not comparing Jared Diamond to Charles Darwin. This book isn't that good, but the apparent simplicity of the book's premise only appears simple. The argument that Diamond delivers is tight and simple but hides a lot of work.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,788 reviews2,340 followers
June 8, 2018
Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. There is a mind-boggling amount of information presented: some of it is fascinating, some of it seems repetitive, and overly long. When my husband, who is a big fan of "farming books," thinks that there was WAY TOO MUCH about agriculture. . . well, that kind of tells you something.

I listened to this on audio, (all thirteen discs!), and one line really caught my, um, ear:

Some societies seem hopelessly conservative, inward looking, and hostile to change.

Wow! Hmm . . . right now I can think of a country that is fast adopting isolationist policies, a country that is constantly looking to the past as "the ideal time," and whose politicians are doing all they can to turn back the clock, denying climate change, shunning education as "elitist," and deleting scientific data from public websites, all in an attempt to stick to the "old ways" that have been so profitable for so few.

Did Jared Diamond, writing in the late 1990's, just describe the United States today?

And will we become like one of the more primitive societies, sitting and watching while the rest of the world makes strides in science, technology, and the development of clean energy sources? Yes, our agriculture is mighty nice, and, yes, we have plenty of steel and tons of guns, but with our scientific community both muzzled, and strapped for cash, will we be able to fight off new diseases, epidemics, or attacks by biological weapons? Will we become one of those once great cultures Diamond discusses that once flew high, then crashed and burned?

The choice is up to us, and I'm not feeling too optimistic.
Profile Image for Cody VC.
116 reviews10 followers
May 20, 2012
I will say this: he makes some interesting points about geographical and geological determinism and the potential validity thereof. Everything else, however, is basically shit. The Pulitzer this book got must have been the world's biggest and most expensive A for effort.

Diamond writes in his introduction that a multi-discipline effort "would be doomed from the outset, because the essence of the problem is to develop a unified synthesis. That consideration dictates single authorship, despite all the difficulties it poses." He does go on to mention "guidance from many colleagues," but even so this makes no goddamn sense (p. 26). It is actually possible to find people across disciplines who agree on a single theory - like, say, gravity. I'm using theory in the scientific sense here, where the fact of gravity's existence is obvious but there needs to be a framework of mechanical explanation - and this framework has the potential to be proven wrong. That doesn't change the fact of gravity's existence, it just means that one person's (or several people's) proposed explanation of its mechanics was misconceived. You can see similar approaches in the field of history. What this boils down to is, Diamond is saying right in the bloody introduction to the whole book that he was the only one who could do this glorious project and he didn't want to bring other people in because they might not agree with every single thing he's saying. GOD FORBID.

This book would have benefited from multiple authorship, particularly a partnership with someone who had some actual experience with historical research and thinking, because the incessant lazy errors are impressively offensive - Diamond keeps predicating his argument on such and such historical facts, but the facts he's using are flawed and wrong. Take his chapter on the Spanish invasion of the Americas. First off, he calls the indigenous naive like the extinct megafauna of the previous chapter - I'm not kidding, he uses that exact word and that exact comparison to animals; for somebody who's so avowedly anti-racist that's a fucking awful rhetorical tactic - but the academic offense is that his primary sources for the capture of Inca leader Atahuallapa are, as far as I can tell, Spanish letters to the king and Spanish personal journals. That's it. (Nothing is properly cited in this book, which is another cringe point.) Even a high school student could tell you that you should use and cite primary sources from multiple sides of an event, cite your secondary sources, and use some goddamn critical thinking. If you look at the Inca sources, sure there's some conflicting accounts - same goes for the Spanish - but what's obvious is that they weren't naive. Diamond asserts that Atahuallpa had bad information and it was an obvious trap supported by the advantages of Spanish literacy, but if you look at all the sources the situation is more that he had the right information but chose to be diplomatic in the Incan tradition. Pizarro was just a dick. (Diamond is right about the significance of germs, but that part's a gimme.)

There are a lot of fundamentally flawed arguments like that - e.g. pre-invasion indigenous people on the coast of Australia being described as totally isolated even though the historical record shows them as being brilliant sailors and the numerous islands between Australia and the Asian mainland are reachable by walking in places, or talking about the easy dispersal of animals/crops across a continental "axis" of north/south or east/west despite huge mountain ranges and climate differences across the terrain like in Asia - and his broader assertions are also seriously problematic. Like when he's discussing the supposed advantages of the written word (completely dismissive of pictographs and no mention of signed languages, of course) he name-checks Chinese and Japanese but otherwise devotes his syllabic-complexity argument to Roman-alphabet languages. Which, no. Focusing on the languages that are easiest for you to understand is far from persuasive. (To say nothing of the historical errors in that chapter as well.) And then there's smaller things like the series of photographs of people, all not white and mostly wearing indigenous clothing and unsmiling expressions, which is totally unnecessary - if Diamond's "objection to such racist explanations [of sociocultural differences vis-a-vis a western capitalist definition of success] are is not just that they are loathsome, but also that they are wrong," then what the fuck are these pictures doing in here (p. 19)? Why does it matter what these oh so poor, less successful people look like? Jesus christ.

I could go on and discuss the further problem of his trying to fit history into a science framework, when the two have different approaches for a reason - which is, of course, not to say that the philosophies and conclusions of one can't support the other - but I think the point of Diamond's colossal hubris and scholarly failure has been sufficiently made for this review. (There are critical essays by people more professionally accomplished and generally articulate than myself out there.)

Is this the worst book ever? No. But it's still a fucking waste of space.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
83 reviews287 followers
March 24, 2023
On the Onerousness of Zebra Domestication and Other Such Digressions on the Nature of Wildly Divergent Cultural Outcomes Contingent on Flora and Fauna Nurtured by Disparate Geographical Conditions - Exordium.

I, Zoologist supreme, heave into view of my motley assemblage of eager young minds. Hands clasped behind my back, the profile of my chin angled just so as I strafe back and forth before the striated equine beast. A creature whose eyes, even now, intimate a kind of crazed potential energy sufficient to launch a pound of bacon into the asteroid belt or turn the pelvic bones of zoo keepers into kinetic blossoms of calcified shrapnel with nasty kick that’s been honed over evolutionary time to deliver maximum deterrence to predator’s foolish enough to linger in the crosshairs of its muscled booty.

“Children, here is a bit of interesting zoological trivia.” (Antagonizing the animal by stomping my feet and gesticulating wildly in its general direction with a stick.) “The Zebra, depicted in most media as a tranquil herbivore of little combat acumen is...” (Wrestling to pry the stick away from its violent gnashing) “Is, in fact, a killing machine.” (Disgorging mauled walking prosthesis, smoothing hair and readjusting safari hat.) And is one of the most dangerous animals we hold captive in these environs. Tim, if you will...” (Tim, nervous like a dog shitting peach seeds, approaches the rear of the Zebra, his butt cheeks compressing an invisible diamond.) “Witness the Hipotigris of the Plains, unassuming, a sedge eating pacifist, taken from the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Get a look at that coat. Hypnotic, isn’t it? Theories abound about the functional utility of these stripes, from thermoregulation to camou..”.” (Tim absorbs vicious hoofing to abdominal wall, propelled backwards several feet and losing approximately one shoe, one safari hat, and half his daily calories to the kleptomania of sudden violence and subsequent bodily propulsion.) “That’s good, Tim.” (Nodding towards Tim as he seeds the air with dust clouds of painful commotion.)

Tim’s dolorous guttural melody proves disconcerting enough that he must be removed via gurney, followed by the administration of milk and cookies to the weeping elementary students.

“The lesson is; Do Not Be Fooled. It is a fact that if I maneuver into range of its bite, like so...” (Advancing towards the muzzle of Zebra with perfect nonchalance) “It will unsheathe its enameled arsenal, and, like an enormous Pitt bull of Rorshached hide, will seize my carotid and not relinquish its hold until - one - of - us - is - dead.” (Creature inserts clavicle into mouth and chews powerfully.) “LET this... (Hissing of air between teeth) “... the following epexegetic tumult, or codicil, HAHA GALLOWS HUMOR, you see, serve as...” (HNNNNNNNNG) “...an extramural history lecture of sorts.” (Wipes froth of drool from shoulder, repositions hat.) “PISS CHRIST IN THE LOUVRE, I AM IN DREADFUL PAIN, CHILDREN!” (Struggling to maintain posture, vacillations between consciousness and shock induced repose intensify). “Imagine, for a moment, the critical role that animals have played in the flourishing of certain cultures. The economic impact. The ability to develop means of subsistence which push local populations past the threshold for cities, with their attendant complex forms of commerce and divisions of labor, to form. Which allows for the saturation of ingenuity and accrual of capital necessary for big industrial projects, for IAGO! IAGO! YOU TRAITOR! MY BONES ARE BEING PULVERIZED BY A FREUDIAN DENTATA OF DENTURES! (Now struggling against Zebra’s rapacious death grip, swatting with hat.) How this was the necessary precondition for the spread of virulent pathogens and immunities conferred. Now suppose that instead of horses, one had only these... Only these... (Into this wild Abyss/ The womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave--/ Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,/ But all these in their pregnant causes mixed/ Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,/ Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain/ His dark materials to create more worlds,--/ Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend/ Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,/ Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith/ He had to cross.)

Would they have the requisite technology to produce guns? Durable alloys for blade and armor? Large disciplined armies? Would they, unbeknownst to them, engage in biological warfare by trialing a miasma of humanity’s most dire diseases? Children! Would they...” (reaching forth with bloody arm and intoning as if possessed demonically) “Would they be here tomorrow, to greet me yesterday?” (Losing consciousness and collapsing.)

Scene transitions to heavily bandaged patient with gnawed safari hat sitting slightly off kilter, lowering a book and acknowledging the camera with a grimace of pain.

“A fascinating exploration of disparate cultural outcomes proceeding from the assumption that the primary differences, rather than being innate to their respective peoples, were the products of geographical confluences which left the distribution of plants and animals amenable to the process of domestication fundamentally uneven.”
Profile Image for Rhiannon.
194 reviews9 followers
June 3, 2008
I have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history of plant and animal domestication.

"But Rhiannon," you might say, "doesn't that remove his entire thesis, that geography determined just about everything about the course of human civilization?"

And, I would respond yes, it does.

"And, isn't that kind of removing the whole book?"

No, I counter. It just removes the douche-y social Darwinist parts. Plus, if he weren't trying to prove an overarching point about the entirety of human history, readers wouldn't be subjected to his style of argument, which largely consists of applying only certain parts of his thesis at certain points (see his arguments regarding the lengths of human habitation of North American versus how those same arguments are applied regarding Africa), waving away pieces of evidence that would call his thesis into question, and neglecting to include any citations, instead relying on a "Further Reading" section. Removing all of this would leave the only parts really worth reading: the stuff about plant and animal domestication. Which was awesome.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
455 reviews96 followers
January 24, 2021
I have found this book a bit difficult to write about. It is interesting in that it has gone into areas that I have never really considered. Would I have given thought that the ability to domesticate plants and animals was a consideration when thinking of the continental differences between the east west axis of Eurasia compared to the north-south divide in both the Americas and Africa? Probably not.

I suppose this is a book that is more based on the environment of peoples over the last 13,000 years and with that their opportunities to use that environment that they just happened to be born into. Interestingly the book gives little consideration to capitalism as a factor in some parts of human kinds march to modern prosperity. I suggest that each reader will make of that what they will in terms of how they view their history. In the end a touch long but a minor quibble. I will read more by the author eventually.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
April 8, 2019
Jared Diamond asks the question: why did technology develop along different lines and at different times throughout the world and then goes on to study the reasons why.

Using economic, sociological, anthropological, biological and botanical evidence to examine and analyze his hypotheticals, Diamond goes on to map out the world not just in geography but in time, providing a unique human history going back tens of thousands of years and culminating with how we’ve ended up – with some people typing out book reviews on a laptop and drinking Sumatran coffee, wearing clothes from Southeast Asia and Central America, driving a car from Japan and specializing in labor – and other people carrying out hunter-gatherer activities similar to people millennia ago.

Most compelling was Diamond’s rejection, and erudite refutation of many racist and jingoistic theories about why Eurasian cultures have come to dominate global socio-economics. Diamond has spent a good portion of his life living and working in New Guinea carrying out his scientific studies. He noted earlier on that his was not a qualitative analysis, he was not trying to prove which society was better than others or which cultures produced the happier peoples. Diamond opined, in fact, that he felt that the New Guinea folks were on average more intelligent, more intellectually curious, than their Western neighbors. Diamond’s goal as merely to track and examine the spread of technology, how and why it took up root in some societies over others.

I loved his 2004 book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, mainly because it told a story about the lost cultures examined. We learned about the lost colonies of the Greenland Norse and of islands settled by Polynesian peoples long ago who left only fragmentary clues as to what happened. This is the more scholarly text, but Diamond still narrates with wit, personality, and even some subtle humor.


Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,255 followers
January 31, 2018
What a terrific book. 😍

One sentence review: Human history is a function of geography.

Detailed review to follow!
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
491 reviews237 followers
November 11, 2021
جرد دایموند دانشمند و نویسنده آمریکایی در کتاب اسلحه ، میکروب و فولاد با دانشی که بر جغرافیا دارد تلاش کرده است به سوال بسیار مهم علت پیشرفت برخی جوامع و مسلط شدن آنها بر دیگران پاسخ دهد ، دایموند برای شرح دادن دلایل خود به تاریخ پیدایش بشر از 13000 سال پیش پرداخته و به تدریج جلوتر آمده است . او برای پاسخ این سوال از علوم زیادی مانند باستان شناسی ، زیست شناسی ، زبان شناسی ، ژنتیک ، تاریخ و جغرافیا استفاده کرده است و در پایان تفاوت امروزی بین جوامع و کشورهای مختلف را در جغرافیا و خصوصیات محیط زیستی آنها می داند . او در همین حال نظریه برتری نژادی ، اخلاقی ، فرهنگی را رد می کند .
از نگاه آقای دایموند در قاره اوراسیا تمدن و تکنولوژی از بقیه نقاط جهان سریعتر پیشرفت کرده است ، هلال حاصلخیز ، شمال آفریقا و جنوب اروپا نقاطی بوده اند که به دلیل جغرافیا ، سرسبزی ، تنوع گونه های جانوری و حاصلخیزی زمین و پرورش یافتن ، گندم ، جو و سایر غلات موفق به تولید غذا به اندازه نیاز و سپس مازاد شدند . آنها به این گونه از مرحله شکارچی گذاشتند ، حال آنکه در جوامع دیگر مانند جنوب آفریقا ، یا قاره آمریکا یا استرالیا یا گینه نو ، جوامع ابتدایی و از گونه شکارچی – گرد آورنده بودند .
جوامع شکارچی که امروزه تعداد کمی از آنان در آفریقا پیدا می شوند به دلیل شرایط زندگی و جبر جغرافیا ، به دنبال گونه های گیاهی خاص و شکار حیوانات می رفته اند . به خاطر این نوع زندگی آنان ساکن منطقه ای خاص نشدند و بیشتر در جنگلها زندگی می کردند ، فاقد مسکن دایمی و همچنین ذخیره غذا بودند و جمعیت آنها به کندی و سختی رشد می کرد ، نیاز خاصی به پیشرفت تکنولوژی نداشتند و برای مثال نیزه و یا تیرکمان برای آنها کافی بود و از همه مهمتر به دلیل جمعیت وتراکم کم در برابر بیماری های یکجا نشینان به هیچ عنوان مصونیتی نداشتند .
اما در مقابل در مناطق حاصلخیز ، با پیشرفت کشاورزی ، مازاد تولید به دست آمد و تولید اضافه به نوبه خود به افزایش باروری و رشد جمعیت منجر شد ، در گام بلندی دیگر ، انسان موفق به اهلی کردن گونه های مختلفی از پستانداران از جمله اسب ، گوسفند ، گاو ، خوک و سگ شد و بعدها با استفاده از اسب در امور نظامی برتری خرد کننده ای پیدا کرد ، همینگونه انسان با استفاده از نیروی عضلانی حیوانات موفق به زیر کشت بردن مساحت بیشتری اززمین شد . به تدریج عصر سفال گری و پیدایش ظرف به انسان یکجا نشین قدرت انبارش بیشتری داد و انسان را مجبور به ساکن شدن در دهکده ها کرد ، با افزایش جمعیت دهکده ها به چیزی تبدیل شدند ک�� دایموند آنرا خان سالاری نامیده و در این دوران بوده که بشر موفق به کشف برنز شده . سپس دولت ها پدید آمدند ، نگارش رشد و پیشرفت کرد و آهن و عصر آهن آغاز شد .
اما در میان جوامع شکارچی پیشرفت به کندی حاصل شده ، دایموند علت آنرا در مجموعه ای محدودتر از حیوانات و گیاهان وحشی مناسب اهلی شدن ، موانع بزرگتر بر سر راه گسترش فن آوری و وجود مناطق کوچکتر و منزوی تر از جمعیت های متراکم تر انسانی نسبت به اوراسیا می داند .
بنابر این با پیدایش نگارش ، رشد شهر نشینی ، کشف آهن و استفاده گسترده از آن ، امکان ذخیره غذا ، استفاده از نقشه و پیشرفت در کشتیرانی ، این اروپایی ها بودند که آمریکا ، گینه نو ، آفریقا و استرالیا را مستعمره کردند نه بومیان آمریکا ، استرالیا یا گینه نو .
مابقی داستان برای خواننده آشنا تر است ، کریستف کلمب که اهل ایتالیا بوده با ناوگان اسپانیا دنیای نو ، قاره آمریکا را کشف می کند ، سپس هرنان کورتس با نیروی بسیار کوچک امپراتوری آزتک را در مکزیک کنونی شکست داده و البته میکروب ، ویروس و بیماری های شهرنشینان اروپایی تعداد بسیار بالایی تا (95%) جوامع بومی را که مصونیتی نسبت به این بیماری ها نداشتند را از بین می برد . اندکی بعد فرانسیسکو پیزارو با همان دلایل مشابه و با تعدادی بسیار کم امپراتوری اینکاها را شکست می دهد و شهر لیما پایتخت فعلی پرو را مقر حکومت خود می کند .
می توان گفت اصل و ریشه کتاب اسلحه ، میکروب و فولاد همین است ، مازاد تولید ، پیشرفت کشاورزی ، اهلی کردن حیوانات ، یکجا نشینی ، دهکده ها ، خان سالاری ، دولتها ، رشد و پیشرفت نگارش و کشف و استفاده از آهن ، در کنار پیشرفت در دریانوردی ، کشتیرانی و نقشه خوانی انسان در اوراسیا و خصوصا در اروپا را در موقعیتی قرار داد که موفق به استعمار آمریکا ، استرالیا و آفریقا شد .
در حقیقت کتاب در قرون وسطی باقی مانده و بعد از تسخیر آمریکا ، استدلال های آقای دایموند هم تمام شده و او دیگر هیچ حرف تازه ای ندارد . برای مثال دایموند توضیح نمی دهد که اسپانیا پس از رسیدن به اوج قدرت به خاطر چه دلایلی به کشوری کاملا ورشکسته تبدیل شد به گونه ای که تا ابتدای قرن گذشته جز فقیرترین کشورهای اروپا به شمار می رفته است . اما دلایل سقوط اسپانیا امروزه تقریبا کاملا روشن است و همانگونه که در کتاب معمای فراوانی شرح داده شده ، مجموعه ای از سیاستهای اشتباه اقتصادی و نه جبر جغرافیا بوده که اسپانیا را از پیشرفت باز داشت .
امروزه می دانیم که مجموعه ای از دلایل و سیاستهای اقتصادی ، جغرافیای سیاسی ، طبیعت و محیط زیست و سیاستهای داخلی کشورها بوده که آینده آنها را رقم زده و جغرافیا هم یکی ��ز آنها بوده است . جناب دایموند تنها عامل جغرافیا را در نظر گرفته و به راحتی دلایل دیگر را نادیده گرفته است . در حقیقت دایموند هم همانند جیمز رابینسون و دارون عجم اوغلو در کتاب چرا ملتها شکست می خورند تلاش کرده فرمولی یکسان برای تمام کشورها و ملت ها بیابد .
دکتر زیباکلام
هم در دوگانه تحسین برانگیز ما چگونه ما شدیم و غرب چگونه غرب شد به شرح مجموعه دلایلی پرداخته که ایران را عقب نگه داشته و برخی از کشورها را بر دیگران برتری داده ، استدلال های او هم قابل درک و هم برای خواننده ای از خاورمیانه ملموس هستند . به همین ترتیب دکتر کاظم علمداری هم در کتاب چرا ایران عقب ماند و غرب پیشرفت کرد اگرچه نگاهی انتقادی و چالشی به کتب زیباکلام دارد اما در کنار آن نظریه های جدیدی هم طرح کرده است . کتاب دکتر دایموند اسلحه ، میکروب وفولاد اگرچه نگاهی جامع به دوران پیشا تاریخ ، عصر برنز و عصر آهن دارد اما متاسفانه با مقوله پیشرفت شگفت انگیز غرب در دو قرن گذشته و عقب ماندن شرق به همان میزان کار چندانی ندارد و در بهترین حالت در ابتدای قرن هجدهم مانده است .
شاید بتوان مزیت کتاب اسلحه ، میکروب و فولاد را در زاویه دید متفاوت آن دانست و به همین دلیل کتابی ایست متمایز که خواننده علاقه مند به مباحث توسعه را با نگاهی از نوع دیگر هرچند نه الزاما درست آشنا می کند .
Profile Image for Valliya Rennell.
362 reviews230 followers
September 5, 2020
3 stars

Guns, Germs, and Steel was recommended to me by my father. He asked me to read it and tell him what I thought of what Jared Diamond says. Generally speaking, this book outlines the different factors that contribute to a society succeeding and thriving, and how these factors have created the world we live in today. To answer my father, I said that I enjoyed it. It made me reflect a lot, it helped me form arguments in my IB ESS class, and in general gave me a nice insight into human history. Then, he said something that I will try to reflect on in this review: "After reading this, do you think society could have formed any other way?"

Before I get to answering that question, I'll go through a the things that I liked and didn't like about Diamond's work. This book was so unbelievably interesting. It's format made it very easy to follow along, and together it made perfect sense. This helped Diamond strengthen his theses. This organisation also makes this work very accessible, which for me (a person who wants to get more into non-fiction), was a great benefit! There are a bunch of diagrams, graphs, maps, and pictures in this book, which once again, made the reading experience more enjoyable; if you got bored, or got confused, there was sure to be an image soon to make you want to read again. The third thing that I really liked about this was the conversational narration that dominates the book. At times I felt like Mr. Diamond and I were having a conversation about the history of the world. When I switched over to the audiobook for some portions, this was accentuated even more. This style of narration ensured that you never felt like reading a history textbook, which was something I was scared of when entering this novel.

The things that I didn't really like were how the chapters meandered sometimes or just went on and on about the same thing. I feel like 50 pages could be cut. Then again, I am just one person. Another person might find value in how Diamond proves his claims through various examples and scenarios. For me, it just got a bit repetitive and I didn't have the attention span for it. Other than that, when there was a tie-in to something discussed in a previous chapter, then said thing would be proven AGAIN through various examples in the context of whatever is the main topic in this new chapter. Again, someone might find this very interesting, personally it made me a bit tired.

Ok, now to what I actually want to discuss: my father's question. After reading this book, I think that no, there is no other way society could have progressed. Maybe if we would have arisen originally on a different continent, we would be in a different place right now, but I don't know and that is what I find to be so interesting. In the prologue, Diamond sets up a thought experiment where you imagine yourself as travelling back into the past and watching the world starts all over again, but not intervening. I think that if this time-traveller version of me would be very very educated in the ways of history, importance of geography, language, etc. I would be able to predict fairly well where things will be. This makes me wonder if it is possible to predict where we will be in a thousand years or so... Kind of like how Hari Seldon does in Asimov's Foundation.

In conclusion, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a good work of non-fiction. I liked how it made me reevaluate how I see the world around me. However, it did have some characteristics that I just didn't really click with. I recommend it, if you like history and are interested in why we are where we are now.
Profile Image for Philip Allan.
Author 12 books362 followers
April 22, 2019
This is an ambitious book. It seeks to provide a simple rationale to explain why inequalities exist between the peoples of the world. What makes its approach fresh is that the analysis is from someone who is neither an economist nor a historian. Broadly speaking, Diamond pulls this off. His style is readable and his arguments well laid out. His conclusions about the importance in early human history of having the right plants and animals to promote the vital first step for a civilisation – that of developing farming, is compelling. I was also particularly impressed by his view that the orientation of a continent can foster or hinder the spread of farming, a point I had never considered.
The book’s strength is also it weakness. Jared Diamond is very good on his own ground, and so long as his narrative is based on his knowledge of anthropology, biology and geography, all is well. Once the book approaches our own times, however, his arguments become stretched. When more complicated historical, social and economic factors need explanation, his narrative becomes less convincing. That said, this is still an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,766 followers
November 21, 2011
هذه ليست مراجعة كاملة، وإنما هي رد كتبته على قراءة الأخ خالد المغربي، وقد طلب الأخ الكريم بلطفه نقل الرد ليكون بمثابة مراجعة للكتاب، وها أنا أفعل رغم قناعتي أنه سيكون مراجعة عرجاء وناقصة كثيرا ً.

قرأت هذا الكتاب العام الماضي، ولانشغالي حينها لم أكتب عنه للأسف، رغم قيمته الكبيرة وأهميته.

يخبرنا مؤلف الكتاب جارد دايموند كيف جاءته فكرة الكتاب خلال محادثة له مع أحد سكان نيو غينيا الأصليين، الذي سأل دايموند لماذا لديكم أيها الغربيون الكثير من الشحنات – Cargos جمع شحنة، وهي الكلمة التي استخدمها الرجل ليعني بها لمَ لديكم كل هذه المخترعات؟ – وليس لدينا نحن مثلها، هذا السؤال لم يجب عليه دايموند حينها ولكنه شغله لسنوات طويلة تالية وكان هذا الكتاب الذي تحول أيضاً إلى فيلم وثائقي ممتع قدمه المؤلف نفسه.

الجواب الذي قدمه دايموند يلخصه عنوان الكتاب (أسلحة، جراثيم وفولاذ)، حيث يخبرنا دايموند أولاً باللقاء الشهير بين كورتيز وموكتيزوما إمبراطور الأزتيك وكيف استطاع رجل وبضعة جنود القضاء على إمبراطورية كاملة، ويتخذ من هذه الحادثة التاريخية مدخلاً، ليشرح لمَ كان هناك فارق تقني هائل ما بين الغربيين والأزتيك، شارحا ً عوامل تطور الحضارات، من البيئة النباتية والحيوانية التي تنشأ فيها، وكيف تصنع هذه البيئة فروقات كبيرة على مدى طويل من أعمار الحضارات، وكيف أن تعايش الحضارات وتقاربها يمنحها الفرصة للاستفادة من بعضها، بينما عزلة بعضها يجعلها منكمشة، كما يشرح بعد ذلك أهمية ودور الأسلحة والحديد كأدوات للإنسان، ودور الجراثيم وكيف كان الأوربيون محصنين ضدها لأنهم كونوا مناعة، بينما قضت على السكان الأصليين بشكل مفجع، بحيث مات ملايين البشر بسبب أوبئة وأمراض جاءت مع الأوربيين.

الكتاب متين ومهم جدا ً، وإن كان دايموند استفرغ جهده في شرح لمَ كانت حضارات العالم القديم متفوقة على حضارات العالم الجديد – أمريكا وأستراليا -، وأظن أن�� يحتاج إلى عمر ثانٍ وكتاب ثانٍ ليشرح لما تفوق الأوربيون كحضارة على بقية حضارات العالم القديم، وهو ما عالجه في هذا الكتاب بشكل مقتضب وسريع.

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