Title: Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
Author: Jared Diamond
Scope: 5 stars
Readability: 5 stars
My personal rating: 5 stars
See more on my book rating system.
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Topic of Book
Jared Diamond attempts to answer the question: “Why did Eurasian societies develop far more sophisticated technology than the rest of the world?”
This is one of the few books reviewed on this blog that is already widely known among readers. It was one of the most popular non-fiction books of the 1990s. Even readers not interested in the topic are at least vaguely aware of it. So many reviews and commentary has been made about this book, that there is not much that I can add.
Though I think Diamond missed some key points and over-states the impact of geography, this book is a true “must-read” for anyone interested in the topics of this blog. One of my all-time favorite books.
Diamond answers his question “Why did Eurasian societies develop far more sophisticated technology than the rest of the world?” with the following geography-based argument:
- Fertile Crescent had a far larger number of domesticatable plants and animals allowing the region to produce greater amounts of food via agriculture.
- The east-west orientation of the Eurasian continent promoted the spread of agriculture. The north-south orientation and geographic barriers of North America, South America, Africa and Australia inhibited the spread of agriculture.
- The greater food production led to:
- Larger populations
- Denser populations (i.e. cities).
- Specialized craft specialist who developed technologies.
- Writing technology
- Chiefs, king and bureaucrats
- Writing technology made it easier to transfer ideas and inventions to and from other societies.
- These dense populations and proximity to animals led to new diseases which eventually led to immunities that rural populations did not have. This promoted a dying off as agricultural societies spread.
- The long head start and faster rate of innovation of the Eurasian continent enabled them to far more powerful militaries, polities and economies which made it easy for them to conquer the rest of the world.
- “Origins: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History” by Lewis Dartnell
- “Biogeography and Long-Run Economic Development” by Olsson and Hibbs
If you would like to learn more about the role that geography played in human history, read my book From Poverty to Progress.