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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human…
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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (original 1997; edition 2005)

by Jared Diamond

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
17,72726397 (4.13)480
Member:Ape
Title:Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Authors:Jared Diamond
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2005), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Owned, Books Read - 2013
Rating:****
Tags:Anthropology, World History, Sociology, Civilization, Geopraphy, History, Science, Owned, Nonfiction

Work details

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (1997)

  1. 130
    Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (infiniteletters)
  2. 112
    1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (VisibleGhost, electronicmemory)
  3. 51
    The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes (Oct326)
    Oct326: La tesi centrale del saggio di Diamond è che la causa dominante dei disuguali gradi di sviluppo tra popolazioni umane sia data dalle condizioni ambientali più o meno favorevoli. Il saggio di Landes ha un argomento un po' differente, e cioè il disuguale grado di sviluppo economico e di ricchezza tra popolazioni. Ma sulle cause di queste differenze è più articolato, e mette in rilievo l'importanza dei fattori culturali. È un punto di vista piuttosto diverso, e questo rende interessante il confronto tra le due opere.… (more)
  4. 40
    Maps of Time : An Introduction to Big History by David Christian (questbird)
    questbird: Big History is a multidisciplinary approach (like Diamond's) which integrates the origin of the universe, deep time, human prehistory and history.
  5. 40
    The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan (TomWaitsTables)
  6. 30
    Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today by David P. Clark (infiniteletters)
  7. 74
    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Percevan)
  8. 41
    Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture by Marvin Harris (night_sky)
    night_sky: Marvin Harris does not have the same "take" on history as Jared Diamond, but if you're interested in other viewpoints (and Harris, to me, makes some incredibly good points) try Harris' book (any of his, in fact)
  9. 20
    The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by William H. McNeill (wildbill)
    wildbill: William McNeill chronicles the struggle between nomad and sedentary peoples in a book that continues the themes of Guns, Germs and Steel
  10. 20
    The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby (John_Vaughan)
  11. 42
    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker (Percevan)
    Percevan: Both books are eminently throwing light on the big lines in human history
  12. 10
    Children of the Ice Age: How a Global Catastrophe Allowed Humans to Evolve by Steven M. Stanley (br77rino)
    br77rino: Children of the Ice Age is an excellent anthropological discussion of the link that became homo sapiens. Guns, Germs, and Steel covers the more recent territory of racial evolution within homo sapiens.
  13. 10
    The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes (Percevan)
  14. 10
    Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade (IslandDave)
  15. 10
    From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun (MusicMom41)
    MusicMom41: Guns, Germs and Steel makes a great “prelude’ to Barzun’s book From Dawn to Decadence.
  16. 00
    Stolen Continents: The "New World" Through Indian Eyes by Ronald Wright (rakerman)
    rakerman: Also see Ronald Wright's Stolen Continents for another angle on the Americas.
  17. 00
    Four Thousand Years Ago by Geoffrey Bibby (nessreader)
  18. 00
    Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu (Serviette, longway)
  19. 00
    Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect by Paul R. Ehrlich (bookcrushblog)
  20. 00
    Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths (hohlwelt)
    hohlwelt: Complements very well with what Jared Diamond misses and vice versa.

(see all 23 recommendations)

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» See also 480 mentions

English (245)  Italian (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (3)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  English (263)
Showing 1-5 of 245 (next | show all)
This book was highly recommended to me by a former political science professor of mine about a year ago. I picked it up last week, and though reading it appears to be an intimidating endeavor it turned out to be quite interesting and manageable to get through. This Pulitzer Prize winner attempts to cover massive ground in under 500 pages, and while it would seem that small amount of space would sell short the fates of human societies, Diamond does a stellar job of incorporating all the aspects required of this topic into a relatable masterpiece.

Part of what makes Guns, Germs, and Steel so effortless to read is its repetitiveness, which also tends to be one of its major critiques. I think that the breadth of this book made repetition not just acceptable, but useful. The reader could easily lose track of what was being discussed if the focus was not continuously being brought back to the main ideas Diamond pursued. The big question this book tries to answer is why some societies advanced and prospered while numerous others did not. In short, it is a brief history of how human societies proceeded to their present state.

Diamond’s hypothesis is that there are many different reasons for how societies came to be the way they are today, but that racial differences is not among them. The four factors that he claims contributed most to the success or failure of societies are the differences in wild plant and animal life on the continents, the orientation of the continents’ major axis, the rate of diffusion between continents, and the total area and population size of each of the continents. For instance, Eurasia had 13 of the 14 domesticatable animal species in the world, has a major axis orientation of west-east rather than north-south, was least impeded by geographic barriers to spread information, and has the largest land mass and population size of any of the continents. This book documents how each of these factors affected the populations of each continent in the development of human societies.

One of the major sections of Guns, Germs, and Steel focuses on food production and dissemination, which I found particularly interesting. Diamond explains that having domesticatable animal and plant species is essential to progress a human society. The comfort of our current culture is a result of our ancestors transitioning from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to sedentary farmers. Stockpiling food, branching into handicrafts, creating a written language, and building up immunities to germs transmitted by livestock would never have been possible if humans had not begun to cultivate the land. As this book jaunts on, the layers from which society is constructed are clearly presented and reiterated, so that by the end you will have no trouble explaining why the hundreds of thousands of Aztecs were conquered by the few hundred Spaniards, or why the Australians never independently developed agriculture. As Diamond notes and demonstrates, history is indeed like an onion.

While an impressive amount of information is covered in this work, I got the sense that a lot was being left unsaid. Not until the epilogue does Diamond begin to point out historical instances that are more than just anomalies in his theory. For example, China had advantages in every area Diamond suggests is important to advancing society, and yet it was Europe, not China, that colonized the Americas. He asserts this to China being so unified that the decision of a single person could impede the progress of the entire nation. (Interestingly, this is what led to China abandoning everything from mechanical clocks to the entire school system at one point!) Europe, on the other hand, had many competing rulers and opinions which helped it advance ahead of China. This makes sense, but seems to be in conflict with Diamond’s hypothesis, which is that geography and resources are what gave cultures advantages, not the humans within the cultures. This is not a racist explanation, as Diamond was trying to avoid, since there has probably been someone in every society who thought it would be best to do away with seafaring ships at one time or another. It just happened that that person was in a position of power in China at an unfortunate time.

Diamond does a fantastic job of working through the history of human societies on every continent and explaining why they are the way they are today. He employs the knowledge of many disciplines, including linguistics, geography, biology and agronomy, to name a few. Though the scientific method may not have been properly used here, as Diamond presents only information that supports his hypothesis, the premise and conclusion are logical and well presented. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a definite asset to anyone’s bookshelf. ( )
1 vote KallieGrace | Nov 25, 2016 |
4 ( )
  ronchan | Nov 14, 2016 |
This book was one of the worst books i have ever read. Yes, it was filled with facts about the world and how we came about today but there was nothing that kept me interested. Diamond had no intent on making this book easy to read at all. He used scholarly language that was too complicated for me to understand. If you absolutely LOVE history, this book is for you. If you have slight interest in history then I think there are many other books that can be read before you choose this one ( )
1 vote sheridenschwertl | Nov 8, 2016 |
The aim of this book (and I am oversimplifying) is to explain why western countries became the dominant force in the last couple of centuries. Specifically, he is rejecting social Darwinist and racist explanations for why it has been mostly European Caucasian societies that have come to power, to find an explanation based on geography and evolution. Diamond is successful in this explanation, and takes the reader some of the most interesting developments in human history--the rise of agriculture and animal domestication, the invention of writing, and other important technologies, and migration and trade patterns. While the book is packed with interesting information, it is however, rather repetitive, and probably cites more examples than it needs to. ( )
  renardkitsune | Oct 19, 2016 |
Diamond explains why some groups of humans have done well based on local circumstances: material resources, pathogens, human migratory patterns, that sort of thing. It's such a useful and non-racist theory that it holds immediate appeal. I've no idea how well it's withstood research over the past twenty years, but I'll assume that my understanding of it is too simplistic to be quite true.

Library copy. ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 245 (next | show all)
In ''Guns, Germs, and Steel,'' an ambitious, highly important book, Jared Diamond asks: How did Pizarro come to be at Cajamarca capturing Atahualpa, instead of Atahualpa in Madrid capturing King Charles I? Why, indeed, did Europeans (and especially western Europeans) and Asians always triumph in their historical conquests of other populations? Why weren't Native Americans, Africans and aboriginal Australians instead the ones who enslaved or exterminated the Europeans?
 
Jared Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope: a history of the world in less than 500 pages which succeeds admirably, where so many others have failed, in analysing some of the basic workings of cultural process. . . It is willing to simplify and to generalize; and it does reach conclusions, about ultimate as well as proximate causes, that carry great conviction, and that have rarely, perhaps never, been stated so coherently or effectively before. For that reason, and with few reservations, this book may be welcomed as one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Colin Renfrew (Mar 27, 1997)
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jared Diamondprimary authorall editionscalculated
Diamond, Jared M.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Mie HidleTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cavalli-Sforza, Francescosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavalli-Sforza, Lucasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi L.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Civalleri, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansson, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Esa, Kariniga, Omwai, Paran, Sauakari, Wiwor, and all my other New Guinea friends and teachers - masters of a difficult environment.
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This book attempts to provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. (Preface to the Paperback Edition)
We all know that history has proceeded very differently for peoples from different parts of the globe. (Prologue to the Hardback Edition)
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Mobilisant des disciplines aussi diverses que la génétique ,l la biologie moléculaire , l'écologie l'écologies des comportements , l'épidémiologie , la linguistique , et l'histoire des civilisations , à l'ère de la globalisaton , Jared Diamond vous propose opportunément cet essai , en tout point singulier ,sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les sociétés .
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393061310, Hardcover)

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:33 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Why did Eurasians conquer, displace, or decimate Native Americans, Australians, and Africans, instead of the reverse? In this groundbreaking book, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for history's broadest patterns. Here, at last, is a world history that really is a history of all the world's peoples, a unified narrative of human life even more intriguing and important than accounts of dinosaurs and glaciers. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world, and its inequalities, came to be. It is a work rich in dramatic revelations that will fascinate readers even as it challenges conventional wisdom.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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