In this groundbreaking work, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for history’s broadest patterns. It is a story that spans 13,000 years of human history, beginning when... read more
This book takes us on an incredible journey from the origins of homo sapien through the industrial revolution and all the way up to tomorrow. Diamond asks us, "Why did some human societies conquer others and not the other way around?" He attributes the developments of guns, germs and steel... read more
This book takes us on an incredible journey from the origins of homo sapien through the industrial revolution and all the way up to tomorrow. Diamond asks us, "Why did some human societies conquer others and not the other way around?" He attributes the developments of guns, germs and steel (but foremost, food production) to the success of some nations over others. A fascinating read--highly recommend.
“We all know that history has proceeded very differently for peoples from different parts of the globe. In the 13,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age, some parts of the world developed literate industrial societies with metal tools, other parts developed only nonliterate farming societies, and still others retained societies, and still others retained societies of hunter-gathers with stone tools. Those historical inequalities have cast long shadows on the modern world, because the literate societies with metal tools have conquered or exterminated the other societies. While those differences constitute the most basic fact of world history, the reasons for them remain uncertain and controversial. This puzzling question of their origins was posed to me 25 years ago in a simple, personal form.”
“It's true, of course, that some rare African animals have occasionally been tamed. Hannibal enlisted tamed African elephants in his unsuccessful war against Rome, and anciant Egyptians may have tamed giraffes and other species. But nonw of those tamed animals was actually domesticated - that is, selectively bred in captivity and genetically modified so as to become more useful to humans. Had Africa's rhinos and hippos been domesticated and ridden, they would not only have fed armies but also have provided an unstoppable cavalry to cur through the ranks of European horsemen. Rhino-mounted Bantu shock troops could have over-thrown the Roman Empire. It never happened.”
“Many of the white colonialists openly despised New Guineans as “primitive.” Even the least able of New Guinea’s white “masters,” as they were still called in 1972, enjoyed a far higher standard of living than New Guineans, higher even than charismatic politicians like Yali. Yet Yali had quizzed lots of whites as he was then quizzing me, and I had quizzed lots of New Guineans. He and I both knew perfectly well that New Guineans are on the average at least as smart as Europeans. All those things must have been on Yali’s mind when, with yet another penetrating glance of his flashing eyes, he asked me, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?””
“Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way.”
“Naturally, what makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatic themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy. Fanaticism is war, of the type that drove recorded Christian and Islamic conquests was probably unknown on Earth until chiefdoms and especially states emerged within the last 6,000 years.”
“Amalgamation, centralized conflict resolution, decision making, economic redistribution, and kleptocratic religion don't just develop automatically through a Rousseauesque social contract.”
“All human societies contain inventive people. It's just that some environments provide more starting materials, and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions, than do other environments.”
“Historical sciences are concerned with chains of proximate and ultimate causes. In most of physics and chemistry the concepts of "ultimate cause," "purpose," and "function" are meaningless, yet they are essential to understanding living systems in general and human activities in particular.”
PROLOGUE: YALI'S QUESTION
The regionally different courses of history
PART ONE: FROM EDEN TO CAJAMARCA
Chapter 1: UP TO THE STARTING LINE: What happened on all the continents before 11,000 B.C.?
Chapter 2: A NATURAL EXPERIMENT OF HISTORY: How geography molded societies on Polynesian islands
Chapter 3: COLLISION AT CAJAMARCA: Why the Inca emperor Atahualpa did not capture King Charles I of Spain
PART TWO: THE RISE AND SPREAD OF FOOD
Chapter 4: FARMER POWER: The roots of guns, germs, and steel
Chapter 5: HISTORY'S HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: Geographic differences in the onset of food production
Chapter 6: TO FARM OR NOT TO FARM: Causes of the spread of food production
Chapter 7: HOW TO MAKE AN ALMOND: The unconscious development of ancient crops
Chapter 8: APPLES OR INDIANS: Why did people of some regions fail to domesticate plants?
Chapter 9: ZEBRAS, UNHAPPY MARRIAGES, AND THE ANNA KARENINA PRINCIPLE: Why were most big wild mammal species never domesticated?
Chapter 10: SPACIOUS SKIES AND TILTED AXES: Why did food production spread at different rates on different continents?
PART THREE: FROM FOOD TO GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL
Chapter 11: LETHAL GIFT OF LIVESTOCK: The evolution of germs
Chapter 12: BLUEPRINTS AND BORROWED LETTERS: The evolution of writing
Chapter 13: NECESSITY'S MOTHER: The evolution of technology
Chapter 14: FROM EGALITARIANISM TO KLEPTOCRACY: The evolution of government and religion
PART FOUR: AROUND THE WORLD IN FIVE CHAPTERS
Chapter 15: YALI'S PEOPLE: The histories of Australia and New Guinea
Chapter 16: HOW CHINA BECAME CHINESE: The history of East Asia
Chapter 17: SPEEDBOAT TO POLYNESIA: The history of the Austronesian expansion
Chapter 18: HEMISPHERES COLLIDING: The histories of Eurasia and the Americas compared
Chapter 19: HOW AFRICA BECAME BLACK: The history of Africa
EPILOGUE: THE FUTURE OF HUMAN HISTORY AS A SCIENCE
We’re hiding the themes, errata, reading level, movie connections and books that influenced this book sections. If you would like to add content to them, you must first make them visible.