Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the peoples of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their peoples. This edition includes a new chapter on Japan and all-new illustrations drawn from the television series. Until around 11,000 BC, all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers. At that point, a great divide occurred in the rates that human societies evolved. In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders. As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and geography. But how did differences in societies arise? Why weren't native Australians, Americans, or Africans the ones to colonize Europe? Diamond dismantles pernicious racial theories tracing societal differences to biological differences. He assembles convincing evidence linking germs to domestication of animals, germs that Eurasians then spread in epidemic proportions in their voyages of discovery. In its sweep, Guns, Germs and Steel encompasses the rise of agriculture, technology, writing, government, and religion, providing a unifying theory of human history as intriguing as the histories of dinosaurs and glaciers.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this usually soft spoken academic is willing to assert that Diamond's book is one of very few that could have a real impact on world understanding if it were widely read. Diamond wrestles with the huge question of why some societies became so rich and powerful -- and why others remain relatively poor and powerless. To answer so enormous a question, the author addresses many other fundamental questions. Among these are how and why did food production begin? What differences did this make? How did it spread? Why were some animals domesticated and others not? How did writing evolve, and why does it matter? Diamond poses similar questions with respect to technology, religion, and government. He writes clearly and in an engrossing manner, with a consistent (but not heavy-handed) grounding in evolutionary theory. He is a biologist who neatly interweaves data and insights from many other disciplines, including geography and anthropology, which are too often overlooked. A subsidiary theme of this work is discrediting racist theories of history, which Diamond does deftly and consistently throughout, with no resort to polemic. Several apt but unfamiliar illustrations complement the text, which is thoroughly authoritative despite the absence of footnotes or endnotes. A discursive bibliographic essay on each chapter can be helpful to anyone who wants to pursue a topic in greater depth. All levels. D. B. Heath; Brown University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review
In a boldly ambitious analysis of history's broad patterns, evolutionary biologist Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee) identifies food production as a key to the glaring inequalities of wealth and power in the modern world. Dense, agriculture-based populations, unlike relatively egalitarian hunter-gatherers, bred chiefs, kings and bureaucratic "kleptocracies" that transferred wealth from commoners to upper classes. Such bureaucracies, Diamond maintains, were essential to organizing wars of conquest; moreover, farming societies were able to support full-time craft specialists who developed technical innovations and steel weapons. As a result, European conquerors and their colonizing descendants, bringing guns, cavalry and infectious diseases, overwhelmed the native peoples of North and South America, Africa and Australia. Using molecular biological studies, Diamond, a professor at UCLA Medical School, illuminates why Eurasian germs spreading animal-derived diseases proved so devastating to indigenous societies on other continents. Refuting racist explanations for presumed differences in intelligence or technological capability and eschewing a Eurocentric worldview, he argues persuasively that accidental differences in geography and environment, combined with centuries of conquest, genocide and epidemics, shaped the disparate populations of today's world. His masterful synthesis is a refreshingly unconventional history informed by anthropology, behavioral ecology, linguistics, epidemiology, archeology and technological development. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC, History Book Club, QPB and Newbridge Book Clubs selections. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Review
Why is history so dramatically different for peoples around the world? Why did some groups become literate industrial societies with metal tools while others remained nonliterate farming societies, and still others remained hunter-gatherers with stone tools? The resultant inequalities have led historically to the extermination or conquest of some groups by more advanced, literate societies. Biologist Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee, LJ 3/15/92) here combines a study of human history with science, specifically evolutionary biology and geology. His starting point is 11,000 B.C., when large differences began to appear in the rates at which human societies evolved. Diamond examines on a global scale the development of farming, domestication of plants and animals, creation of writing, and advancement of technology. He maintains that it was such environmental benefits as the availability of certain key species and plants, as well as geographical placement, that gave the advantage to Eurasia over the rest of the world, rather than any biological advantages of one race over the others. A provocative book that will appeal to general readers as well as scholars; recommended for most libraries. BOMC, History Book Club, Quality paperback Books, and Newbridge Book Club selections.Ed.]Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., Kan. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Jared Mason Diamond is a physiologist, ecologist, and the author of several popular science books. Born in Boston in 1937, Diamond earned his B.A. at Harvard and his Ph.D. from Cambridge. A distinguished teacher and researcher, Diamond is well-known for the columns he contributes to the widely read magazines Natural History and Discover.
Diamond's book The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal was heralded for its accessibility and for its blending of science and social science. The interdisciplinary Guns, Germs and Steel--Diamond's examination of the relationship between scientific technology and economic disparity--won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. Diamond has won a McArthur Foundation Fellowship in addition to several smaller awards for his science and writing.
(Bowker Author Biography)