Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief:
Synopsis[ edit ] The prologue opens with an account of Diamond's conversation with Yalia New Guinean politician. The conversation turned to the obvious differences in power and technology between Yali's people and the Europeans who dominated the land for years, differences that neither of them considered due to any genetic superiority of Europeans.
Yali asked, using the local term " cargo " for inventions and manufactured goods, "Why is it that you white Thesis diamonds developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?
Still others, he says, "have been decimated, subjugated, and in some cases even exterminated by European colonialists. He believes this is due to these societies' technologic and immunologic advantages, stemming from the early rise of agriculture after the last Ice Age. Title[ edit ] The book's title is a reference to the means by which farm-based societies conquered populations of other areas and maintained dominance, despite sometimes being vastly outnumbered — superior weapons provided immediate military superiority guns ; Eurasian diseases weakened and reduced local populations, who had no immunity, making it easier to maintain control over them germs ; and durable means of transport steel enabled imperialism.
Diamond argues geographic, climatic and environmental characteristics which favored early development of stable agricultural societies ultimately led to immunity to diseases endemic in agricultural animals and the development of powerful, organized states capable of dominating others.
Outline of theory[ edit ] Diamond argues that Eurasian civilization is not so much a product of ingenuity, but of opportunity and necessity. That is, civilization is not created out of superior intelligence, but is the result of a chain of developments, each made possible by certain preconditions.
The first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian society. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses.
Surpluses free people to specialize in activities other than sustenance and support population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other.
Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracieswhich in turn lead to the organization of nation-states and empires. In particular, Eurasia has barleytwo varieties of wheat, and three protein-rich pulses for food; flax for textiles; and goats, sheep, and cattle.
Eurasian grains were richer in protein, easier to sow, and easier to store than American maize or tropical bananas. As early Western Asian civilizations began to trade, they found additional useful animals in adjacent territories, most notably horses and donkeys for use in transport.
Australia and North America suffered from a lack of useful animals due to extinctionprobably by human hunting, shortly after the end of the Pleistocenewhilst the only domesticated animals in New Guinea came from the East Asian mainland during the Austronesian settlement some 4,—5, years ago.
Sub-Saharan biological relatives of the horse including zebras and onagers proved untameable; and although African elephants can be tamed, it is very difficult to breed them in captivity;   Diamond describes the small number of domesticated species 14 out of "candidates" as an instance of the Anna Karenina principle: He also makes the intriguing argument that all large mammals that could be domesticated, have been.
Large domestic animals such as horses and camels offered the considerable military and economic advantages of mobile transport. Eurasia's large landmass and long east-west distance increased these advantages.
Its large area provided it with more plant and animal species suitable for domestication, and allowed its people to exchange both innovations and diseases. Its east-west orientation allowed breeds domesticated in one part of the continent to be used elsewhere through similarities in climate and the cycle of seasons.
The Americas had difficulty adapting crops domesticated at one latitude for use at other latitudes and, in North America, adapting crops from one side of the Rocky Mountains to the other. Similarly, Africa was fragmented by its extreme variations in climate from north to south: Europe was the ultimate beneficiary of Eurasia's east-west orientation: The rise of nonfarming specialists such as craftsmen and scribes accelerated economic growth and technological progress.
These economic and technological advantages eventually enabled Europeans to conquer the peoples of the other continents in recent centuries by using the guns and steel of the book's title.
Eurasia's dense populations, high levels of trade, and living in close proximity to livestock resulted in widespread transmission of diseases, including from animals to humans. Smallpoxmeaslesand influenza were the result of close proximity between dense populations of animals and humans.
Natural selection forced Eurasians to develop immunity to a wide range of pathogens. When Europeans made contact with the Americas, European diseases to which Americans had no immunity ravaged the indigenous American population, rather than the other way around the "trade" in diseases was a little more balanced in Africa and southern Asia: Threats posed by immediate neighbours ensured governments that suppressed economic and technological progress soon corrected their mistakes or were outcompeted relatively quickly, whilst the region's leading powers changed over time.
Other advanced cultures developed in areas whose geography was conducive to large, monolithic, isolated empires, without competitors that might have forced the nation to reverse mistaken policies such as China banning the building of ocean-going ships.
Western Europe also benefited from a more temperate climate than Southwestern Asia where intense agriculture ultimately damaged the environment, encouraged desertificationand hurt soil fertility.
Agriculture[ edit ] Guns, Germs, and Steel argues that cities require an ample supply of food, and thus are dependent on agriculture. As farmers do the work of providing food, division of labor allows others freedom to pursue other functions, such as mining and literacy.
The crucial trap for the development of agriculture is the availability of wild edible plant species suitable for domestication. Farming arose early in the Fertile Crescent since the area had an abundance of wild wheat and pulse species that were nutritious and easy to domesticate.
In contrast, American farmers had to struggle to develop corn as a useful food from its probable wild ancestor, teosinte. Also important to the transition from hunter-gatherer to city-dwelling agrarian societies was the presence of 'large' domesticable animals, raised for meat, work, and long-distance communication.
Diamond identifies a mere 14 domesticated large mammal species worldwide. The five most useful cow, horse, sheep, goat, and pig are all descendants of species endemic to Eurasia.Do You Have Trouble Starting An Essay, Getting Stuck, or Too Many Ideas?
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