Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New Edition)

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New Edition)

by Jared Diamond


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"Fascinating.... Lays a foundation for understanding human history."—Bill Gates

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393061314
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/11/2005
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 89,520
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.55(d)

About the Author

Jared Diamond is professor of geography at UCLA and author of the best-selling Collapse and The Third Chimpanzee. He is a MacArthur Fellow and was awarded the National Medal of Science.

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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 486 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found it refreshing to read something which genuinely attempted to grasp the big picture of history. Ably dismissing the conceited and partisan theories of earlier generations (and of most people living today), Diamond proposes sensible scientific alternatives which carry the ring of truth, and apparently so self-evident that it seems amazing no one thought of them before. He isn't too concerned with the individuals and events which are the backbone of traditional histories. He won't explain why one or other political power in Europe gained the advantage in some situation. These are the fine details of the broader picture - and in a very real sense they don't affect the outcome of history. What Diamond wants to know is, for instance, why a steadfastly stone-age Europe was not colonised by gun-toting Native Americans. His ideas give a kind of tragic certainty to the history that we all know and I suspect that many will try to dismiss them as 'cultural determinism', as they have with other authors in this vein. If I have any criticism at all it is that Diamond rather labours the point, but this is not necessarily a bad thing with new and interesting ideas. This is an approach to history of which I would like to see a lot more - I could not put this book down. I have read most of the science books shortlisted for the 1998 Rhone-Poulenc prize and am very glad that this one won.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
This is a remarkable and thought-provoking book, full of insights into our past. At the end of the last ice age, in 11,000 BC, all peoples on all the continents were hunter-gatherers. Why the great subsequent differences? Biology? Different genetic endowments? No, it is not a matter of racial differences - there is only one human race, as Diamond shows. Why did bronze tools appear early in parts of Eurasia, but late and only locally in the New World, and never in aboriginal Australia? Diamond answers that environmental geography lays down the conditions of economic and social development. Eurasia is the world's largest and most diverse landmass. Diamond shows how its larger stock of domestic plants and animals gave it the lead, starting in southwest Asia's Fertile Crescent. Big-seeded annual cereals, like wheats (emmer and einkorn) and barley, were easy to domesticate, and Eurasia's wheats have a higher protein content than East Asia's rice or the New World's corn. Eurasia also had the largest number of wild mammalian species, 72 candidates for domestication. There were 14 ancient species of big herbivorous domestic animals: 13 were confined to Eurasia, one to South America. There were none in North America, Australia or sub-Saharan Africa. Eurasia had the unique combination of domesticable animals - sheep, goats, cows, pigs and dogs. Also, Eurasia's east-west axis enabled a swifter spread of crops and livestock across its 10,000-mile band of temperate latitudes. The ultimate cause of progress - food production - led to the proximate causes - germs, literacy, technology and centralised government. Guns, germs and steel are power factors. But Diamond underestimates how empires seized their given advantages to attack, conquer and exploit other less fortunate peoples. And he tends to justify the current inequitable world order, as when he writes of, "revolts . promising less oppression . all the misery still being caused by such struggles in the modern world."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" is a very good book. The author's overall purpose of this book is to show how the tendencies of humans and the environmental influences on differing societies can be used to paint a general picture of the overall pattern of human development over time. He does this by providing countless examples of agricultural development, animal domestication, technological innovation, and the developments of societal structure on all 5 major continents: Africa, North America, South America, Eurasia (Europe and Asia), and Australia. Overall, Jack Diamond does a very good job in conveying and proving his intended message to the reader. He has an obviously profound understanding of human tendencies specifically all over the world. As a learning experience, I would recommend this book to someone who is wondering why human history has played out the way it has. It is very informational. A very good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jared Diamond¿s Guns, Germs, and Steel examines the reasons for the success of Eurasia and the failure of the Americas, Africa, and Australia over the course of civilization. The support of his thesis includes topics such as systems of agriculture, animal domestication, environmental boundaries, and the spread of disease. It is excellent for one wanting to better comprehend the in connectivity 'and isolation' of certain regions, and examining interaction trends. Diamond¿s ideas about environmental boundaries 'or lack thereof'and how they prevent and allow interaction are especially enlightening, as are his notions about the domestication of animals and why Eurasia got the better end of the deal when it came to domestication. My complaints about this book are its overly scientific approach and its limited use of cultural topics. Human civilization is often looked at in a scientific approach using approximate data and analyzing of trends. One must remember that history is not all cause-and-effect and a trend line, which brings me to my other critique of Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is the absence of acknowledgement of cultural topics. Diamond seems to be coming from a discredited school of thought called Environmental Determinism, which asserts that physical environment, rater than social traditions, determine culture. This book is for someone looking for an analysis of geographical, agricultural, and biological reasons for triumph and failure in civilization.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guns, Germs, and Steel, illustrates why and how the world became to be the world we know today. I chose to read this book because a family member had recommended it to me. For anyone who enjoys history or anthropology this book is truly fascinating. Jared Diamond pragmatically takes the reader on a voyage from the time of the cavemen to modern times. He answers many of the underlying questions that people ask when they study history. These questions include why Europeans came to North America and why North American Indians did not come to Europe, why some empires grew more technologically advanced than others, and why cultures are so different. His arguments are well qualified throughout the entire book. Diamond always makes a point of delving into each subject to the best of his ability. The premise of Diamond¿s theories lie in how a cultures location and crops inevitably forced them onto a track they could not escape. Although at times the ideas are scientific and confusing Diamond is always capable of making them make sense to the reader. Another quality of Diamonds that cannot go unnoticed is his ability to use microcosms as an example for a bigger picture. For example, he uses two tribes in New Guinea as an example of how two cultures can grow to be vastly different. With this example Diamond demonstrates how cultures that had to hunt big game were more likely to develop technology than cultures who were hunting smaller animals. The bigger the animal the more technologically advanced the weapons needed to hunt the animal. This is just one of the ideas presented in this microcosm used throughout the book. Diamond continually stresses the point that no culture or peoples is more intelligent than another, and this point is accurately proven throughout the book. After reading this work the basis for all racist theories is disproved. It becomes clear that some cultures were merely lucky enough to begin in a better location than others. These are the cultures that were near rivers, had better crops, less disease, and had an abundance of animals fit for domestication. After reading this book ones understanding of the effects of disease on all societies and it¿s effects in the realm of war is redefined. One learns that entire war¿s were one not because of superior military technology or larger armies but simply because one culture was able to make the other culture sick first. This concept is revealed in several parts of the book but is especially stressed in explaining how Europeans won many of there wars against non-European nations. One learns that in some instances eighty soldiers were able to kill thousands partly because the disease would become rampant in the other cultures cities. Gun, Germs, and Steal is an excellent and logical read. It should be required reading in all world history classes and one could go even farther to say in all colleges. In such a globalized world the information of this work becomes a necessity in understanding the modern structure of the globe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jared Diamond offers a concise, thought-provoking, and well researched multi-discipline approach, to how geography, guns, germs and steel have shaped world history and current inequalities around the world. This book is especially helpful to any future or current college student as an excellent example of the importance of bringing all academic disciplines together in order to solve historic and current world problems.
kpidlaoan More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for my geopolitics class in college. The task seemded daunting at first but when I actually started reading it I must say that I enjoyed every minute of the read. It was so interesting, it is a book that I believe everyone should read at some point. It does take you through the history of man's development. The theories and facts that are stated in this book draw you in. It's not your run of the mill historical book. This book kickstarted my addiction to historical nonfiction. I've gone on to read his other works, I love them.
efoss42atral More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be an interesting in depth look at the prime factors that caused the patterns of social evolution in history. The research and scientific studies that he references are very compelling evidence for his conclusions about history. The book allows you to draw your own conclusions from the evidence and make an informed decision. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys studies about cultural and social evolution through the world.
the_angry_moderate More than 1 year ago
Jared Diamond is a terrific writer and thinker. His simple analysis makes looking at the evolution of human societies easy to understand and incredibly compelling. This is a fantastic book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Jared Diamond presentation of his theory on why different classes exist. The book is very organized and one can see where he is going with every example he provides to prove his theory. At times the books seems repetitive but that only adds to his strengthening of his ideas.
JD31 More than 1 year ago
Jared Diamond does a good job of digging deep into why the spread of civilizations happened as it did. His approach uses archaelogical evidence as well as his background as a UCLA geographer to explain events. Well written, a little redundant at the end, but it's enjoyable and informative.
JESchultz More than 1 year ago
I purchased the book-on-CD and found the information compelling, however the narrator was a bit...monotonous. There were several times that I had to go back after falling asleep while listening to this on a flight. That being said, the information is fascinating, and Jared Diamond has lived the life of 100 people already. I don't know where he finds the time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
With artistic ease Mr. Diamond grabbed the complexes of human development treating chance, luck and mystery as dust to be clapped off our hands before leading us cleanly to today good job, smooth read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, it has given me a great insight into what it has taken for us as humans and a civilization to reach the point we are at now. The research that the author Jared Diamond put in to this book was extraordinary it allows you to look at something that most people don't take into account.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, and a lifetime of research and thinking by Mr. Diamond must have gone into creating it. Even though it is almost 500 pages in length, it concisely covers the basics of much of human history and civilization. Thankfully, Mr. Diamond puts forth the opposite of a racist interpretation of human history. It is very much taboo to suggest that genetic differences between different races resulted in one group of people conquering or dominating another, but it turns out that there are genetic differences in the brain between the populations of people in different countries of the world today. For example, different populations have differences in the composition of certain neurotransmitter receptors, that may influence such things as exploratory behavior (i.e., novelty seeking), and might something like that not influence global patterns of migration? Read C. Robert Cloninger's 'Feeling Good' for more information on dopamine receptors. Another point is that this book seems to have arrived at a time when people want to write and read 'histories of everything'. That type of book seems to be selling well right now. Overall, a very interesting and worthwhile read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book. Covers millions of years of history in under 400 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interestng points but delivered in a boring, repetitive fashion.
Catman46 More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I had never really thought much about WHY Europeans had all the requirements to conquer. I just knew they did. I had never considered food production, animal domestication, and how geography can really aid or hinder the development of a civilization. Kudos for this one. BUT - it's a slow read. You can't zip through this. It's not a novel. But well worth the effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am always looking to learn something new and this book is full of new and fascinating theories. Basically it is a study of what factors lead to one societies dominance over another's over the last 13,000 years. I especially enjoyed the chapters on plant production and language formation. The book is clearly written and easy to understand. My only criticism is that it is redundant at times. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for my freshman World History class, it is very long and a little boring at parts but I learned a lot.
RENAISSANCEAD More than 1 year ago
Although much of Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel seems speculative or even flawed, his writing is ground-braking and inspiring. Through the author's experiences, the book receives depth and color. It is a pleasure to read this beautifully flowing text. He tickles the mind in order to find a solution to a giant puzzle of human evolution. It may help in addressing the most pressing issues of modernity, such as poverty, violence, and problems that may be induced by climate change. His case is that modern civilization is essentially branded by the food production capabilities of early civilizations, prompting not only innovation but also the evolution of germs that had enabled them to overtake other people's lands. My own research laid out in the book The Great Leap-Fraud, Social Economics of Religious Terrorism shows that the development of humanity can be compared to a large wheel that very slowly drives an interdependent mechanism. Actions lead to symptomatic reactions in rather logical and simple ways. For the ancients, if something was not simple, relative to their level of development, it was not adopted. Diamond must know, as a whole, that the human species is lazy and conservative. If it does not have to change, it will not. If it can overfeed, it will. If it does not need to innovate, it will not. Without external forces, hunter-gatherers simply roam deeper into their territory rather than changing their old ways. Modern Fair Trade experiments speak volumes in this respect. Yet, they were able to identify and improve upon the most suitable crops. As Diamond observed, the hunter-gatherers of New Guinea possess knowledge that dwarfs most, if not all, modern biologists. In other words, 50,000 years ago, the species may have emerged just as intelligent as modern humans, but its intelligence evolved in a different, more specialized way (see Jewelry and cave paintings). On the other hand, the dumbest cow can distinguish delicious clovers from bitter weeds. Hence, the selection process may be less impressive than portrayed by Diamond. Whether Diamond's argument that food production laid the framework for conquests or the above outlined bottleneck theory might have led to geographical disparities in civilizations might be merely philosophical in the modern context. In my work, it seems rather that two factors played a major role in conquests: scarcity induced aggression in ancient times and religious conflicts during the last 2,500 years. The one with an edge was not blessed with food production but with stronger alliances. It is true, of course, that economic advantages re-enforce not only stronger allies but also a more innovative food production (irrigation). After all, it is (human) nature to favor the strong over the weak. However, the major implications of the text remain unanswered: how can the have-nots be converted into haves? The question is not how to bring the remaining hunter-gatherers into the civilized world or how to turn farmers into city dwellers but how to evolve slumified cities around the globe, even in the West, into a world of human dignity without creating an expectation of a free lunch and dependency by transferring wealth to the poor. Hence, I reject the Diamond's notion of moral justification for redistributive state control. Nevertheless, the quality of the book cannot depend on my agreement but merely on its originality and substance. This is where it deserves a hearty five stars. AJ
CrazyLegs More than 1 year ago
This book attempts to explain why certain civilizations have progressed farther and in shorter amounts of time than others. For example, why are Americans and Europeans so technologically advanced while Aborigines are still hunting and gathering in Australia? Diamond explains this thru an in depth look at food production, technology, germs, and literacy (Hence the title). It does get a little tough to read considering Diamond gets really deep into the domestication of plants and animals and language families. However, he ties it together at the end by using all the subjects he discusses in an analysis of each major region of the world. If you can make it through the slower chapters at the beginning, it will all make sense at the end. I recommend this simply because to my knowledge I don't know of any other works that explain this subject in depth as Diamond does. Diamond has many years of experience working with some of the tribes and ethnic groups he discusses in the book. One downfall on the nook version--most of the maps and tables do not display.
MrLegs More than 1 year ago
I am 48 and NOT a professor of anything. My purpose for telling you this is, this book should be read by everyone. It takes you step by step to how man evolved his/her existence. From 40,000 years ago hunter gathers living in small groups,(bands) to large society states. It explains the development of God worship and organized religeon. Which now makes such incredible sense to me! Now sometimes it gets a bit dry and maybe even tideous. BUT don't skip over a sentance. I will get all of his books! loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is an excellent book that should be use as a reference for historical essays. It explains how the world became divided between of the "have" and "have not".
CarterR More than 1 year ago
This book not only chronicles the thunderous clash between the Old World (Europe) and the New World (the Americas), but it provides a truly fresh view on how certain outcomes came about and the ultimate causes. It is a passionate argument against the simplistic (and racist) views that have dominated most discussions on the topic.