Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond Ph.D.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (also titled Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years) is a 1997 transdisciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998, it won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book. A documentary based on the book, and produced by the National Geographic Society, was broadcast on PBS in July 2005.
The book attempts to explain why Eurasian civilizations (including North Africa) have survived and conquered others, while arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians (for example, written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases), he asserts that these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures (for example, by facilitating commerce and trade between different cultures) and were not inherent in the Eurasian genomes.
Guns, Germs, and Steel was first published by W. W. Norton in March 1997. It was subsequently published in Great Britain under the title Guns, Germs, and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years by Vintage in 1998 (ISBN 978-0099302780). It was a selection of Book of the Month Club, History Book Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, and Newbridge Book Club.
In 2003 and 2007, the author published new English-language editions that included information collected since the previous editions. The new information did not change any of the original edition’s conclusions.
“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. 32 illustrations
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. –This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.
From Library Journal
Most of this work deals with non-Europeans, but Diamond’s thesis sheds light on why Western civilization became hegemonic: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” Those who domesticated plants and animals early got a head start on developing writing, government, technology, weapons of war, and immunity to deadly germs. (LJ 2/15/97)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.
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