Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Subtitle: The Fates of Human Societies

Published: 1997

Genre: nonfiction history

Length: 425 pages of story, 480 pages of text

Interest: It was recommended to StatsGuy by one of the guys in his board game group.

Summary: The book attempts to answer the question of why some societies (mostly European) have been so much more successful than others (like Native Americans or Aboriginal Australians). Diamond maintains one of the big differences was due to the development of agriculture. If you lived in an area with big-seeded plants or the right kind of animals to domesticate, the development of agriculture led to permanent settlement, jobs unrelated to food, and government. Europe was also at an advantage because its east-west axis allowed agriculture to spread easily. Once agriculture was established, populations increased. With more people, it increased the chance a novel idea would be implemented (like writing) and spread to neighboring communities. The last section applied these principles to explain why non-Eurasian areas were as successful at conquering the world as Eurasian nations.

Final thoughts: A very interesting and well-documented premise. European dominance basically comes down to geographical luck. It’s not that Europeans are smarter, it’s that Europeans had access to easily domesticated plants and animals that could spread along their longitudinal axis. I did find the beginning sections laying out the hypotheses and providing the supporting evidence to be more interesting than the last section on how all the continents but Eurasia failed.

I would really like to see an updated version of this book. So much knowledge has been added to this field since the 90s when the book was written, particularly in terms of genetics.

Title comes from: It’s a bit of alliteration and a bit of the main points providing cultural dominance. Really, it should have put “Seeds” in the title, or some other allusion to agriculture since it was so important to the dominance.

Awards won: the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1998 (so I’m counting it for my Pulitzer Prize book challenge, even though I typically read the fiction award winners).

Reading challenges fulfilled: 41/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and 4/12 in the Check Off Your Reading List Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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