Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  133,006 ratings  ·  5,711 reviews
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 mov...more
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Published July 11th 2001 by HighBridge Company (first published 1997)
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Mike
May 18, 2007 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Folks with some interest in ancient history
Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1) the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2) the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et. al. is because of the geographical features of where each civilization happened to develop. Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-a...more
Molly
Nov 22, 2008 Molly rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ONLY people in Anthropology with a great understanding of theory.
This is what happens when you take an intelligent person, and casually make a few mentions of a field of study they have no knowledge of.

Mr. Diamond, NOT an anthropologist, takes Marvin Harris' theory of cultural materialism and uses it to explain everything in life, history, and the current state of the world.

Materialism is a way of looking at human culture which, for lack of a better way to explain it easily here, says that people's material needs and goods determine behavior and culture. For...more
Manny
I liked this book, and it taught me a bunch of things I hadn't known before I read it. Jared Diamond has clearly had a more interesting life than most of us, and spent significant amounts of time in a wide variety of different kinds of society, all over the world. He says he got the basic idea from a conversation he had back in the 70s with a friend in New Guinea. His friend, who later became a leader in the independence movement, wanted to talk about "cargo" (manufactured goods, technology). "W...more
Joshua Parkinson
In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and a band of 168 Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Why didn’t it happen the other way around? Why didn't the Incas sail to Europe, capture Charles V, kill his subjects, and loot his castles and cathedrals? Jared Diamond attempts to answer this question in Guns, Germs & Steel.

Why have Europeans tended to dominate other peoples on other continents? Does it have somethi...more
Jim
The Purist

I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

That bit of Ogden Nash whimsy came into my head as I thought about Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a reflection on human history through the lens of e...more
Riku Sayuj

Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. What makes the book particularly good is the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this.

The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13,000 years...more
Nate
This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. The point he is making is that we in Western Civilazation haven't built skyscrapers, made moon landings, mass produced automobiles, eradicated polio (or for that matter lived indoors with running water) while aborigines in certain remote outposts still hunt and gather in isolated tribes because we are inherently any smarter or more industrious than those individuals. Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is t...more
Jason Koivu
Misleading! The actual title should be Germs, More Germs and a bit about Steel And Guns, but not very much on those last two really...I mean, we want to put Guns first because it's more attention-grabbing than Germs, but let's face it, this book is mostly about Germs.

Why has no publishing house knocked down my door trying to obtain my book titling services yet?!
Will Byrnes
Diamond seeks to dispel the myth that humans of different geographic and racial origins have inherently varying mental capabilities. The arguments he seeks to counter are those stating that since "civilization" came to full flower in the "western" countries (white) and not in places where other races dominated, that this indicated the innate superiority of Caucasians. He provides a stunning analysis of why civilization emerged in the places in which it did. He tells us of the few areas on the pl...more
M
Jan 15, 2008 M rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who need help falling asleep before bed?
UPDATE: I closed the file on this one I had a dinner-party conversation last Friday that began with someone saying, "You know, almonds are one of the oldest domesticated plant species in the world." And I said, "Oh yeah! That's right! I think I learned that in 'Guns, Germs and Steel.'" And the other person said, "Oh yeah, I think you're right" (P.S. I'm paraphrasing), and we both sort of said, "Right before Jared Diamond put me to sleep." So, as you can see, I've already been able to make small...more
Elizabeth King
Germ Guns & Steel

It is a thesis,
His thesis being; that all animals are created equal… but not all animals sleep in a bed with sheets.
Why?
Because in addition to needing tree for wood to make looms, herders to shear sheep & weavers to make sheets, you also need (DHU) SHEEP.
Yep, if you are unlucky enough to be born on a continent or onto part of a continent with only anteaters, there is no fucking way you are going to get sheets, no matter how smart you are.
All well and good…but not so very...more
Alex Telander
GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES BY JARED DIAMOND: This is one of those books that takes you a while to read -- it's pretty heavy non-fiction -- and yet at the end of it, you feel like Hippocrates, a Muslim scientist, or Leonardo Da Vinci must have felt at the realization of a great discovery. The Eureka! moment. This book is kind of like the movie Hotel Rwanda: the movie was life-altering for me, and just made every other movie that came out that year seem tawdry and unimpor...more
Radhika
Sep 04, 2007 Radhika rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humanists, geographers, omnivorous readers
I give this book 4 stars because it has some very interesting ideas that provoke thought and inquiry. It also offers plausible explanations that often ring true. I don't give it 5 stars because it suffers from certain drawbacks.

I love his analysis and interpretation of causes that show why civilization arose variously in diverse and distinct locations of the planet. I love how his causes make sense. His rejection of race-based politics is quite clear. I like
how his explanations lead us to reexa...more
Deborah
Having read Charles C. Mann's 1491 immediately before Guns, Germs, and Steel, I was all-too aware of the dated nature of many of Diamond's assumptions about the New World. (And therefore I would highly recommend 1491 to anyone interested in learning about the latest and greatest developments in knowledge concerning the early history of the Americas.) This seed of doubt concerning the accuracy of Diamond's assumptions about the Americas prevented me from fully appreciating what he had to say abou...more
Rhiannon
I have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history of plant and animal domestication.

"But Rhiannon," you might say, "doesn't that remove his entire thesis, that geography determined just about everything about the course of human civilization?"

And, I would respond yes, it does.

"And, isn't that kind of removing the whole book?"

No, I counter. It just removes the douche-y social Darwinist parts. Plus, i...more
Trevor
Jul 07, 2007 Trevor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to know why we got the cargo
Without overdoing the pun, everything by Diamond shines and shines. This is his greatest work. Occasionally in life you can feel a book shifting the way you see the world, shifting what you thought you knew about the world. There is a documentary made around this book, but read the book - trust me.
Julianne
My three-star rating has nothing to do with the quality of the ideas in this book; I think they're all top-notch. My lukewarm response has to do instead with their presentation.

Jared Diamond's prose is very readable but prolix. How, one might ask, could I find prolix a book which purports to condense the entire history of humankind into 425 pages? (As Diamond himself points out, compressing 13,000 years of history into roughly 400 pages works out to "an average of about one page per continent p...more
Arun Divakar
The first impression that history gave me was of a never ending series of dates and occurences which needless to say is an extremely boring way to learn. The whole perspective of history changed for me when I began viewing this like I do soil. Multiple layers all held together by a common force, some of them interleaving and some totally independent with each layer telling a story of its own. At one point of time, the layer of top soil thinks of itself as invincible but with changing circumstanc...more
Curtis Abbott
Before buying and reading this book, I read some reviews, and frankly, they didn't inspire me. They talked about it being a history of the world, they talked about its immense, ambitious scope. Such talk causes my crap detectors to tingle. I did finally buy it after reading a laudatory review by someone I respect. And I'm glad I did, because I found it to be absolutely top notch. The phrase "history of the world" misguides because the book is entirely about pre-history. The story it tells is his...more
Miriam Axel-lute
Jun 01, 2008 Miriam Axel-lute rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: just about anyone
Recommended to Miriam by: Jon Spaihts

Well, I understand why this got a Pulitzer. I hope every student is having to read it in high school. I'm afraid they're not.

Although Diamond's main purpose is to answer the question "Why did the peoples of some continents conquer and dispossess others?" in a non-racist fashion (and succeeds convincingly), the book in many ways is a history of the world, and one less Eurocentric and less focused on irrelevant details than many whose point is explicitly trying to do that.

This was one of those aw...more
Siria
Terrible. This is one of those books which seems at face value as if it has an interesting and persuasive thesis, and indeed there are a couple of reasonable points in here, but by and large Guns, Germs, and Steel is a poorly written book, shoddily argued and riddled with factual errors. Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variet...more
Cody VC
May 19, 2012 Cody VC rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NOBODY
Recommended to Cody by: the worst professor
Shelves: for-school
I will say this: he makes some interesting points about geographical and geological determinism and the potential validity thereof. Everything else, however, is basically shit. The Pulitzer this book got must have been the world's biggest and most expensive A for effort.

Diamond writes in his introduction that a multi-discipline effort "would be doomed from the outset, because the essence of the problem is to develop a unified synthesis. That consideration dictates single authorship, despite all...more
eric yoo
Premise: The gaps in power and technology among modern human societies can be traced to environmental differences rather than cultural or racial ones.

I’m not smarter than a hunter-gatherer from Namibia. My ipod and rechargeable roomba aren’t indicators or badges of any sort of superiority. It’s just that in the last 13,000 years, my ancestors were located in places with access to larger animals that could be domesticated and where food could be cultivated. They also slept with enough animals (p...more
Nick Black
Poorly-reasoned trash. This kind of crap gets you a McArthur Genius Grant these days? There were two sentences in this book worth reading, both about ornery animals disemboweling the hapless native folk Dr. Diamond has you hating by the hundredth page. IF THE POLYNESIANS WANT FOOD, MAYBE THEY SHOULD LEAVE POLYNESIA. For chrissakes, your nations barely have names, just two-letter Internet TLD's which get farmed out to continental pornographic concerns and a Hellenicism no more creative than "Lots...more
Joseph
In the fields of geography and history, there are few more nettlesome turns of phrase than the vaguely Eurocentric 'The Middle East' and the academically petulant 'The Common Era' (or C.E and B.C.E. as a replacement for A.D. and B.C.) That Jared Diamond avoids both of these, while introducing the more precise 'Southwest Asia' is an early indicator of the exactness and objectivity that he shows throughout this epic overview of civilization's building blocks.

When reading nonfiction, I am often imp...more
Alessandra
"Guns Germs and Steel is about why the rise of complex human societies unfolded differently on different continents over the last 13,000 years"- Jared Diamond describing the nature of his work in the 2003 afterword

Diamond deserves credit for this great undertaking, yet there is most likely a reason behind the lack of such work in the historical field-as such a broad or universal approach to history often leads to oversimplification. Considering I am just beginning to specialize in history, I mus...more
Fahad
هذه ليست مراجعة كاملة، وإنما هي رد كتبته على قراءة الأخ خالد المغربي، وقد طلب الأخ الكريم بلطفه نقل الرد ليكون بمثابة مراجعة للكتاب، وها أنا أفعل رغم قناعتي أنه سيكون مراجعة عرجاء وناقصة كثيرا ً.



قرأت هذا الكتاب العام الماضي، ولانشغالي حينها لم أكتب عنه للأسف، رغم قيمته الكبيرة وأهميته.

يخبرنا مؤلف الكتاب جارد دايموند كيف جاءته فكرة الكتاب خلال محادثة له مع أحد سكان نيو غينيا الأصليين، الذي سأل دايموند لماذا لديكم أيها الغربيون الكثير من الشحنات – Cargos جمع شحنة، وهي الكلمة التي استخدمها الرجل لي...more
Kaethe
Diamond explains why some groups of humans have done well based on local circumstances: material resources, pathogens, human migratory patterns, that sort of thing. It's such a useful and non-racist theory that it holds immediate appeal. I've no idea how well it's withstood research over the past twenty years, but I'll assume that my understanding of it is too simplistic to be quite true.

Library copy.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 05, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List - History
Reading this made me think of the story of the blind men and the elephant; a Jain version of the story reads:

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pip...more
Monica
I had to write a paper on this book for my first class in graduate school. I am going to look to see if I still have it...hold on...I am totally pasting it in:

“I’ve set myself the modest task of trying to explain the broad pattern of human history, on all the continents, for the last 13,000 years.” While Diamond’s explanation of his prize-winning book’s goal is clearly oversimplified, the impetus for writing the book is not: while doing research in New Guinea, a native friend named Yali asked hi...more
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Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.
More about Jared Diamond...
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (Science Masters) Natural Experiments of History

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“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves” 77 likes
“In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.” 39 likes
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