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

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  164,188 Ratings  ·  6,829 Reviews
A global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.
Until around 11,000 b.c., 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 existen
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Paperback, 425 pages
Published 2005 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1997)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Molly
Nov 22, 2008 Molly rated it did not like it
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
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Mike
May 18, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
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
Manny
Sep 27, 2012 Manny rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2008 Joshua Parkinson rated it really liked it
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
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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
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Jason Koivu
Mar 07, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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?!
Nate
Aug 22, 2012 Nate rated it did not like it
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
Jim
Jul 27, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Carol.
Stopped on page 88 for the time being, because, man, do people ever suck. We historically sucked. But since humans used to invade other humans' territory and do a lot of killing, at least things have changed now.

Oh, wait.
Darwin8u
Dec 29, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
“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.”
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel

description

This is one of those books
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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
Siria
Aug 02, 2012 Siria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Fortunr
Jan 19, 2016 Fortunr rated it liked it
This is a thought-provoking, deeply interesting, controversial book investigating the reasons behind the bafflingly different rate of development of human societies in different parts of the world.

The main thesis of the author is that geographic aspects represent the overwhelming ultimate set of causal factors, and they played out mostly at the very beginning of societal development, mainly in prehistoric times.

The author uses very broad brush strokes to develop his main themes, both in geogra
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Trevor
Jul 07, 2007 Trevor rated it it was amazing
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.
Jokoloyo
Apr 08, 2016 Jokoloyo rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jokoloyo by: Oni
My first intention reading this book is not to seek knowledge in the real world, but to understand more about the setting/world making of fantasy fiction and science fiction. But this book gave me so much more than that, it gave me answers or some revelations about some of my personal thinking all these years.

I cannot comment much about the contents, there are a lot of reviews that describe the contents well.

Some interesting points on this book for me:
1. In my opinion, this book has pristine des
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Elizabeth King
Jan 21, 2008 Elizabeth King rated it it was ok
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
Sep 16, 2010 Alex Telander rated it it was amazing
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
Jim
THIS BOOK ATTEMPTS TO PROVIDE A SHORT HISTORY OF EVERYbody for the last 13,000 years. The question motivating the book is: Why did history unfold differently on different continents?...

Diamond immediately takes great pains to shoot down any ideas of one race being more intelligent than another. Yes, some thought so, but they've been refuted for long enough that I thought he belabored the point. This section does introduce us to his method of argument which is to set up straw men & knock them
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Deborah
Jan 23, 2008 Deborah rated it liked it
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
Radhika
Sep 04, 2007 Radhika rated it really liked it
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
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Rhiannon
Jun 03, 2008 Rhiannon rated it it was ok
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
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Fahad
Nov 21, 2011 Fahad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Cody VC
May 19, 2012 Cody VC rated it did not like it  ·  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
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Curtis Abbott
Mar 12, 2008 Curtis Abbott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Julianne
Aug 21, 2008 Julianne rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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Nick Black
Dec 03, 2007 Nick Black rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Arun Divakar
Jun 11, 2014 Arun Divakar rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Daniel Bastian
Dec 09, 2014 Daniel Bastian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.


What do Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Francisco Pizarro have in common? Apart from their status as European countrymen, it was the fortuitous confluence of guns, microbes and steel technology which all but ensured their success at colonizing regions occupied by peoples who lacked such historical fulcrums. It should
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Joseph
Oct 04, 2013 Joseph rated it it was amazing
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
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Miriam Axel-lute
Jun 01, 2008 Miriam Axel-lute rated it it was amazing
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
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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.
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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” 106 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.” 54 likes
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