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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  184,243 Ratings  ·  7,814 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs and Steel examines the rise of civilization and the issues its development has raised throughout history.
Having done field work in New Guinea for more than 30 years, Jared Diamond presents the geographical and ecological factors that have shaped the modern world. From the viewpoint of an evolutionary biologist, he highlights the
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Published January 18th 2011 by Random House Audio (first published 1997)
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Jan 11, 2008 Molly rated it did not like it  ·  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
May 18, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Michael Finocchiaro
It took me a while to complete Diamond's book (and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime) because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The central thesis that it is not racial biology that determines the victors in history but rather a complex combination of agriculture, geography, population density, and continental orientation is a fascinating and compelling one. The style is not academic (and did admittedly put me off by using sen ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Nate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2008 Jason Koivu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?!
Joshua Parkinson
Jan 31, 2008 Joshua Parkinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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.
Jul 27, 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
Aug 30, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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


This is one of those books
Feb 01, 2017 Cody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzers, history
Diamond's pulitzer prize winning book searches for an explanation as to why some cultures (Eurasian cultures specifically) progressed faster than cultures in other regions (Australia and the Americas). Diamond starts us off by going all the way back to the great leap forward, when humans began to expand outward from our African origins, and gradually works his way back to the conquests of Native Americans.

Diamond has a fascination with the transition from hunter-gathering to farming, so potenti
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
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
Mar 15, 2015 Jokoloyo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 07, 2007 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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.
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
Aug 24, 2007 Radhika rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
فهد الفهد
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
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
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
Daniel Bastian
Nov 17, 2011 Daniel Bastian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cody VC
Jan 25, 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
Curtis Abbott
Mar 12, 2008 Curtis Abbott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2015 Maryam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
برخلاف آن چه نژادپرست های سفیدپوست می پندارند، استعمار آفریقا توسط اروپا هیچ ارتباطی به تفاوت های میان خود مردم اروپا و آفریقا ندارد. در عوض ،این امر ناشی از تصادف های جغرافیایی و زیست جغرافیایی- به طور خاص ناشی از تفاوت در مساحت، محور جغرافیایی و مجموعه ی گونه های گیاهان و حیوانات وحشی- است. به بیان دیگر، مسیرهای تاریخی متفاوت آفریقا و اروپا در نهایت از تفاوت در دارایی منقول آن ها ناشی شده است
Jaya *The Velocireader*
A quick take:
Not an easy read by any measure. It does deal with a lot of hardcore, sometimes too dry, but mostly interesting, archaeological/anthropological/biological/genetical/historical/cultural/geographical/economical/technological developments, facts and insights through which Diamond propounds his basic argument: why did human development proceed in such different rates on different continents; why certain societies/countries/regions became disproportionately powerful and innovative (whil
Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2013 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Did you ever wonder if there is a certain inevitability in the way world history has evolved? Jared Diamond argues, in effect, that the giant Eurasian continent (Europe and Asia combined) was predestined to take over the world. Everything conspired in its favor: climate, vegetation, population distribution, mineral resources and even bacteria. Compare Eurasia and Australia, for example, and you find that when humans evolved to the point of beginning agriculture, Eurasia had dozens of varieties o ...more
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  • Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors
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  • A Short History of Progress
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  • The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself
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  • The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
  • Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
  • The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492
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...

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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” 115 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.” 60 likes
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