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

(Civilizations Rise and Fall #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  320,130 ratings  ·  11,423 reviews
"Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope ... one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years."

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a national bestseller: the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (Will
Paperback, 498 pages
Published 2005 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published May 9th 1997)
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MegaSolipsist He never said it was geographically disposed towards poverty and backwardness, just that the geography inhibits the spread of domesticated crops that …moreHe never said it was geographically disposed towards poverty and backwardness, just that the geography inhibits the spread of domesticated crops that are vital for agriculture and contained much less domestic-able animals than Eurasia, thereby severely limiting the speed of it's development. Two very different things.(less)

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Jan 11, 2008 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
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
[Original review, Dec 10 2008]

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" (manuf
Will Byrnes
“Why you white men have so much cargo [i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization] and we New Guineans have so little?”
Jared Diamond is a biologist, who had a passion for studying birds, particularly the birds of New Guinea. But as he came to know and appreciate the many native people he met in his work, the question asked by a New Guinean named Yani remained with him. Why was it that westerners had so much relative to New Guinean natives, who had been living on that land for forty
Mike Shapiro
May 18, 2007 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
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
Jul 27, 2012 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
Feb 29, 2008 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
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 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?!
Ahmad Sharabiani
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond

The book attempts to explain why Eurasian and North African civilizations 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.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 trans-disciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of Californ
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.
Joshua Parkinson
Jan 31, 2008 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 something t
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 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
Jul 07, 2007 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.
Orhan Pelinkovic
Why didn't the indigenous people of the Americas, Oceania, and sub-equatorial Africa conquer Europe and its people? Why was it the other way around?

Why didn't agriculture, cities, the wheel, writing, craftsmanship of metal processing originate in Europe? Why did it instead originate in the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia) and its surrounding areas? These are some very intriguing questions discussed in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) written by Jared Diamond.

This book i
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio-book
Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. There is a mind-boggling amount of information presented: some of it is fascinating, some of it seems repetitive, and overly long. When my husband, who is a big fan of "farming books," thinks that there was WAY TOO MUCH about agriculture. . . well, that kind of tells you something.

I listened to this on audio, (a
Aug 30, 2015 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


This is one of those books
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have found this book a bit difficult to write about. It is interesting in that it has gone into areas that I have never really considered. Would I have given thought that the ability to domesticate plants and animals was a consideration when thinking of the continental differences between the east west axis of Eurasia compared to the north-south divide in both the Americas and Africa? Probably not.

I suppose this is a book that is more based on the environment of peoples over the last 13,000 y
Dec 27, 2015 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
Nandakishore Varma
What a terrific book. 😍

One sentence review: Human history is a function of geography.

Detailed review to follow!
Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Philip Allan
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an ambitious book. It seeks to provide a simple rationale to explain why inequalities exist between the peoples of the world. What makes its approach fresh is that the analysis is from someone who is neither an economist nor a historian. Broadly speaking, Diamond pulls this off. His style is readable and his arguments well laid out. His conclusions about the importance in early human history of having the right plants and animals to promote the vital first step for a civilisation – that ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jared Diamond asks the question: why did technology develop along different lines and at different times throughout the world and then goes on to study the reasons why.

Using economic, sociological, anthropological, biological and botanical evidence to examine and analyze his hypotheticals, Diamond goes on to map out the world not just in geography but in time, providing a unique human history going back tens of thousands of years and culminating with how we’ve ended up – with some people typing
May 07, 2008 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
Valliya Rennell
3 stars

Guns, Germs, and Steel was recommended to me by my father. He asked me to read it and tell him what I thought of what Jared Diamond says. Generally speaking, this book outlines the different factors that contribute to a society succeeding and thriving, and how these factors have created the world we live in today. To answer my father, I said that I enjoyed it. It made me reflect a lot, it helped me form arguments in my IB ESS class, and in general gave me a nice insight into human history
Cody VC
Jan 25, 2012 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
Mar 15, 2015 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
Alex Telander
Nov 02, 2007 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
Elizabeth King
Jan 21, 2008 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.
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 readabl
Daniel Bastian
Nov 17, 2011 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 sho
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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.

Other books in the series

Civilizations Rise and Fall (3 books)
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
  • Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

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"Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete...
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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” 159 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.” 80 likes
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