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Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  231,659 ratings  ·  9,285 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
Paperback, 480 pages
Published April 25th 2005 by Vintage (first published 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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4.02  · 
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Molly
Jan 11, 2008 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
...more
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 t
...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
Mike
May 18, 2007 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
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
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 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?!
Nate
Feb 29, 2008 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
Joshua Parkinson
Jan 31, 2008 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
...more
Siria
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
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
carol.
Mar 29, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, non-fiction
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.
Jim
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
...more
Darwin8u
Aug 30, 2015 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

description

This is one of those books
...more
Melki
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, history
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, (al
...more
WarpDrive
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
...more
Trevor
Jul 07, 2007 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.
Nandakishore Varma
What a terrific book. 😍

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

Detailed review to follow!
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
Jokoloyo
Mar 15, 2015 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
...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
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
...more
Metin Yılmaz
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, necessarily
Herkesin ama herkesin oluması gereken kitaplar arasında olduğunu düşünüyorum Tüfek, Mikrop ve Çelik'in. Son zamanlarda çok popüler olan sapiens gibi taraflı ve eksik bilgilerin yer aldığı bir kitabı okumaktansa böylesi bir kitabı okumak çok ama çok daha faydalı olacaktır. Kitabın, kafanızda oluşmuş, unutulmuş bir çok soruya cevap verdiğini söylemeliyim. Özellikle benim için bir kaç önemli soruyu yanıtladı ve nedenlerini açıkladı.
Okuması çok kolay bir kitap ama çok fazla konuya değindiğinden bir
...more
Lyn
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Richard Derus
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded up because the PBS adaptation was better than I had expected it to be

I read this in the 1990s and was blown away by the fact that environmental determinism was back in the forefront of the have-vs-have-not debate. Well told tale. Persuasive, goodness knows. Maybe even partially correct, who knows, since we're facing the consequences of climate change on our civilization and they aren't good. They're only going to get worse, too. So who do we look to for models of ho
...more
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
...more
Dimitris Ligoxigakis
Γιατί κάποιοι λαοί επικράτησαν ,έναντι κάποιων άλλων; Γιατί κάποιες κοινωνίες εξελίχτηκαν περισσότερο; Οι απαντήσεις σε αφήνουν άφωνο. Ίσως μια καλή πρόταση σωφρονισμού ,για όσους κατηγορούνται για ρατσιστικά εγκλήματα , είναι να καλούνται να διαβάσουν αυτό το βιβλίο ! Τα πληρέστερα επιχειρήματα , έναντι κάθε ρατσιστικής διάθεσης. Ένας πραγματικός θησαυρός γνώσεων.
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
...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
Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2013 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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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.
“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves” 137 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.” 67 likes
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