Andrew
Andrew asked:

Many historians have reexamined and abandoned the notion that Africa was always primitive and poor. John K. Thornton, for example, argues that Africa's backwardness is a recent phenomenon; before perhaps the 18th century, societies in sub-Saharan Africa were just as advanced as those in Europe or Asia. How does this square with Diamond's theory that Africa was geographically predisposed to poverty and backwardness?

MegaSolipsist He 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.
Roger This question falsely represents Jared Diamond's theory and argument. He does not argue that any area, including Africa, was predisposed to poverty and backwardness. On the contrary, he examines the inter-relationships of many factors in human history, including, climate, terrain, isolation (or collocation), availability of natural resources, possibility for farming as opposed to hunter-gathering, experience of warfare, natural as opposed to artificial spread of crops, exposure to disease, and more.

To reduce his argument to a (false) simplistic and value laden allegation of prejudice is to show both a complete lack of understanding of the work and a disrespect for or ignorance of the extensive research, and the collection of and rational assessment of evidence within culture, geography, history, religion, colonisation and more. It sadly and wrongly depicts what is a wholly fascinating and well presented theory addressing the question of why white and European races appear to have dominated black and African & Asian races when all originated at approximately the same time and with *equal potential*.
Mari Where is the proof that Africa in the 18th century rivaled Europe? Thats laughable. It is simply the mode today ton try to "reexamine" history and rewrite it to fit the political correctness ideals. As you are knowledgeable, let me ask you where are their great works of art like Europe produced in the Renaissance? Their great works of literature? Why did no one from Africa think to take a voyage to Europe? Why was it up to Europeans to travel the globe and connect it? Even in times of Rome, the only people of note in Africa, like Hannibal, were not of African origin.
Chel I'd like to know more about who those "many historians" were and how to look them up. I have heard much similar discussion involving the northern part of Africa, but not about the parts of Africa south of the Sahara.
Andrew @MegaSolipsist

Mmmmm, yes and no. He does talk about crops, but only to make the point that Africa's shortage of cultivable crops and domesticable animals explain why it was always so backwards economically and technologically. Essentially, he's trying to explain how Africa's backwardness is not the result of racial inferiority. My point, drawing on Thornton's work, is that he's trying to explain something that didn't happen. Regardless of what crops and animals were available, Africa was NOT technologically or economically backward prior to maybe the eighteenth century. Diamond created an environmentalist explanation for a problem that doesn't exist
Alistair Shaw What's funny is the successful north African civilisations took their food technology from the fertile crescent much like Europe and the really truly successful civilisations in the north their people came from the Levant as well. Such as Cathage in classical period, the Muslim Moroccans and Algerians that took over spain in the 900s. etc. etc. so actually Diamonds point stands.
Greg Well, how about this: Schoch and others propose that civilization did NOT move from Egypt and outward, but from an area called Sundaland (which is now underwater but is called the Austronesia area now) so therefore civilization moved west to east, not from Africa. AND, there are over 500 flood stories in human history. Andrew, to your point, did you know that the Chinese knew the earth was round 3,000 years ago? So, yes, there have been advanced civilizations all over the place for up to 10,000 years or so! And I'm not so sure that nuclear power indicates an advance in civilization: I would argue that a civilization without weapons of destruction in which people are happy and everyone gets along is more of a civilization than what we have today.
Adam Daniels well i think that thought is just but not quite the best to excel in this topic because does it really involve learning if we dont know the answer and if we do how r we growing and what the idea for anyways but yea i agrre way back then was like the secrets of why countries adapt to to learning there own ways are analytically examined to be sqaure i would seggest
Image for Guns, Germs, and Steel
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more