Robert Clay's Reviews > Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
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's review
Jul 31, 2007

liked it
Recommended for: likes a broad, conceptualized approach to history

This book is worth a look, despite its shortcomings. The author's basic premise is not merely instructive, but essential to an informed understanding of world history and the development of civilizations. According to Diamond, the technological, military, and economic gulf seperating Europe from the New World in the 16th century (and the disparities in our own world order) were due, not to any innate human abilities or lack thereof, but by factors largely out of human control. Namely, the availability of domesticable plants and animals. Something like 85% of the world's large domesticable animals are native to Europe and the Middle East, while the same region was also disproportionately blessed with the largest and most useful variety of domesticable plants. These factors led more quickly to settled agricultural societies, which led to population growth/urbanization, which allowed for technological innovation and the spread of communicable diseases and the development of immunities to the same.

My main criticism of the book is that Diamond takes over 400 pages to say what I have just related in four sentences. Though much of the book is rightly devoted to case studies from history, Diamond also uses a lot of space via repetition. Not only does he write the same sentences four or five times in any given chapter, but he composes exhaustive, paragraph-spanning lists of people, places, animals, and the like, when a simple "etc" after the first three of four items would suffice. Diamond is an amateur historian; his area of expertise is science, which may account for his (in my opinion) frustrating style of writing.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Kipahni (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Kipahni hahaha- ya most journals of science or medecine contain vast amounts of large awkward words and repeating the same thing over and over but structuring it in different ways:
That book is red.
Red book that is.
Is that book red?

message 2: by Joslyn (new)

Joslyn They have a miniseries on netflix (I think originally natgeo) of this book and it's the same way. It's like every episode is the same one in a slightly different order.

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