Guns, Germs, and Steel

The Fates of Human Societies

Diamond, Jared M.

Book - 2005
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the peoples of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their peoples. This edition includes a new chapter on Japan and all-new illustrations drawn from the television series. Until around 11,000 BC, all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers. At that point, a great divide occurred in the rates that human societies evolved. In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders. As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and geography. But how did differences in societies arise? Why weren't native Australians, Americans, or Africans the ones to colonize Europe? Diamond dismantles pernicious racial theories tracing societal differences to biological differences. He assembles convincing evidence linking germs to domestication of animals, germs that Eurasians then spread in epidemic proportions in their voyages of discovery. In its sweep, Guns, Germs and Steel encompasses the rise of agriculture, technology, writing, government, and religion, providing a unifying theory of human history as intriguing as the histories of dinosaurs and glaciers.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, c2005
ISBN: 0393061310
Branch Call Number: 303.4 D537g 2005
Characteristics: 518, [32] p. of plates :,ill., maps ;,24 cm


From Library Staff

What caused some cultures to thrive and others to lag behind? This is an interesting look at how where in the world a people lived effected their society’s development.

Diamond is a Physiologist and Ecologist who specialized in Evolutionary Biology. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for his writin... Read More »

Why do some civilizations flourish while others seem to stay the same over centuries.
The author offers some intriguing answers.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the peoples of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their peoples.

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Feb 14, 2015
  • buck59 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Saw the TV show. Academically political in dismissing successful groups esp Europeans and besmirching them too eagerly. Some tribes got opportunities, but also had innate analytical and social traits that helped exploit resources. The most effective traits then had to spread in those tribes. Read about Taoist 5 Elements and Blood Type personalities for much deeper insights into innate human traits and how they form personalities of different individuals and races.

Dec 18, 2014
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A fascinating examination of the forces that have shaped human history. Why did the Fertile Crescent lead the world in the early development of farming? Why did European peoples come to dominate the Americas so easily? Diamond examines the impact things such as native plant and animal populations had on the development of mankind on each of the continents. Readable, and easily accessible for the amateur historian.

Aug 08, 2014
  • smplreader rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I read it for college many years ago. It's a very ambitious topic to take on and Jared Diamond lays out a convincing argument. I really liked reading about the different civilizations and their history. It does get a bit repetitive at times, but I do think that's necessary to drive home the point. It's a great read though.

Nov 19, 2013

"StarGladiator's" comments are exactly right, and much kinder than my assessment. This book is cover to cover crap! It follows the theory that if you bury readers in enough verbiage they won't notice that there's no there, there. My former respect for the Pulitzer Prize is now gone. This book (and a few other Pulitzer choices) has made me aware that the Pulitzer prize lacks integrity, and is not based on merit, quality, or scholarship. To my dismay, the Pulitzer committee, apparently, has an agenda.

Jun 13, 2013
  • emmajtreat rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I gave this book 3.5 stars, but I'm sure I would've given it a higher rating if I was just a few years older :) Guns, Germs, and Steel is a 500 page long World History and Social Studies course with a worldly and witty, if slightly repetitive teacher. An essential read for anyone who wants to educate themselves or impress a teacher.

Feb 11, 2013
  • RogerKovaltsenko rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent summary of mankinds progress through the various ages.

Feb 05, 2013
  • GummiGirl rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Amazing in its scope, with just enough humanizing detail. I agree that it is somewhat repetitious, and heavy on the "geography is destiny" thesis. But it's still full of good information and well worth reading.

Jan 22, 2013

Negative Rated for Zero Scholarship: David Deutsch, the British physicist, deftly destroys Diamond's thesis in several pages (I believe it was in his book titled, "The Beginning of Infinity" but it might have been another), while Jane Jacobs, in her brilliant and clever short book, "Dark Age Ahead," destroys Diamond in just several lines --- suggesting regardless of the amount of verbiage, his thesis is highly unstable. Diamond recently wrote the introduction for a fantasy (my opinion) book on hedge fund trading by a (my opinion) fantasy hedge fund trader. I believe Diamond has finally found his true calling and niche in life. HIGHLY RECOMMEND: Prof. Joseph Tainter's earlier published, "Collapse of Complex Societies," and his utterly brilliant paper (around 12 pp.) on sustainability and complexity (last I saw it online it was -- absolutely and incomparably brilliant! (For the commenter who mentioned the "Pulitzer Prize" -- many neocon authors have also been awarded that prize --- are you also in agreement with their drivel?)

Oct 17, 2012
  • johnsankey rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

brilliant insights into how modern civilization evolved from hunter gathering, and why certain places were favoured by their natural environment for that evolution.

Aug 07, 2012
  • doroschelch rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The second of the trilogy that also comprises "The Third Chimpanzee" and "Collapse"; racy style, as in all of Diamond's writing, that allows you to read sophisticated science like a thriller - and learn everything you need to know about the world at the same time!

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Aug 08, 2014
  • smplreader rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

smplreader thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

Jul 21, 2011
  • mbazal rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

mbazal thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Aug 01, 2008
  • suby99 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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Jun 13, 2013
  • emmajtreat rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

“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.”

Jul 21, 2011
  • mbazal rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

"An ambitious, highly important book." - James Shreeve, New York Times Book Review

"Fascinating...Lays a foundation for understanding human history." - Bill Gates


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Jul 21, 2011
  • mbazal rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998 it won a Pulitzer Prize and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book. A documentary based on the book, and produced by the National Geographic Society, was broadcast on PBS in July 2005.[1]

It was also published under the title Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years.[2] The book attempts to explain why Eurasian civilizations (in which he includes North Africa) have survived and conquered others, while refuting the assumption that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral or inherent genetic superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians (for example, written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases), he asserts that these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures, and were not inherent in the Eurasian genomes.


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