Article Reviews

Guns, Germs and Steel Essay

Posted on

In our current society, different ideologies and beliefs have sprung out. The continuous changes in the world in the aspects of technology, environment and the global community have created a world very different from the past. Many theorists and ideologists were able to track down the transformation of the world through the basis of the world history. One of those many thinkers is Jared Diamond.

Professor Jared Diamond has a Polish-Jewish blood line. His parents both worked for the family. His father was a physician while his mother is a linguist/musician/teacher. After being able to attend the Roxbury Latin School, he was competent enough to earn a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Harvard University during 1958. Diamond was also able to earn his Ph.D. membrane biophysics and physiology from the prestigious school, Cambridge University in the year 1961. He is currently is a professor in University of California, Los Angeles in two of its department which are the Medical School and Geography. Earlier in his career, he was able to develop a career in evolution and ecology of the birds in New Guinea from then on he was able to lead several trips in exploring the state of New Guinea and the islands surrounding it. Later on, Jared Diamond have expanded his career and added environmental history.

Professor Diamond was able to write a book called “Guns, Germs and Steel: The fates of Human Societies in 1997. The last edition of his book was published in 2005 which has the title “Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the last 13,000 Years.” He was able to catch the attention of many different readers worldwide due to his very controversial insights about world history, technology and ecology. His written work received many praise and awards such as the Pulitzer Price award and the likes. In addition, his book was able to raise the interest of the National Geographic Society which led to the production of a documentary in 2005 which the same title. The documentary was shown in PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) network. However, although many praises were given to Professor Diamond and his book there were also negative feedbacks given by critics.

The book’s presentation is clustered by era while critically unfolding the human history while including the insights of Professor Diamond. His intent to compress the largest portion of the human history in just one book is something to be much-admired. This book puts forward the arguments about the human history which many historians have failed to include in their book. This book, “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.”

The Alternative Title:

            In 1997, the book “Guns Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” is just a simple narration of the development of human history. Jared Diamond said that he has an alternative subtitle for this book, which he have used in the 2005 edition of his book entitled “Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years.” The new subtitle of the book is very much helpful in unfolding the course of his arguments which he discussed all through out the book. The new subtitle also allows that readers to have an alternative approach in the development of human history.

Main Thesis of the Book:

            The main argument of this book revolves around many popular but uncomplicated conclusions that seek to explain the differences of different races in the world. The author argues that race is not truly a factor which causes the deranged differences regarding the material culture and technological domination of some sections of the globe. In the book, “dominance” is a word that is seldom and loosely utilized all through out the discussion of the entire book. To lay it in the simplest form, the whole book argues that the fundamental differences in the intelligence among the various races in the world do not exist and it does not have any possibility to exist.

            The author implied, that the case me must consider that skills for continued existence does require a certain amount of intelligence. The research journeys of Professor Jared Diamond have influenced his arguments in the book. He added in one of the chapters of his book that the citizens of New Guinea must be superior due to the intelligence of their ethnicity. The people of New Guinea were able to surpass the harsh changes in their environment; they were intelligent enough to create actions and solutions to the problems which have occurred in the past. The past situation of the New Guineans is very far from the situation of many Westerners in the world where in they live a comfortable and sheltered life. In the line that Professor Diamond uttered in his book he said that:

My perspective on this controversy comes from 33 years of working with new Guineans, in their own intact societies. From the very beginning of my work with New Guineans, they impressed me as being on the average more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in the things and people around them than the average European or American is. At some tasks that one might reasonably suppose to reflect aspects of brain function, such as the ability to form a mental trap of unfamiliar surroundings, they appear considerably more adept than Westerners. (Diamond, 2005 p. 20)

            Moreover, the author argues that the varieties of technological levels among the human civilizations are the basis of ethnic differences. The book highlighted the technological developments are the result of a specific environmental aspects such as the large quantity in resources and not for the reason of race. The book had combined different examples in supporting this dispute throughout the entire book straddling the early beginnings of human evolution until the present times.

            The book has cited examples that will prove the arguments made by the author. In the first Chapter of the book, Diamond had narrated how Cro-Magnons had in one way or another use their advantages that they have gained because of technology in order to displace the entire Neanderthal race. The two races, the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals are basically within the same type of specie. However, the book intends to converse to its readers that Cro-Magnons were not able to win over the ethnic race of the Neanderthals because of genetically related aspects as well as their race. Cro-Magnons dislocated the Neanderthals due to their technological dominance. This is due to the evolution of the Cro-Magnons dominance to the resources which are available within their environment. In this way, they were able to harness power and wealth which gave victory to their ethnic community.

…within a few thousands of years there were no more Neanderthals, who had been evolving as the sole occupants of Europe for hundreds and thousands of years. That sequence strongly suggests that the modern Cro-Magnons somehow used their far superior technology, and their language skills or brains, to infect, kill or displace the Neanderthals, leaving behind little or no evidence of hybridization between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. (Diamond, 2005 p. 40)

Geographical Factors:

            “Guns, Germs and Steel: The History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 years,” had promoted many facts and the enthrallment for the primordial territory of Eurasia which the only continent that was once inhabited by more than 60% of the prehistoric territory of the Earth. The different factors of the territory of Eurasia were also investigated by Professor Diamond. In point of fact, the argument of Eurasia is truly one of the main issues highlighted in the book “Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History if Everybody for the last 13,000 Years.” The author attempts to provide an explanation why the society of Eurasian was able to have much success towards dominating other civilizations while going beyond every single one of these societies. The book identified a number of factors in and methods that became keys in the prosperity of the civilizations of Eurasia. The aspects and procedures became an advantage for Eurasia in comparison to other regions in the world.

            The book gave further details about Eurasia as being composed of what are currently the major territories in the world which are: Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. The book continuously argues that the large territory of Eurasia is contributing to the progress of human civilizations. Eurasia is gifted with a wider area for uninterrupted ecological progress which could result to more immediate developments in fundamental technologies such as the domestication or animals and crops. These favorable consequences are attained due to the factors such that of climate. The type of weather in Eurasia is considered to be composed of sufficient rain and arid seasons. This type of climate creates great quantity of the vegetation possibly planted in the lands. The flourishing vegetation also provides for the abundance in animals to be raised. In addition, the people occupying Eurasia were naturally provided which food sources as well as other materials that they need. This positive outcome due to the geographical location enables these occupants to venture in other concerns and aspects such as the advancement in science and arts.

            Furthermore, the book provides reason towards the European colonizer’s success in dominating other civilizations. The author particularly directs this concern to the situation of China. Eurasia has an immense land mass; this is interpreted to empires as being isolated and erratic with regards to the strength of the empire. Another given reason is Europe’s geographical location which is very favorable due to the natural boundaries.

            In Diamond’s arguments of land masses, the narration of the human migration was also given attention. The author clarified how geographical location and the changes that have occurred in the past have initiated the human migration. He added that civilizations in the ancient times were nomadic. They intentionally leave their habitants to seek a much favorable territory for the whole ethic community.

Germs

            In the later part of the book, the author discussed the method in which diseases had become a key factor in shaping the human history. Professor Diamond had utilized the era where in the Europeans were in the process of colonizing different areas in Americas. The book further explains that the communities of natives were virtually wiped out by the diseases that they European colonizers had transmitted to these communities. The deaths of these communities were expected to be because of the abuse and the maltreatment to them however, the diseases taken over and killed most of the natives. The Europeans, were not able or did not provided cure to the wide spread of diseases. Due to this situation, the Western Colonizers had an easier route in taking the resources of the inhabitants.

            With regards to the query of why these Europeans were not infected with the diseases unlike the natives in the American continents, Diamond was able to grant clarification to the blurry situation. He said that the Europeans were resistance to the diseases for the reason that these westerners had become exposed to pathogens due to being frequently exposed to large numbers of people. In addition, the European conquerors are actively in contact with agriculture which also involves exposure to animals that could transmit pathogens. The great quantities of pathogens were able to toughen the immune system of the colonizers making them more resistance to the diseases which causes the death of many natives. One of the most popular spread of disease the event called the “Black Death” epidemic. This certain outbreak of disease had been one of the reasons for the deaths of millions of people world wide. But still, Diamond is still believes that other tropical diseases and malaria are exceptions to this. Tropical diseases are the ailment that the Europeans are not resistant to. Being easily infiltrated with these types of diseases limited the Europeans in conquering other parts of the world such as Africa.

Conclusion:

            The whole book contains 13,000 years of human civilization in very small book. The scope that the book was able to conquer was really unimaginable due to the very large span of history included in it. Professor Diamond was able to discuss the pre-historic times of the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals until the current fast food industries that the current society is very dependent today. The courageous action that Professor Diamond did was very praiseworthy. He encompassed many factors of the history without fully neglecting other factors included. However, there are also negative factors and consequences that this book has provided. The too much compression of the book could make some readers confused. There are too many details because of the much information provided and also the historical factors affecting it. The book had an “information overload” which makes the readers bewildered. This kind of book should be more organized to be able to make the readers understand the points that the author have given. But still, the thousands of years of the human civilization cannot be compressed in any book. Many volumes of books are still much better as a reference. But in the end, the book written by Professor Diamond is none the less very useful for every person in need to enlightenment in the world history and human development.

            The whole book was enjoyable to read. The continuous remarks, comments and statements given by the author make the book more personal. It feels like the author is talking to his readers. It is conversational rather than academic but still the readers get to know many aspects of the human development as well as our current times.

References

Diamond, J., (2005). Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Great Britain: Vintage.