Guns,Germs, and Steel attempts to provide an explanation for why historyunfolded in the fashion it did. Why are we left with a development gap between civilizations?Why did certain societies expand and conquer others with their more advancedtechnology? Professor Diamond was driven to answer the issue of the differencesbetween societies when he was challenged by his Papua New Guinean friend Yali,who asked, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and broughtit to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (Diamond,2017, p.
14). The book explains in depth that societies varied so much, notbecause of the differences between the people from different civilizations, butof the differences between their environment. Diamond attempts to answer Yali’squestion by comparing the environmental differences caused by geographiclocation between different groups of people.Thebook is broken down into four major parts.
It starts part one by going overhuman evolution and the spread of humans until 11,000 BC. Diamond then exploresPolynesia to use it as an example of a small-scale example of people from thesame cultural background living in different areas, some leading huntergatherer life styles and others developing a more sophisticated lifestyle. Heretells the story of Pizarro conquering the Inca to demonstrate the Spanish’sadvantage of guns, germs and steel over the Inca, who had a vastly larger armyand were still destroyed by the Spanish. The most substantial portion ofDiamond’s argument the advantage and necessity of food production in thedevelopment of a society is next. He covers the importance of domestication ofboth plants and animals and how largely they influenced whether the societywould become more technologically sophisticated or remain hunter gatherers.Finally, Diamond explores specific civilizations that were based ondomestication of plants and animals and how they dominated over thehunter-gatherers.
The establishment of food production created an opportunityand need for denser populations, structured societies with governments,resistance to diseases and the progress of technology. These are all factorsthat allowed for the development and progress of a group of people thus,creating a more successful society. Diamond’sbook pushed back against the commonly accepted myth of racial superiority. Manystill believe the reason of Eurasian’s triumph over other groups of people was dueto their superior intelligence. Although this belief is held all over theworld, it has yet to been proved, since IQ tests have not concluded that onerace group is more intelligent than another.
Again, Diamond attributes thetechnological development differences to the environmental factors that werepresented to different groups of people. This is an easily accepted concept andit is actually unbelievable that Diamond needed to debunk the myth of racialsuperiority; a dated and ungrounded belief that some people still hold today. Diamond’sthesis that the developmental differences can be attributed to theirenvironmental differences, at the surface is convincing. It makes perfect sensethat a civilization with plant and animals that are suitable for domesticationwould have major advantages over that of another civilization where theirgeographical location puts them at a disadvantage.
However, Guns, Germs, and Steel has received alot of criticism over the past 20 years by readers and scholars who believedthat Jared Diamonds response to Yali’s question is much too heavily reliant ongeographic location as the main explanation. Anthropologist Jason Antrosio andhistorian J.R. McNeill are two people that strongly believe that Diamond’s bookover simplified history and is inadequate to answer Yali’s question.
Somepeople believe that he left out the major influence that economics and politicshad on human history. For example, Brian Ferguson believes that the neglect ofeconomic systems influence in Diamond’s explanation limits his ability toanswer questions such as “Why didn’t Europeans just stay home?” (Ferguson 1999).Althoughthe title is guns, germs and steel, the author argues that these were merely amean, but not the ultimate cause of Eurasian triumph. (Diamond, 2017). Gunswere a tool that helped civilizations conquer others, germs were a weapon thatdevastated populations of people in large numbers and steel production allowedfor technological development. The civilizations with these tools gave them anunfair advantage compared to the local populations that could simply notcompete.
These advancements are too commonly attested to the sole reason thatcertain civilizations conquered others. It is not to argue that they did notplay a major part in the dominance of one group of people over another but,ultimately the underlying difference was the environmental factors that allowedfor one population to develop and utilize these tools was the real advantage. Throughoutthe book Diamond challenges common misconceptions or even certain ignorance’s ofopinion that some people still hold today. Thebook was impressive and a good read, however, it at times was too repetitiveand felt overly dragged on in parts where it could have been summarized. Diamonddoes justice in helping to debunk the racial superiority myth, which issomething He set out to do when writing this book.
It brings the reader on anorganized journey of Diamonds very in-depth analysis of 13,000 years of humanhistory. The book is written in a fashion that easily reads and explains simplythe chain of events that caused history to unfold the way it did. Guns, Germs, and Steel is worth the readsince it provided a different logical approach to history and a new perspectiveon the magnitude that nature played in shaping human history. Alot of people criticise that after reading the entire book, Diamond never fullyanswers Yali’s question but, can Yali’s question ever be truly answered?Although Professor Diamond presents a very strong argument for reasons why theenvironment is what majorly formed history, there are far too many influencesand factors in play to ever conclude that one factor for certain was the thingto change the course of history.