In the book Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, Diamond tries to answer a question brought to his attention by a New Guinean politician named Yali. Yali’s question is simple but straight forward, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea but we black people have little cargo of our own?” Diamond rephrases this question to, “Why did wealth and power become distributed as they are now rather in some other way?
For Instance, why weren’t Native Americans, Africans and Aboriginal Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated or exterminated Europeans and Asians?” Diamonds thesis is, “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.
” (Diamond 25) By making this statement his thesis he’s trying to disprove all of the beliefs that Europeans are superior and that they are superior due to genetics or biological differences. He seems to be trying to prove that Europeans and other societies aren’t exactly superior to the “primitive” societies they just are better at being a part of their culture.
Diamond is successful in supporting his thesis by pointing out the connection of Europe obtaining agriculture before the “primitive” societies due to the geography of Europe. Guns, Germs, and Steel focuses on environment as the main reason why some societies evolved much faster than others.
Although other factors contributed to the rise of the European civilization, the environment was the main factor, this is proved in this quote from Diamond, “I would say to Yali… the striking differences… between… peoples of… different continents… [are] due to… differences in their environment.” (Diamond 405) Some specific factors falling under environment that affected the European civilization are geography, food production, diffusion and population. The geography played a key role in the production of food and, “food production was indirectly a prerequisite for the development of guns, germs, and steel” (Diamond 86). In the prologue Diamond goes over different arguments of how the Europeans are and aren’t superior to the “primitive” societies. One of these arguments talk about the different climates in the two environment. In Northern Europe, there is a colder climate.
People came up with a reason on how Europeans are superior due to the climate, which is that they stayed inside and invented things to help them with the climate. Since the “primitive” societies had a warmer climate, they were thought to need simpler houses and clothing. Diamond argues how in reality, the Native Americans were busy developing language and writing and the Mayans were making advancements in art and astronomy. While all this was happening in the so called “primitive” societies, the Northern Europeans weren’t making any technological advancements. Climate determines what types of animals are suited to live in that climate, what crops will grow and how hard you have to work to stay alive. Europe achieved agricultural advancements before the “primitive” societies did, making the Europeans have time to discover new ways to use the crops not just for food but for other things like weaving, carving and the creation of tools.
In Northern Europe they grew poppies and oats while in New Guinea they grew sugar cane and bananas which definitely shows the climate difference with bananas being a tropical food and oats being grown in temperate regions. The chapters I found problematic would have to be most of part two where Diamond talks about how the people of Europe and New Guinea relied on their crops and the animals around them and yet, when you skim through the book he has yet to mention some examples of these animals. For example page 100, there is a graph with all of the species domesticated in each area but there are no animals in either the European or New Guinean area.
They should have at least one animal domesticated by then. Otherwise they’d have to hunt for hours just to be able to get a fur or food and maybe even lose some men in the progress. I do not believe that there were not any animals domesticated although after looking through various forms of information I cannot find any proof stating otherwise. Diamond’s theory has little holes in it here and there like when he said that farming made societies develop, it actually means that some foods like wheat and barley made the civilizations advance the most and the quickest. Also multiple farming societies he mentioned as being primitive did use farming and therefore his arguments that the Europeans are more advanced due to agriculture would be wrong.
Cite this Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. (2016, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/guns-germs-and-steel/