Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A must-read for anyone puzzling over why there appears to be so much inequality in the world. I wouldn’t say it lets warmongers off the hook, but I won’t look at a map of the world again without acknowledging Diamond’s wide v tall continent theory.
In summary: To build an empire, put a man on the moon, invent the internet or find a cure for cancer, one needs the following:
1. Lots of healthy individuals with plenty of spare time on their hands which requires:
2. Not having to hunt/gather for your food which requires:
3. An agricultural revolution which requires:
4. Being born/migrating to a part of the world with plenty of edible plants/livestock/slaves to choose from which requires:
5. Living in/invading those ‘wide’ parts of the world enjoying a Goldilocks relationship with the sun, i.e. Asia, Europe and North America.
Oh, and once you’ve discovered how to smelt iron during all that spare time, make sure you travel the world in the ships you’ve invented to kill and/or enslave those still using flint tools, and the situation becomes an exponential curve of ‘progress’. What? They refuse to be enslaved? Don’t worry – living in close proximity to all that livestock means you’re now a walking biological weapon too and the less fortunate will soon be dead through disease anyway.
Don’t you just love nature?
Four and not five stars only because of Diamond’s repeated insistence ‘race’ has had nothing to do with why Africans have never conquered the world. Not because I disagree, but because he doesn’t then go on to draw the obvious conclusion – had the Sahara Desert been on the same latitude as Europe, there’s a good chance Africa would have.
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