A Review Of Jared Diamond’s Book Guns Germs And Steel

Guns Germs and Steel is written by Jared Diamond. He works as a professor in Geography in UCLA. Yet, his field of interest may not directly focus on history. His work, Guns Germs and Steel, provides not only tremendous information in History, Anthropology and some interesting facts but also numerous answers for the questions that we usually forget to ask about. With well-written and comprehensible essay, Guns Germs and Steel is awarded as a winner in Pulitzer award and also widely recommended by TIME’s best of non-fiction book. Jared Diamond is also the author of well-known books, Collapse and the world until yesterday.

Guns Germs and Steel is the history of humanity in different regions which perhaps share some similarities and differences. These similarities and differences lead people in various regions to develop in different cultures, lifestyle, technological advancement. Some civilizations which thrive in fortunate region can easily overcome the inferior. Jared dedicates this book to tackle and give a brief reason why the outcome of the war is A override B but why not the vice versa (B override A). The main thing that Jared try to tackle is why humanity end up in very distinctive lifestyle in different regions. For example, New Guinean and American lifestyle share no similarity regardless of the same species, Homo sapiens.

The writing style of this book is easy to track and well-order. However, some chapters may contain a lot of advance vocabularies which can vex non-native reader. The author sometimes gives some sense of humor to the text so it is more interesting. The well-planned book, his writing style and his humor are the strength of this book. Nevertheless, some advance vocabularies in some chapter can turn off the scorching passion which seem to be weakness of the book. In comprehensive view, this book order is similar to the diary which tracks development of humanity. This diary notes the development of how people in each region or continent adopt breakthrough innovation or novel lifestyle. Part one of the book shows the reader the outcome of different lifestyle and technological advance can lead to the collapse of the inferior civilization and ask the question of why this circumstance happens. Part two is mainly focus on why people in different continent and area adopt agriculture in different time. After some civilization adopts agriculture in different time, some civilization adopts the next leap of changes as appear in the name of the book, guns germs and steel, before other civilization. This leap of changes is the focal point in part three of the book. Finally, brief history in each continent is provided in the last part of the book.

During the exploration in each chapter, Jared usually begins with the question which seem absurd to ask. However, he shows in the end how importance of each question by giving the answer and incredible explanation with some support from historical evidence and scientific research. This amazement along with amusement makes the reader want to read further. In part one, he offers the example as the natural experiment of history to us. The war of Cajamarca can fully illustrate the crash of different civilization. As most of historical evidence and literature suggests, approximately 100 Spaniards who travel from Europe through ship can get rid of 10,000 of native people in Cajamarca without death or loss in Spaniards. Why this circumstance happens? Why Spaniards is so superior? Why people in Cajamarca cannot override Spaniards? And Why 100 people in Cajamarca cannot travel to the Spain through ship and get rid of 10,000 Spanish people in Spain? This is a glimpse of the questions that he gives to us. By trying to answer this question Jared lets us explore 10 chapters of his book to answer these questions.

Part two of the book shows how importance of the agriculture. It is the root and fundamental basis before we can achieve the next leaps of human history. Agriculture help human population grew in significantly fast rate. With more people, each can develop tool or innovation faster than before. Moreover, it makes people neglect their hunting gathering lifestyle and surrender to more sedentary lifestyle, agriculture. Agriculture is important for human to develop further. However, each continent starts agriculture in different time. The question is Why? . Chapter 5 says that each continent has difference geography. Unlike Australia continent, Eurasian especially fertile crescent have a Mediterranean climate and also a various altitude from the deepest point on land to the highest point on Earth. This fruitful climate, various altitude give rise to various and abundant of plant and animal. The higher the abundant, the higher chance people can use them to start agriculture. Also, people have to choose between hunting-gathering lifestyle and agriculture. If hunting and gathering is more rewarding than agriculture, people would not start agriculture. Sometime we can not blame our ancestor that why they do not start agriculture. It also depends on the crops and plants in that area too. Jared gives example about Apple and Indian American. The reason Indian American cannot adopt Apple and start agriculture is that Apple is not suitable. People have to wait for numerous months before it can give us fruit in contrast with hunting-gathering which can provide them a meat in just a few hours. Moreover, some crop needs rare mutation to adapt itself to suit human desire. For example, the wild species of cereal crop has lower content of carbohydrate and also can spread to other area very fast before human can harvest. Fortunately, some rare mutation occurs in cereal plant. Some cereal plant can not spread very fast due to genetic inefficiency. Nevertheless, due to its inefficiency to spread very fast, human encounter them before it spreads and we can start agriculture with this cereal species. After human have adopt this plant in agriculture purpose, human selection coerce cereal to produce more carbohydrate content. Therefore, agriculture is more rewarding than the hunting-gathering lifestyle. Animal is also important. Jared says that criteria for choosing animal in agricultural purpose is similar to Anna Karenina principle (All or none law). If animal loss only one criterion to domesticate, people can not use them in agricultural purpose. Therefore, Africa and Australia continents have lower opportunity to start agriculture as fast as Eurasian due to few choices of animal.

After observing our ancestor finding food, we shall see how agriculture makes up our whole society. Agriculture makes people thrive considerably fast and compact in the same area. Moreover, we have to contact with the domesticated animal. This animal and agriculture can lead to infectious diseases such as swine flu, Spanish flu. Eurasian people have contacted flu and disease for longer time than the Indian American people. Therefore, immunity of Eurasian people on disease is better than the Indian American people. In history class, disease can eliminate Mayan empire just because Spanish people give them contaminated clothes. With more inventor and people, technological advance can develop much faster than before. Moreover, the evolution of language and writing which occur in populous city help people to accumulate their knowledge for their descendant for more advancement. When we have tremendous things to do, we start to stratify of society and make sense of circumstance around us. This leads to science and thirstiness of knowledge. Each continent has different in geography, animal, plant which therefore leads to different history and technological obsolescence. To answer the question in the first part, we can see that Spanish people just lucky than Cajamarcan.

I spend a plethora of time on reading Guns Germs and Steel. I really love and appreciate my time spending on this book. There is no doubt why it is awarded Pulitzer Award. He concedes a lot of scientific research and history into one masterpiece. I have learnt a lot from this book. I would recommend this book to everyone especially racist. After reading this book, they will see that they are just lucky for being born in wealthy continent and the reason for wealthiest is because of ‘Natural prejudice’. I would recommend people to read in one chapter at the time. It would be easier to understand rather than reading in one race. I would give 9 out of 10 star for this book.   

16 December 2021
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