How were the Europeans able to conquer and control large areas of the globe? What gave them a great advantage over other groups? The proximate cause of this advantage was their possession of guns, germs, and steel. But how is it that they possessed these things and others did not? Ultimate causes of the Europeans possession of these guns, germs, and steel could be “Divine Providence.” People at the time thought that God favored the Europeans over other groups. Another ultimate cause could have been “Scientific Racism.” Other people believed that the Europeans were genetically superior to the other regions of the world. Now, because of Jared Diamond’s thesis, we can conclude that the ultimate cause of European colonialism and imperialism was “Geographic Luck.”
One of the main reasons for European colonialism and imperialism was the axis and climate zones. Having a long east-west axis results in the same climate zone and same day lengths. Crops are spread easily on an east-west axis because, moving east to west, there isn’t much change in weather. This gave Eurasia an advantage because there was a large mass of crops spread east to west. There was also a lot of fighting in that area which spread ideas and technology through the conquering of other regions. The Americas had a disadvantage because they had a long north-south axis. In a long north-south axis, there are many different climate zones. In the Americas, the groups were isolated and ideas rarely spread among one another. There were more domesticated crops in Eurasia because of this east-west axis, and in the Americas the crops were not spread as much because of the change in climate zones throughout the north-south axis.
Eurasia also had a great advantage when it came to domesticating animals. They had 72 candidates for domestication but only 13 animal species could be domesticated. Africa had 51 candidates but none of them could be domesticated. In the Americas, there were 24 candidates but only 1 was domesticated. In Australia, there was only 1 candidate and they could not domesticate it. Even though there were many of candidates for domestication in areas other than Eurasia, most of those animals just simply couldn’t be domesticated. It was not because of the cultures in these places, it was because the animals had to fit under certain requirements. They had to be the right size, have an easy diet, have a stable growth rate, and have a pleasant disposition. For example, an elephant could not be domesticated because it takes a long time for the elephant to reach its full size. Also, a zebra could not be domesticated because it would violently bite and, zebras in general, were too hard to domesticate. Again, we have a clear example of geographic luck.
Disease gave Europe a large advantage when conquering wide expanses of land around the globe. South Africans and Australian Aborigines had no domesticated animals. They didn’t form...