Summary Of Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, & Steel"

2133 words - 9 pages

GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL SUMMARYPROLOGUE: YALI'S QUESTION.Throughout history, different regional groups of peoples have developed different technologies at different speeds from one another. Historians have long sought answers as to what social and environmental factors could lead to such a disparate rate of advancement. The most prominent example of this phenomenon is Eurasia's development of advanced technology and political systems thousands of years before much of the world. This higher level of organization laid the groundwork for Europe's global domination and subjugation of 'lesser' cultures. The most obvious explanation for this European omnipotence is their development of steel tools, advanced firearms, and higher exposure and consequential resistance to disease. Yali questions what factors led to these conditions throughout history. At the conclusion of this chapter, Diamond states that "History followed different courses for different peoples because of difference among people's environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves (25)." Eurasia happened to have met many of the prerequisites for civilization, and consequently was able to develop complex social systems and technologies prior to much of the world.CHAPTER 1: UP TO THE STARTING LINEHistorians estimate that the initial emergence of human life took place in Africa roughly seven million years ago. However, the first fully modern humans, with the capacity to manufacture tools, proper houses, and sewn clothing, materialized only about 50-40 thousand years ago. This supposed Great LeapForward in brain capacity and material development occurred primarily in Africa, but other studies indicate its possible presence in other areas, like China and Australia. Whatever the case, this period in human development saw great social and technological growth, and facilitated human migration on a scale that was previously impossible. The migration of humans to previously animal-inhabited areas including New Zealand, Madagascar and Mauritius caused the animals that had not evolved defenses against human hunters to die out in an amazingly small period of time. Several thousand years later, the Americas came to be colonized, where, similarly to the aforementioned areas, scores of large, native animals were hunted to extinction almost simultaneously to the influx of humans.CHAPTER 2: A NATURAL EXPERIMENT OF HISTORYIn Polynesia, historically prized as a microcosm of global development, the great disparities in the rate and extent of social advancement can be explained through the impact of such forces as "island climate, geological type, marine resources, area, terrain fragmentation and isolation. (58)" These factors, in turn, determined the population density of each respective society. The islands with the lowest population numbers/density retained the simplest economies, with little professional specialization and a weak central government. However, larger islands with a...

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