book review of Guns, Germs, and Steel

Below is a book review of Guns, Germs, and Steel written by Jared Diamond, a scholar from United States who won the Pulitzer Prize by the virtue of this acclaimed book. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond used four hundred pages recalling 13,000 years’ human civilization history , explored why did continental Europe reach and conquer the America and Africa rather than on the contrary, and what is the determining factor in the development and progress of human society? We all know that environments do affect human society, and technological and political differences were the immediate cause of the modern world’s inequalities, however, the striking differences between the long-term histories of peoples of the different continents have been due not to innate differences in the peoples themselves but to differences in their environments. He started from Yali’s question, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo for our own?” And it can be extended to a more complicated question that why peoples of Eurasian origin dominate the modern in wealth and power, while others remain far behind. In ancient times, the each continent of human society developed in a different direction. Food production was a prerequisite for the development of guns, germs, and steel. Therefore, the peoples of different continent, their contrasting fates to a large extent were determined by geographic variation. For instance, in the Fertile Crescent, the large mammals were enough but easy to tame, and plants can be easily improved, which led to a massive development of agriculture and an increase in population. The increase in population had resulted in a higher probability appearing more outstanding figures. Therefore, new technologies were created and advanced civilizations appeared. In addition, Eurasia geographical horizontal spreading makes the transmission of civilization relatively easily. At the same latitude, same animals and plants live more appropriate after all. In this process, unfortunately, Africa and America geographically present a longitudinal extension. The different latitude not only increased the difficulty in the spread of civilization, but also led to the slow development of the advanced technology that already appeared in the mainland, and natural barrier such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, there was an increasing contact between man and livestock, which produced highly lethal germs. Through a long-term fighting with various plague, peoples in old world, their immune system continued to improve, while the lethality of germs were also increased. However, at the same time, the development of agriculture in the new world was rather slow, even not many deadly germs, and their natural immunity is very weak. Finally, when the old continental is ready, with highly destructive force like guns, the lethal germs begin to conquer the new world. Europeans, they motivated brutal slaughter to African, native American and Oceania, but more natives died of lethal germs which they feared of. And finally, old world people firmly occupied the new world, a solemn and brutal conquer history was temporarily over. What impressed me most of this book is Diamond’s unique perspective of thinking, even though to some points I can not totally agree with him. Fertile Crescent and eastern Mediterranean societies had the misfortune to arise in an ecologically fragile environment. They committed ecological suicide by destroying their own resource base, why did China also lose its lead? Diamond’s explanation on its falling behind is surprising, a unified country, which we have been proud of, unexpectedly, is an important cause of falling behind. Unified autocratic system result in a severe consequence that once a new technology was banned or rejected, it may be will never show up again. But in many countries in Europe, even if a technology wasbeing ostracized, it may continue to be used in anther place, so that a good enough technology or a system has enough time and space to show its advantages. Because it is centralized, a managerial decision can make accumulated technology wealth of thousand years’, shattered, destroyed, and forgot. Because it is centralized, so shut up the door can prevent a whole nation from breathing the fresh air. These consequences of Europe’s disunity stand in sharp contrast to those of China’s unity. In this issue, Diamond did not do further extension, but continue emphasizing the role of environmental effect. Pointed out that, it is not Chinese people who decided this situation, but China’s geographical environment decided it all. This perspective is clearly not comprehensive enough, but adds a brand new perspective to observe China, and it is no doubt having a great benefit to a further understanding of this issue. Firstly of all, the author’s strength lies in his very broad knowledge background; however, it is also a drawback in his writing. When he mentioned any details, he can play into a long description of the whole chapter. If you happened to be interested in specific issues and do not know much about it before, you are likely willing to read it in details, but if you are not interested in the fields it had dabble in, or those words are mentioned in the former chapters, chances are you will be very impatient and skip it. Secondly, it seems Diamond prefers to analyze why New Guinea, North American Indian culture, Kingdom of the Inca of South America, as well as black Africa are so backward, In addition, he knew very little about China. Chinese society had experienced a history of thousand years, and analysis referring to a specific dynasty is unfair, which makes his analysis not all-inclusive. Thirdly, he used Eurasia in this book, but Europe and Asia cultures are relatively different systems, therefore, technologies invented in Asia can not be concluded under a European’s name. All in all, he refuted westerners’ so-called racial superiority, the point of view that they have advanced society because they are more talent than other races. Diamond did not let you negatively treat the environment, as he highly emphasized the creativity of human beings. He said that, circumstances change, and past primacy is no guarantee of future primacy. This encourages those nations who are in disadvantage situations now, have the opportunity to develop and can also expecting their glories in later days.

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