Review of Guns, Germs, and Steel

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Guns, Germs, and Steel book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Scientific
  • Engaging


Historian Jared Diamond dismisses the notion that people, not places, account for inequality among nations and continents. Inequality, he teaches, stems from differences in geography and agricultural potential, not regional differences in human intellectual capacity – a racist belief many people still harbor. As the production of crops and livestock emerged in prehistoric times, population density increased and sedentary societies replaced nomadic hunter-gatherers. Humanity’s adaptation of sedentary agriculture drove much of human history. The spread of agriculture allowed people to eat more nutritionally, women to have more children and laborers to expand their work beyond securing food. Farming indirectly encouraged the development of writing systems and the organizational predecessors of modern states. Along with guns and swords, conquering Europeans carried their lethal germs to vulnerable populations in North America, South Africa, the Pacific islands and Australia. getAbstract recommends this eloquent, wide-ranging, scientific exploration of progress – a Pulitzer Prize winner – to anyone who would relish a compelling overview of world history.

About the Author

Jared Diamond, PhD, a geography professor at UCLA School of Medicine is a biologist, anthropologist, geographer, MacArthur Fellow, and Pulitzer Prize winner. He also wrote The Third Chimpanzee, Collapse and The World Until Yesterday. He added a new afterword to Guns, Germs and Steel in the 20th anniversary edition published in 2017.

Diamond organizes his lessons around four sets of history-making differences among continents:

1. Prosperity grew with farming. In the Fertile Crescent, it ended with “ecological suicide.”

Food production and competition among societies were two ultimate reasons for the emergence of sedentary living and large, denser human populations. Sedentary living and societal rivalry bred motivations for conquest, including political centralization and technological progress.

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    A. M. 10 months ago
    Great summary, but one not insignificant point is that Diamond is not actually a historian. As you correctly state at the bottom in the bio, he is many things; he is not a historian.

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