Guns, Germs, and Steel Short Summary
“Guns Germs and Steel” is a book composed by Jared Diamond. It gives an outline of the theory of geographic determinism. This is the notion that variations between societies and their development over time arose mainly from geographical factors. It comprises four parts.
In part one, diamond analyzes recent human history, whereby he pays keen attention to differences observed between civilizations. The first humans originated from Africa approximately 0.5 million years ago, then migrated to various parts of the world. They were hunting for game and food sources. After that, close to 11,000 years ago, some humans invented agriculture – a major achievement in human history. This process continued over millennia, and by the 1500s A.D, huge differences had emerged between civilizations
The second part focuses on the onset of agriculture. It gives further explanations on the reasons it emerged in some regions, but not others. Archaeologists discovered that agriculture originated from Mesopotamia, followed by China and Mesoamerica. Agriculture developed in these regions because fruits and game were becoming rare. This motivated them to innovate novel methods of producing food. The author also uses archaeological evidence to support his claim that it is easier for innovations, goods, and food to spread along the latitudes than along the longitudes.
In the third part, the author elucidates how differences in agriculture between ancient societies increased. This lead to differentiation in these societies’ technology, health, and social systems; most importantly, immunity to disease and development of written language.
The last part consists of multiple case studies that support the author’s theory. Diamond gives anecdotes through the development of agriculture in New Guinea, the growth of China into a centralized state, the military success of the African Bantu tribes due to agriculture and the growth of agriculture in the new world.
Finally, the author argues that differences between people and societies around the world primarily result from geographic variations between different world regions.