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Guns, Germs, And Steel Essay

In the book Guns, Germs, and Steel the Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond discusses the superior developments and advancements of mankind that shaped history through time. Throughout the book Diamond states how disease and germs have shaped history up to today. “Because diseases have been the biggest killers of people, they have also been decisive shapers of history.” For instance, Diamond relates to a story once told to him by a friend about a man that contracted a very odd disease. As the story progressed you eventually found out how the man got the illness by having sexual intercourse with a sheep. This illustrates human diseases of animal origins (pp.195, 196. 197, 206-210). Diamond also discusses how the Europeans were able to defeat the Native Americans because they brought diseases to them that they were not yet immune to.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond discusses the evolution of disease that is contracted from animals. Diseases that have had a major impact throughout history such as smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis, plague, flu, and measles have been adapted by humans from animals (p. 196). One example of how a germ can spread is by patiently waiting to be transmitted through the victim. For instance we often contract salmonella by eating raw or unprepared food like eggs and meat; and the worm that causes anisakiasis by eating raw fish. Germs don’t just wait to be transmitted by waiting to be eaten by the victim but by hitchhiking on the animals’ salvia.

For example, mosquitoes, fleas, and even lice carry fatal germs that can cause diseases such as malaria, plague, or even typhus, and once bitten you can easily contract any of those diseases (p.198). Moreover, the worst type of transmission of the germs is by passing through a woman to her fetus and pass on –infect- her child. That type of transmission diamond describes as contracting syphilis, AIDs, and rubella (p.199). AIDs, as Diamond informs us, came from a virus in African Monkeys that was first detected in 1962 (pp.197, 199, 201, and 208)

One main example of how disease had a huge impact on shaping the course of history is the Europeans defeating the Native Americans (pp. 210, 211, 212, 197). The Europeans came to the Americas in 1492 on Columbus’s voyage. When they came they were able to conquer the Native Americans due to the murderous microbes. Many more Native Americans died in bed from disease than ob n the battle field because of the Eurasian germs. For example, Cortés came to the Mexican coast attempting to conquer the Aztec empire. When he reached Tenochtitlan he was able to escape with one third of his army left. When they returned, the Spaniards had an advantage due to the epidemic that was brought to the Aztecs by a Spaniard.

The epidemic spread like wildfire and by 1618 the Aztec population drastically decreased from 20 million to 1.6 million (p.210). Additionally, Pizarro had the same luck when he got to Peru and attempted taking over the Inca Empire in 1531. Smallpox came in 1526 killing a large number of Inca residents’ as well as the emperor and his successor. Hernando de Soto came to the Americas and was the firsts to march through southern united states. He came across many abandoned sites due to epidemics and Eurasian germs. As de Soto marched through the Indian sites of lower Mississippi, Eurasian germs had already reached most of north America and kept spreading. The main killers of the Indians had been the Eurasian germs that were not introduced to the native Americans and therefore never immune.


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