The book Guns, Germs and Steel is an interesting impression of Jared Diamond to challenge and refresh our outlook towards the effect of politics to cultural and individual development as based from historical and theoretical concept. JD is a physiologist and evolutionary biologist and has made this work on a broader scope during his explorations in New Guinea to study the culture as well as the environment of the people. It started out in a prologue while Jared travels with his friend Yali, a New Guinean and questions the diminutive cargo of the locals against the bulk of cargos of the Eurasians.
JD tried to explain to Yali by answering him with historical and theoretical views according to his research. JD said that while the natives own the land and the resources, the foreigners are capable of dominance because they are superior in technology as can be seen with their tools and machinery. But JD explained to Yali that what he sees is not proof of the superiority of the Eurasians over the natives but rather the opposite. JD said that Yali’s people are actually smarter and adaptable to any environment because they live in a world that has requires critical survival.
Chapter 1 of the book discusses the origin of man and their discovery of tools and art as depicted from their paintings. JD theorizes that man made a great leap and used his intelligence 50,000 years ago as found on skeletons found in Australia and New Guinea. Accordingly, the Americans were probably colonized during 11,000 BC which correspond to the final stage of the Pleistocene Era and the melting of the ice in the last Ice Age. Chapter 2 details the war between the Maoris against the Morioris in Polynesia as early as 1835 in the Chatham islands and.
Polynesia during that period has different set of climates, geography, resources and political and social conditions which lead to less diversification of human populations to be able to adapt in their environment. Chapter 3 details the conquest of European Francisco Pizarro and his men to capture Atahuallpa, the Inca emperor at Cajamarca, Peru in 1532. The superior weapons and their armor which were made of steel and the horses and cavalry pushes the natives out of their place while the Europeans brought along with them diseases such as smallpox and eventually infected and killed another native emperor of different tribe.
JD pointed out that people of dominant culture has the foremost advantage over those who are less in technology and political organization as the Incas does not have. On Chapter 4 of the book, JD significantly emphasizes the importance of agriculture to propel the development of a fragile society because with the increase of food production there is a room for population to grow larger and stronger. Enough supply of food can sustain people to be more vigorous and organize themselves without resorting to violence to survive.
An organized society can form political government to protect its people against conquest such as JD pointed out. In chapter 5, the author describes the technology of calibrating sites for food production by naming sites and crops suitable to grow in their environment while in chapter 6, 7 and 8 discusses his confidence the possibility of converting native hunters into agriculturist because of degeneration of wild games and animals in their environment. He said that there are already great varieties of plants and animals that can be domesticated and cultured and there is no need to hunt for food for a family to survive.
JD gave an example in chapter 9 and 10 the success of the Indians in domesticating animals and prevents the extinction of wild animals in their forest. He said that breeding animals is one of the most accepted principles in domesticating animals that even wild species of animals can be bred in captivity. But this depends on the adaptability of animals with the climatic conditions on certain locality. Lack of animal adaptation means limited domestication and cultivation of animals and plants.
The New World on the other hand is located on a tropical zone therefore people have more favorable climatic conditions as compared with the Eurasian countries. However, major infectious diseases or what JD calls “killers of humanity” mainly comes from animals men domesticates. He said that small pox originates from cowpox, flu from pigs and ducks and tuberculosis from cattle. These are only few of the negative impact on the cultivation of livestock by man that even people in the cities are not safe from certain diseases as they kept animals as pets.
Industrialization gave man endemic diseases because he attracts germ carrying pests and we now have yellow fever, hookworm, bubonic plague and many other diseases transmitted by pests. Man also is a carrier of pest and diseases to his fellow human such as the body lice, sexually transmitted disease and other human infections. The following chapters introduced the origins of writings in early period of Mesoamerica and most part of Asia. JD significantly highlights necessity as the mother of invention and the invention of writings lead to the invention of the technology and then to arms for weapons and destruction.
He said that the introduction of technology was also the beginning of civilizations to colonize other civilizations, destroying their population and their culture. The author also reviews the societal form of organization on a certain level which starts from the smaller faction or the band. The “band” is composed of people that are usually related by blood, nomadic in nature and have one ethnicity and language and no more than 5 to 80 people bonded together to be form a small society.
The “tribe”, however has more people with fixed community, one ethnicity and language but being led by a leader in a societal form of government such as tribe in New Guinea and Australia . The “group” leads to chiefdoms and then to a larger extent which forms the state. The “state” have more than 50,000 people living in various villages, class and residence-based relationships. They also have more than one language, have centralized bureaucratic government levels and politicians to man the government, the law and the state.
States have also their police and militaries to protect its citizenry against injustice. This was discussed on chapter 14. Chapter 15 to 16 depicts the Australian and New Guinean’ climate where Yali belongs. These two countries were formerly united as one large mass of land but separated because of the effect of large body of water 10,000 years ago. The following chapters discuss how China became the China of today which brought by forced unification of the Qin dynasty in 221 BC.
Continuous fighting and dominance of Asian ethnicities in old China produces mixed races of different Asian origins but came up to have one traditional language which is the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Among these languages is the Mandarin. Chapter 17 is explained by JD on how the islands of the Pacific were able to be colonized by the Asians who arrived in New Guinea around 40,000 BC. This Asian group composes the ancestors of Philippine Negritos and formerly called the Austronesian.
Their migrations began from China, reached Taiwan and then the Philippines at around 3000 BC. Those who came to Sumatra and Java became the Malayo-Polynesian while those who arrived in Northern New Guinea and Samoa became the Samoans. JD reviews on chapter 18 the factors which led to the European conquering Americas. The Europeans are better in food production, domestication of animals, producing metals and weapons, organization of armies, transportation and communication and solid political organization which the people of early America lacks.
The people of the New World such as New Guinea, however are more primitive and backward and lacks capabilities to organize themselves. This was the reason why the Europeans or the Eurasians have been able to establish their colony in their nation without conflict and resistance. And finally chapter 19 discusses how the people of Africa came to be blacks. Accordingly, in the previous era, North Africans were whites who resemble Middle Eastern and Europeans and speak Afro-Asiatic languages.
The pygmies or small black African people are mostly confined to Central Africa but were outnumbered by indigenous people. The blacks occupy only most of the Saharan Africa but extended their occupancy to the East coast to Cape town. From there they began to cultivate crops and domesticate animals and expand largely in numbers. The epilogue of this book answers Yali’s question on why whites have been so successful with their trades and always have larger cargos compared with the locals on a shipping trade comes to conclusion.
The book answers his question by chapters and details. The effect of geographical formation and the environment clearly emphasizes the commencement of dominance by the Eurasian whites. Dominance factors illustrates the capability of the Eurasian to domesticate plant and animals better than the people of the New World, the speed of their technology which also sped up the rates of migration and their concrete population and size of their continents enable them to migrate and search for more opportunities to other continents.
Furthermore, JD wants to search further with his study to come up with more variables that could defend his theory. He believes that he can only do this through natural historical experiments that need to be researched. These involve the history of human societies which are always intricate to understand than the lost dinosaurs of the old world (McGoodwin).
Work Cited: McGoodwin, Michael. “Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel. ” (2000). April 10, 2008 <http://mcgoodwin. net/pages/gungermsteel. html>.
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