Thursday, June 16, 2005

Guns, Germs, Steel...& food & animals & geography & language

Disappointing book: Guns, Germs, and Steel which is a misnomer of a title. Tapes 3-5 (out of 11) largely dealt with food - the fertile crescent was richer in important crops and domestic animals. Also a discussion of the superior geography of Eurasia - being an East-West continent allowed for better transfer of ideas and grains and animals than North & South America where the thin isthmus of Panama blocked easy exchange of ideas of substance. Tape 6 started into the development of languages, but I ran out of time then - B.O.T. due back at the library tomorrow - so skipped to tape 11 which was also discussing languages at the beginning. I realize that it's common to sort of mis-name a book to hook the audience, e.g. Galileo's Daughter, but in this book Diamond spends far more time discussing germs, than the other two factors. Actually would say that he largely ignores them after the first tape's riveting discussion of Pizarro's conquest of the Incas. Steel was certainly known in the fertile crescent, and gunpowder came to Europe from China, so why did the Europeans master the power of guns before the rest of the world? No answer here.

Best review is from Christopher Smith of Amazon who states

According to Diamond, four factors are responsible for all historical developments: 1) availability of potential crops and domestic animals, 2) the orientation of continental axis to facilitate the spread of agriculture, 3) transfer of knowledge between continents, and 4)population size.

That would explain the Europeans' conquest of the Americas, but not Europe's colonization of Arabia and India and China, or its non-conquest of Japan.

According to the Hobe, Collapse is a better book, so will give it a try when LAPL acquires a copy of the CD.

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