In Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, a New York Times bestseller published in 1999, the topic is no less daunting then the evolution of civilizations from the earliest pre-recorded times to the present. The premise is that due to the geographical nature of different parts of our mother planet, certain civilizations emerged stronger than others over the millennia.
One of the more interesting points is the hunter-gather versus the farmer. In easy to understand ways, Diamond uses the argument of when the change between hunter-gather and farmer happened usually influenced if the society would later become more powerful. In many ways, I liken it to the wide use of the Internet, which is driving production and ideas far sooner than if a country doesn’t have widespread use of the power of the Internet, or other communication capabilities.
Very interesting points are made to back the author’s thesis. I particularly liked the fact that he compares all regions of the earth in their competition for dominance. This is a strong writer who is passionate about the topic of civilizations and the rise and fall of them. He makes many points as to why simple timing makes a difference and why some nations which rose once, can rise again.
Diamond also delves into the fact that Eurasian peoples did not begin as racist, but rather had the power to conquer others. This simple geographical fact makes a difference to how people would later view treatments of others. Over the years, religion and general view of who made whom more powerful caused racism to grow. A good example is the merging of what would become the Kingdom of Spain. They had to recapture most of the peninsula from the Muslims who lived there, and needed a point to fight- that being religion. Other times, Diamond proves it is a matter of luck as to how and whom people would view race, and religion and other differences of people.
Guns, Germs and Steel is a well written book, so anyone who has a basic knowledge of the history of the world can easily follow the non-fiction narrative. It is no wonder why it is a New York Times bestseller. I strongly recommend it to almost anyone with a passion for the history of the world. Yes, the strong shall inherit the earth- with modern technology and new viruses and bacteria to help them. Not only that but there is a great deal of luck as to whom the next powerful group will be.
A related, and equally well-written book is Niall Ferguson’s Civilizations: The West and the Rest. Again, the West’s rise to dominate the world is elucidated through strong prose and backed by the author’s years of study.
If you come to enjoy his writing I would suggest other titles of his such as, Empire…about the rise and fall of the British Empire; the Ascent of Money…the history of world finances; one which will be in paperback soon, and The Great Degeneration, a short yet poignant explanation of how institutions decay and economies die.