Throughout the book; Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond answers a very controversial question; why is it that European people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but the natives of New Guinea had little cargo of their own? Societies prosper depending on the abundance of natural resources which are at their disposal. Therefore, It’s not because Europeans were smarter that they prospered but as a result of their natural resources. In Chapter 3, Jared Diamond uses an example of an ancient society to help us answer Yali’s question.
They Spanish and the Incas have distinct differences in the way their societies prospered as well as their way of everyday life. The Incas had a much larger population than the Spanish, but lacked a few technological advancements that the spanish had developed. Pizarro, leader of Spain, was able to conquer the Incas because of these advancements, along with a large military force. The Inca military consisted of men with little to no armor and they used wooden bats. The weak Inca Military was no match for the Spanish guns and artillery..
The Spanish also carried diseases such as measles and smallpox which wiped out the Inca population due to their lack of medical knowledge and medicine. In the end, although the Incas had a larger population, the Spanish were able to defeat them with their knowledge of military and technology. Part 2: In Part 2 of the book, Diamond explains the the change in the various ways to obtain food,such as domesticating animals and plants. Some areas of the world that were less advanced than others still used the hunter/gathering method of acquiring food.
Other advanced societies used domestication of food and animals to make their land more fertile as well as gaining a higher rate of food production. Domesticating animals and plants had its positives including being able to choose which plants or animals you’d like to plant in your region, however, often times farmer societies experienced malnutrition from their unvaried diets. Hunter and gatherers didn’t have control of what food they ate because it was all nurtured from the environment they live in. Sometimes, the gatherers could even come across a poisonous plant and doom their nomadic village.
Contributing factors such as the environment, climate, and geographical limitations aided in domestication of plants and animals. In Chapter 11, Jared Diamond explains the relationship between domesticated animals and its connection to the evolution of germs. Animals are the cause of why humans have diseases. When humans started to domesticate animals, many germs evolved into more formidable diseases. Hunter gatherers were less likely to have diseases because they dealt with a small population of select animals.
Farmers who domesticated animals had a bigger problem with managing diseases because there were so many animals; and with more animals comes a higher chance for infection. however to prevent this from happening the human body develops an immunity to these diseases. Humans without these antibodies are susceptible to getting sick which is why foreigners bringing strange diseases into the new world had such a profound effect on the native population. In Chapter 12, Diamond discusses the evolution and spread of writing throughout the world.
Writing was crucial to a society for it to prosper so that they could write down records of animals and agricultural growth in an area. Later on in a more advanced society, writing served to record stories and to write down and depict laws. Over time, civilizations such as Mesopotamia, America, China and Egypt, created simple writing systems which changed over time into more complex, growing languages. Writing was spread through trade and cultural diffusion and aided ancient civilizations by allowing them to keep records. Chapter 13:
In Chapter 13, Diamond says, “…. invention is often the mother of necessity, rather than vice versa. ” He means here that an invention is usually invented just before a real use is found for it. He views that inventors just love inventing and don’t find a real use for their products until the invention has a breakthrough and critical use in society. An example of this would be Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph which was used to help blind and deaf people hear well. It later became used for playing musical records.
Personally, I agree with Diamond because an inventor will invent something without any thought for its needs and eventually will be used when a society finds a purpose for it, however, I also believe that there will also be invention when it is needed to aid society. Chapter 14: Diamond’s explanations for the development of governments and religions are based on “conflict between unrelated strangers”. When you have a small group of people relying off of different rates of domestic production, you have to keep the group to a minimum.
Because the clan is so small, you see no conflict between people because: a) everyone is related or b) everyone knows each other too well to make controversy. Because there is no conflict there is no need for control or political structure on a group. In a larger population of people, the food demand is greater as well as their society. When a large group of people don’t know each other and are not related, this leads to conflict within a group as well as potential to form a centralized government and political structure.
These large groups of people later grew into our first civilizations which needed trade, labor, and especially laws. Kleptocracies, complex governments, were formed to keep everyone sane and have some sort of unity within a group. Religions were developed to aid the government in keeping a cool, rational look on one belief system which everyone in the group followed and related to. Religion gave everyone something to relate to one another in a society as well as aiding the new government system.
In Chapter 15, Jared Diamond explains how Australia and New Guinea were colonized by Europeans. Europe was very advanced, far more advanced than the Oceanic natives living there. Australia was very dry with little fertile ground. The locals had no knowledge of domestication of plants or animals. Because of their limited development, the Europeans were able to sweep over and conquer all of what today is Oceana. Once it was conquered, both became a ground where domestication flourished. In Chapter 16, Diamond talks about how China’s role in East Asian history.
China was a very successful civilization and had developed a great many technological advancements. Some of these advancements benefitted travel such as the compass and chariot, while others like gunpowder served both the military and recreational activities. A major key advancement is a writing system which aided and their spoken language and government. Diffusion of ideas throughout different dynasties to Japan and Korea shows East Asia was influenced by China. In Chapter 18, Diamond asks, “Why did Europeans reach and conquer the lands of the Native Americans, instead of vice versa? First of all, there were many differences between Europe and the Americas which led to the European conquer. The Americas lost many animals in a mass extinction which left very few animals for the natives to live off of. Europeans had many animals to chose for domestications. Europeans were inventing the iron weapons and complex tools while the Native Americans lacked in these resources due to a lack of variety in the culture of their natives. Government and literacy were much more advanced in Europe due to practice and advanced tools.
With advanced navigation, animals, military technology, literacy, and government, the Europeans were easily able to conquer the Americas and wipe out their simple life style. Chapter 19: In chapter 19 of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond discusses why Europeans conquered Africa instead of vice versa. According to Diamond, Europe was a stronger, more advanced civilization with many technologies, animals, plants, and a strong centralized government (as stated in Chapter 18). On the other hand, Africa had a small number of native crops as well as no domestication of animals.
The difficulty to acquire food in Africa was the main reason why they didn’t have production of anything (domesticated animals, plants, etc. ) Another part of Africa’s flaws would be its divided society with many different clans that had different beliefs, religious views, cultures, and languages. Europe had the exact opposite with one language and a strong, tight civilization. Again stated before, Europeans are not necessarily smarter than Africans but they acquired more tools and had a more intelligent society. Because of all the advancements of Europe, it was able to conquer Africa.