Guns, Germs and Steel: Why Countries Developed in Different Ways

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

The book begins with a preface in which Diamond claims that the main purpose of his text is to explain why different countries developed in different manners. Diamond mentions Yali, a New Guinean politician interested in the history of his country and the colonization of New Guinea. Yali asks Diamond why some societies flourished more than the others—this is the question Diamond will try to answer in the book. Diamond makes a point of insisting that he doesn’t believe that one society is better than any other, and that he will try to remain impartial in his analysis. For a long time, the Europeans and those from advanced industrial nations believed that the reason why some nations were less developed was that some peoples were naturally inferior to others. However, Diamond argues, this view doesn’t hold up to examination, and part of the point of his book will be to disprove that view. Diamond even argues that hunter-gatherer societies are in some ways superior to industrial ones today because their members have to rely on their intelligence to survive, and spend more time exploring and planning ways to get their food. The real reason for varied rates of development amongst different societies must lie elsewhere.

In the first part of his book, Diamond analyzes the history of human evolution. It is generally believed that the closest evolutionary relatives the humans have are the apes, who at one point evolved and then migrated to other parts of the world about half a million years ago. The first settlers populated Eurasia and then moved to Australia and America somewhere around 14,000 years ago. In America, just as in other places, the settlers exterminated some of the larger animal species during their hunting activities. Some places of the world remained unpopulated until quite recently. On the other hand, we know that people lived in Africa from the beginning of humanity. Thus, historians have asked themselves why Africans didn’t evolve technology much faster than the rest of the world, since they had such a head start.

Diamond uses Polynesia as a prime example for trying to explain why some communities chose to remain hunter-gatherers and why some turned to agriculture to survive. In Polynesia, many islands were populated roughly around the same time. Because some islands were not fertile, the people on then became hunters and then pillaged other islands in search for food. But those who lived on the farmable islands also fought among themselves, because owning land meant having more resources and possibilities to live a good and long life. The environmental differences between one island and the other influenced the way the tribes developed. Though in the beginning they were all the same, after a while they changed and developed diverse societies. Those who grew crops and domesticated animals were those who had a better chance of survival, and had more time and energy for developing technology. The islands that could provide better food became more heavily populated, and as a result these societies developed more complex social structures. On a much larger scale, a similar thing happened to other societies all over the world: those that developed plant and animal domestication earlier became more dense, more diverse, and more complex.

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