A lavishly illustrated 20th anniversary edition of Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning exploration of how and why Eurasians developed the weapons, diseases and technologies that enabled them to dominate the rest of the world.
‘Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?’
Guns, Germs and Steel is Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning response to this seemingly simple question, posed by a New Guinean politician over 45 years ago. The result is a groundbreaking investigation into the reasons why Eurasians – rather than the indigenous populations of Africa, Australia, or the Americas – developed the weapons, diseases and technology that have repeatedly enabled them to dominate the rest of the world.
In his relentless search for ‘ultimate causes’, Diamond takes us back 13,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age, when humans throughout the world were still living a uniform hunter-gathering lifestyle. Drawing on botany and zoology, archaeology and evolutionary biology, linguistics and the history of diseases, he explores how Eurasians were the first to make the crucial transition to a settled farming life and how this led to the establishment of cities, centralised governments and organised religion; the use of animals for food, labour and transport; the evolution of germs and resistance to them; the invention of writing and the development of new technologies, tools and weapons – culminating in the capacity to embark on irresistible intercontinental invasions.
But Diamond's magisterial survey also reveals that these things occurred first in Eurasia simply because it happened to have many more species of domesticable animals and crops than any other part of the world; along with a relatively uniform climate, a lack of major geographical barriers and a large population living in competition, that encouraged new ideas, technologies and ways of life to spread easily. His humbling conclusion is that the seemingly inevitable dominance of Eurasians is in fact the accidental outcome of an environmental hand stacked heavily in their favour and overwhelmingly against people living elsewhere in the world.
In a new afterword, written for the 20th anniversary edition, Diamond shows how these radical ideas continue to explain why some countries remain corrupt and poverty-stricken while others thrive. He also reminds us that it is only by investigating the distant past that we can understand present inequalities, and take a more humane approach to shaping future solutions.
This updated edition also includes a lavish selection of colour illustrations, supplementing the black and white images that accompanied the original text, to create a definitive version of this modern classic.
Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA and noted polymath whose work has been influential in the fields of anthropology, biology, ornithology, ecology and history, among others. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan’s Cosmo Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize Honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by Rockefeller University. Diamond has published more than six hundred articles and nine books, including The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1992), Guns, Germs and Steel (winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize and named by TIME magazine as one of the most important non-fiction books of all time), Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) and The World Until Yesterday (2012).
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