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Guns, Germs & Steel Hardcover – Import, 9 May 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 2,106 ratings

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Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

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Guns, Germs and Steel is an artful, informative and delightful book...there is nothing like a radically new angle of vision for bringing out unsuspected dimensions of subject and that is what Jared Diamond has done. -- William H McNeil, The New York Review of Books, May 15, 1997

Jared Diamond...is broadly erudite, writes in a style that pleasantly expresses scientific concepts in vernacular American English and deals almost exclusively in questions that should interest everyone concerned about how humanity developed. . . .Reading Diamond is like watching someone riding a unicycle, balancing an eel on his nose and juggling five squealing piglets. You may or may not agree with him (I usually do), but he rivets your attention.

Guns, Germs, and Steel is his answer to a question proffered by his New Guinean friend, Yali: "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo [steel axes, umbrellas, matches, soft drinks, etc.- the material stuff of civilization], but we black people had little cargo of our own?" It is an obvious and important question, and one to which professional historians, including myself, tend to react as if we'd discovered a coral snake in the shower...we shy away from Yali's question because the easiest answer is one that many bray and bray about and others would rather die than utter. Race...

Jared Diamond had done us all a great favor by supplying a rock-solid alternative to the racist answer...

...This is a wonderfully interesting book, especially for historians of the usual liberal arts background, who will find the final chapter, "The Future of Hisotry as a Science," alone worth the price of admission. In it, Diamond argues that students of humanity- while they cannot be as precise as physicists and chemists with their laboratory experiments, nor can they run history over again to see if this change can produce that result- have examples and "natural experiments" with which they can fashion informative comparisons.

Why did Christendom enthusiastically and permanently adopt the wheel, the key element in most machinery, while the Islamic societies largely discarded it? What happened when syphilis first appeared, as compared to what is happening today with the appearance of AIDS? What is happening to society in the highlands of Diamond's home-away-from-home, Paupa New Guinea, where people have hurtled from the technology of the stone ax to that of the computer within a lifetime? Diamond's lesson is this: Think big like our astronomers, who begin their training not by trying to understand the nervous gyrations of the members of the asteroid belt but the simple and stately movements of the major planets over the years, decades and centuries. Think big. "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is a provocative start. -- Alfred W. Crosby, Los Angeles Times 3/9/97

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co. (9 May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393038912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393038910
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.8 x 24.8 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,92,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top international reviews

Grognard
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely groundbreaking. I wish I had read it when it first came out!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 November 2017
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I.B.Leave
1.0 out of 5 stars Seems to fall at the first hurdle.
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Marcus Gallardo
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious love letter to New Guinea
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 July 2018
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Dave Hodgkinson
2.0 out of 5 stars Don’t bother
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Madrileño
4.0 out of 5 stars This in turn freed up sections of the population for other tasks like technological advance
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1.0 out of 5 stars The text is tiny
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James Brydon
4.0 out of 5 stars A triumphant blend of 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' and 'The Ascent of Man'.
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Simone
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book to read
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The Electrician
5.0 out of 5 stars A new and fascinating view of how we got here.
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JWH
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Analysis of the Essential Causes of Human History
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Old Hand
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly valuable contribution
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3.0 out of 5 stars Human Environmental Adaptation
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James Kavanagh
3.0 out of 5 stars Font size makes it difficult to read.
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Richard Coulthard
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended but repetitive in places
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 May 2018
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