Literature Study GuidesGuns Germs And Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel | Study Guide

Jared Diamond

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Jared Diamond

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At a Glance

Guns, Germs, and Steel was a groundbreaking book of popular science upon its release in 1997. It remains a foundational work for interdisciplinary geography and a widely accepted interpretation of the process of European global conquest. Author Jared Diamond argues that geographic factors of the Eurasian continent were the root cause of European conquest, allowing for the transfer of technologies, knowledge, and diseases that gave western Eurasian peoples an advantage over the native peoples of the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific islands. Explicitly, Diamond argues conquest was not the result of biological, genetic, or racial differences, but of a long process of geographic advantage benefiting the peoples of western Eurasia.

Guns, Germs, and Steel went on to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book in 1998, and it was adapted into a PBS documentary series in 2005.

About the Title

The author argues the items listed in the book's title—Guns, Germs, and Steel—are the three major factors that allowed for the conquest of much of the world by western Eurasian peoples and contributed to ongoing global inequality. The superior weapons made conquest possible, immunity to diseases decimated indigenous populations, and technological prowess allowed for transoceanic travel.

All of these factors, Diamond argues, were made possible through environmental and geographic sources, particularly east-west migration on the Eurasian continent that brought new technologies, peoples, and diseases into contact with one another. Diamond's subtitle, The Fates of Human Societies, suggests Diamond is thinking about the course of human societies and civilizations. The book seeks to answer fundamental questions about the shape of the world today as it sprang from its developmental process.


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