Analysis of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Why is it that Eurasia has produced the agriculture, pathogens, and technology to  influence and predominant over the rest of the world? More simply put by Yali, a politician in New Guinea, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo [goods] and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own.” This timeless question is still being inquired, but Jared Diamond has set out to find an ultimate answer. After extensive field work in New Guinea, Diamond blames geographic location, rather than the people within it and a supposed lack of intelligence.

Within his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond’s theorizes that unequal distribution begins with preconditions, specifically, the precondition of geographic location, which governs climate. Diamond’s thesis is correct based on three factors that are determined by geography, that is, the domestication of plants and animals, immunity to a wide range of pathogens, and the development of technology that furthered the interests of a society.

Early humans practiced the hunter-gatherer lifestyle until the domestication of plants and animals. It was through these techniques that people have the ability to live in a set area, rather than roam after their pray. These groups of people would soon develop societies because they were no longer focused solely on survival, but thriving. Eurasia gained its first advantages based on the variety of plants that could prosper in the land. Villages were also able to expand because the longitude remained the same. Therefore, the crops were able to grow anywhere in Eurasia since the climate didn’t change.

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Plants such as barley, wheat, corn, and sorghum were able to grow in the Eurasian climate. Many animals in Eurasia were also available for domestication which in turn increased trade between societies. Horses, namely, were essential to trade networks and later, conquest. Contrastingly, other countries had struggled due to the fact that plants and animals native to the land were either used inefficiently or unable to domesticate.  With increased trade between societies, a wide range of pathogens was also “traded,” eventually leading to groups of individuals immune to a variety of diseases. Diamond hypothesized that due to the close proximity of livestock and other individuals the chance of pathogens being exchanged increased. Larger food supplies result in larger a community, which in turn leads to a denser population that is now nearby livestock. Overtime, natural selection took place, leaving Eurasians that were immune to the pathogens alive. Later, when the Eurasian settlers came to proclaim land for themselves in foreign places, such as the Americas, the pathogens wreaked havoc on foreigners who were not immune to the pathogens. Malaria and smallpox were often fatal. This gave Eurasia the advantage when taking over new land. With the foreigners too sick to fight, it was easy for Eurasian’s to proclaim it theirs without a fight, due to the fact that there was no one healthy enough to fight.

Largely populated societies could now focus on making their work easier through the development of new technology. A large population is able to support a wide range of occupations. Therefore, individuals are able to specialize in one field and focus on a sole task.

Since individuals were no longer solely focused on survival, this gave way to the ability to discover ways to thrive, rather than survive. A hierarchy is eventually produced within the large population with leaders who further expand the interests of the society, such as making a task easier to accomplish and putting people to work to create new ways of accomplishing the task at hand. This resulted in the development of writing, ocean navigation, guns, and steel. Steel, in particular, was unique to Europeans. Men armed with steel swords were able to take over new lands and easily slaughter their opponents. Steel was also used for railways and ships, which expands the already large trade routes. It is with accomplishments such as this that Eurasia not only became more efficient, but advanced past its nomadic counterparts.  Hence, Jared Diamond’s thesis on geography governing unequal distribution is correct.

Geography determines the climate, which affects which plants and animals can or cannot be domesticated. If there is a sizeable amount available for domestication individuals move away from hunter-gatherer and evolve to domestication and forming societies. In turn, large societies come in contact with livestock and through natural selection become immune, which in turn gives them an advantage to any foreign opponents. These large socities are later able to focus on technology to better themselves, and are able to conquer. Therefore, prospering faster thanks to a sequence of events based on geographic location.

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Analysis of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. (2022, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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