In “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” professor of physiology, Jared Diamond, asks the question, “How, though, did the world get to be the way it was in A.D. 1500?” To rephrase the question …”…why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? Those disparate rates constitute history’s broadest pattern and my book’s subject.” (16)
He explains that all peoples of planet Earth were hunter-gatherers until around 11,000 B.C. and “…different rates of development on different continents, from 11,000 B.C. to A.D. 1500, were what led to the technological and political inequalities of A.D. 1500.” (16) Dr. Diamond attributes the drastic rates of development to several broad patterns. The production of steel allowed for better weapons and the ability of one culture to conquer another. Agriculture and farming gave easier access to foods with more calories. So, instead of digging for roots and gathering wild berries, fields of the same crop were planted. And certain animals, such as cows, pigs, and sheep were domesticated. He discusses the importance of germs and their effects on societies. Some of the devastating diseases derived from the domesticated animals; measles, tuberculosis and smallpox from cattle, and flu from pigs and ducks. In addition, he also shares information regarding the earliest forms of writing, with Sumerian cuneiform being the earliest historical evidence of written language. As well as other environmental factors.
This book reminded me of some of the information I learned in anthropology classes in college. I found it interesting from its historical perspective. It is the story I, and many other students have been told about our human history. Dr. Diamond is telling a portion of our historical story and I have to wonder what parts of the story we might be missing. In other words, we have heard this story, the one of conquer and “development.” The story could be told from a variety of perspectives, the female perspective (as if there was only one), the religious perspective (converts and heretics), the Earth’s perspective (from variety of flora and fauna to farming and domestication). But it seems there is one dominant perspective that is shared, at least throughout my education.
The Western human story has been told in a certain way by individual humans. Scientists have measured and tested and given us specific dates. And as technology develops the dates and answers sometimes change. Each of us might tell the story of human development since 11,000 B.C. a little differently. I like the title of this book because it succinctly states Diamond’s perspective of human history. If I had to express this from a female perspective, instead of the title “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” I might title it “Gals, Tights, and Rights: The Herstory of the Other Half.” If from a religious perspective I might call it “Nature, God, and Books: the Great Tools of Good and Evil.” If trying to tell the story of the Earth I may title it “Color, Texture, and Flavor: The History of Flora and Fauna.”
If telling my own story up to this point in my life, I would call it “Family, Spirituality and Creativity: A Colorful Palette of Existence.”
How might you title Diamond’s book from a different perspective?
How would you title your own story of life?
Diamond, Jared. “Germs, Guns and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.” W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY, 1997.