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Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies

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Presentation on theme: "Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies"— Presentation transcript:


2 Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies
based on the book of the same name by Jared Diamond

3 The Book’s Major Question
Peoples of Eurasian origin, especially those still living in Europe and Eastern Asia and in places where their cultures have spread, dominate the world in power and wealth. Other peoples have been decimated, subjugated and even exterminated by Eurasian colonists. WHY?

4 "In the 13,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age, …

5 …some parts of the world developed literate industrial societies with metal tools…

6 …other parts developed only non-literate farming societies…

7 …and still others remained societies of hunter-gatherers with stone tools…

8 Inequality and Extermination
Those historical inequalities have cast long shadows on the modern world, because the literate societies with metal tools have conquered or exterminated the other societies."

9 Yali’s Question Yali, a New Guinea politician asked
"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?"

10 Distribution of Wealth
To rephrase, "why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than in some other way?” Distribution of Wealth in the World

11 Common explanations Racial or genetic superiority?
No objective evidence for this theory

12 Common explanations Cold climate stimulates inventiveness?
But Europeans inherited from warm climate peoples agriculture, wheels, writing, and metallurgy Japan inherited Agriculture, metallurgy, writing Industrial Revolution

13 Up to the Starting Point
Chapter 1 Up to the Starting Point

14 Cro Magnons Cro-Magnons moved into Europe 40,000 years ago.
Tools, needles, fishhooks, harpoons, bows and arrows, sewn clothing, houses, carefully buried skeletons, art, hunting big prey. Displaced or killed off Neandertals

15 Spreading Out 40,000-30,000 years ago humans used watercraft to cross from Asia to Indonesia to Australia and New Guinea. This time period correlates to a massive extinction of large game in those places.

16 Large Game in Eurasia Diamond's theory is that large game survived in Eurasia because humans took a million years to develop tools and become lethal predators of large game, giving game time to adapt.

17 Spreading to the Americas
By 20,000 years ago, humans learned how to survive in Siberia. This led to migration to Americas by 12,000 BC. It took 1,000 years for humans to cover both N. and S. America. Time period correlates to a massive extinction of large game in Americas: Horses, lions, elephants, cheetahs, camels, and giant ground sloths.

18 A Natural Experiment of History
Chapter 2 A Natural Experiment of History

19 Chatham Islands In 1835, a seal hunting ship visiting the Chatham islands 500 miles off the coast of New Zealand brought the first news to New Zealand of islands where: "there is an abundance of sea and shellfish; the lakes swarm with eels; and it is a land of the karaka berry... The inhabitants are very numerous, but they do not understand how to fight, and have no weapons".

20 Chatham Islands

21 Maori of New Zealand Nine hundred of the native Maori people of New Zealand, armed with guns, arrived in the Chatham Islands announcing that the Chatham Islands people (the Moriori) were now their slaves, and killed those who objected.

22 Moriori Slaughter An eyewitness account said
"The Maori commenced to kill us like sheep... We were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed -- men, women, and children indiscriminately". Maori

23 Maori Explanation A Maori conqueror explained:
"We took accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed -- but what of that? It was in accordance with our custom".

24 Natural History Experiment
This is a natural history experiment. Both the Maori and Moriori descended from the same Polynesian farmers who settled New Zealand.

25 Moriori But the Moriori, after moving to the Chatham islands hundreds of years earlier could not farm due to the cold climate, and became hunter/gatherers. They learned to live peacefully because their resources were so limited.

26 Maori The New Zealand Maori The difference was geography.
continued farming dense populations more complex technology and political organization ferocious wars: The difference was geography. Competing agricultural societies are prone to warfare

27 Collision at Cajamarca
Chapter 3 Collision at Cajamarca

28 Conquest of the New World
"The biggest population shift of modern times has been the colonization of the New World by Europeans, and the resulting conquest, numerical reduction, or complete disappearance of most groups of Native Americans "

29 Pizarro The Incas were conquered by the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro.

30 Pizarro’s Forces Pizarro had 168 soldiers.
They were in unfamiliar territory, ignorant of the local inhabitants, were 1,000 miles away from reinforcements, and were and surrounded by the Incan empire with 80,000 soldiers led by Atahuallpa.

31 Guns, Germs and Steel Pizarro, however, had steel armor and swords, horse mounted cavalry, and guns (a minor factor).

32 Treachery The account of the capture of Atahuallpa is one of the most difficult passages you may ever read, due to the treachery employed by Pizarro, and the religious justification used. Of course, we also know that Pizarro collected a huge ransom for Atahuallpa in gold and silver, and then killed him anyway. Inca Gold

33 Conquistadors In addition to horses and steel, the conquistadors
Had superior ocean going ships Had superior political organization of the European states Carried infectious diseases that wiped out 95% of Native Americans (smallpox, measles, influenza, typhus, bubonic plague) Had superior knowledge of human behavior from thousands of years of written history.

34 Conquistadors Pizarro got his treacherous ideas from the experience of Cortez. The Incas knew nothing of Spaniards. Cortez and Montezuma

35 Why not the other way? Still, why was it that the Europeans had all of the advantages instead of the Incas? Why didn't the Incas invent guns and steel swords, have horses, or bear deadly diseases? Inca Inca Warrior

36 Food Production Why did food production not evolve in large, geographically suitable areas of the globe? Why did the dates of food production development vary so widely? Were the humans different, or was the environment?

37 All people on earth were once hunter-gathers; why did some leave this behind and others not?

38 “Food production systems evolved as a result of the accumulation of many separate decisions about allocating time and effort” (Diamond). Food production developed as a way to provide the most calories (particularly of protein) with the least amount of effort.

39 The major significance of evolving into food production was to free up time so that certain tribal members could become SPECIALISTS: weapon makers, container makers, tribal leaders, medicine men, etc.

40 In cultures that evolved food production, the major factors contributing were:
Decline in the availability of wild foods Increased availability of domesticable wild plants Development of technologies for collecting, processing and storing wild foods

41 How Were Wild Plants Domesticated?

42 Selection of largest and most attractive plants
Preferential planting of “best” seeds Favoring beneficial mutations in plants (almonds) Selection of seeds that did not germinate simultaneously Selection of self-pollinators All of these evolved slowly over thousands of years. Almonds but not acorns

43 Problems With Food Cultivation in Much of North America
Major grain crop, corn, was very tiny, took thousands of years to evolve into modern size, not self-pollinating, and very low in protein Wild grasses largely limited to rice which also was low in protein Few (turkey and dog) domesticable animals to assist in production or to be eaten

44 Advantages of Western Eurasia
Largest land mass in Mediterranean climate Great diversity of wild plants and animals Greatest seasonal climatic variety—more annuals 56 prize grasses

45 Range of altitudes led to staggered harvests
Less competition from hunter-gatherers

46 Why New Guineans Didn’t Develop Agriculture
No domesticable grain crops Root crops lacking in protein No domesticable large mammal species

47 In coastal areas, consumed fish which shows openness to new foods
In highlands, frequent protein starvation (which may have been a factor in areas where cannibalism existed)

48 Mississippi Florescence
Refers to arrival of dozens of crops from Mexico. Once introduced, they were widely cultivated. This is evidence that once crops arrived, indigenous people planted and cultivated them.

49 All of this supports Diamond’s thesis that differences in the arrival of plant production were based, not on limitations of the people but on biota.


51 The Role of Domesticable Animals in Food Production
“Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way” (Diamond).

52 Provided by Domestic Animals
Meat Milk Products Fertilizer Transport Leather Military assault vehicles Plow traction (Germs)

53 Domestication is the process by which wild animals are transformed into something more helpful to humans.

54 Eurasia had 13 0f 14 domesticable animals.
See slide of these animals

55 The Major Five Sheep (Asiatic mouflon) Goat (Besoar goat of West Asia)
Cow, ox, cattle (aurochs, now extinct, found in Eurasia Pig (wild boar, distributed over Eurasia and North Africa) Horse (wild horses from Russia)

56 The Minor Nine Camel (Arabia and Central Asia)
Llama and alpaca (Andes) Donkey (African wild ass of Northern Africa) Reindeer (Northern Eurasia) Water buffalo (Southeast Asia)

57 Yak (Himalayas and Tibetan plateau)
Bali cattle (banteng from Southeast Asia) Mithan (the gar of India and Burma)

58 14 Domestic Mammals Animal Wild ancestor Date (BCE) location Sheep
Asiatic mouflon sheep 8000 West and Central Asia Goat Bezoar goat West Asia Cow Aurochs 6000 Eurasia and North Africa Pig Wild boar Horse Wild horses 4000 Southern Russia (minor 9) Arabian camel (1-hump) Wild camel 2500 Arabia Bactrian camel (2-hump) Central Asia Llama and Alpaca Guanaco 3500 Andes Donkey African wild ass North Africa Reindeer Wild reindeer Northern Eurasia Water buffalo Wild water buffalo Southeast Asia Yak Wild yak Himalayas and Tibet Bali cattle Banteng Mithan Gaur India and Burma Eurasian?

59 Why Were Eurasia’s Animals Domesticated?
Why Eurasia's horses but not Africa’s zebras? Why Eurasia’s pigs but not America's or Africa’s? Why Eurasia’s cattle but not buffalo?

60 Was it the peoples or the animals?
The evidence that it was the animals themselves is based on the rapid adoption of domesticable animals once they arrived from other places.

61 There were repeated 19th and 20th century attempts to domesticate Eland, moose, ox, zebra, and bison. Modern geneticists met with little success—so too indigenous peoples.

62 Why “perpetually wild”?
Diet Growth rate Problems with Captive Breeding (pandas, cheetahs, vicunas Nasty and dangerous dispositions ( grizzly bear, American buffalo, zebra) Tendency to panic when approached (all gazelle species) Some too finicky about diests, sosts of supplying food (calorie costs) elephants grow to adulthood too slowly

63 Social structure: Domestic animals live in herds, have a dominance hierarchy, overlap ranges rather than have exclusive territory.

64 Role of Direction of Major Axes in Dissemination of Ideas and Products

65 Why Did Ideas About Plants and Animals spread more quickly in Eurasia?
Axes Eurasia The Americas Africa

66 GERMS! Diseases have been major shapers of history Influenza of 1918
European conquests of Americas (Spanish conquistadors, English settlers) See chart of major axses

67 Eurasia sight of major infectious diseases: Why?
Many diseases zoonotic Critical masses of people because of efficient food production Crowd diseases could not survive in small bands of people Leprosy, yaws, hookworms may be oldest because could survive in smaller tribes

68 Farming and agriculture increase diseases and disease spread
Farms live around and often fertilize with their own sewage Densely packed human populations Evolution of world trade routes (distributed smallpox) Add chart of diseases from livestorck

69 New Zoonotic Diseases? AIDS Lassa Fever Lyme Disease Hanta viruses

70 Syphilis is suspected of being only disease transferred from native Americans to Euarsia.

71 Development of Written Language Critical
Writing is the key to transmit knowledge to distant lands and to retain knowledge Writing was developed by agricultural groups because food production allows for the development of specialists (scribes)

72 With the exception of Egyptian and Chinese all writing systems are derived from early Mesoamerican writing. Phoenicians provided representational consonantal alphabet Greeks invented representation of vowel sounds

73 Written language aided in conquering of new lands.
Last slide.


75 Why Did Eurasians Possess Technology First?
Technology develops cumulatively rather than in isolated acts Technology finds most of its uses AFTER invention Technology requires a society to adopt it

76 Religions vary widely in their willingness to adopt technology
Depending on geography, information about technological advances will reach some people and not others

77 Descendents of those societies that achieved centralized government and organized religion earliest ended up dominating the modern world.

78 “The combination of government and religion has thus functioned together with germs, writing, and technology as one of the four main sets or proximate agents leading to history's broadest pattern. How did governments and religions arise?

79 Levels of Social Organization Evolve from Least to Most Complex
Bands Tribes Chiefdoms States

80 Bands Tiny populations: typically 5-80 people
Most are close relatives by birth or marriage All humans lived in bands until 40,000 years ago

81 Bands Usually nomadic: live in areas where food is scarce
Land used jointly by whole group No specialization: all able-bodied individuals forage for food Economic System: Reciprocal Exchange No laws, treaties, or police to help resolve disputes But being closely related helps!

82 Tribes Society with hundreds of people, usually settled in many villages Shared language and culture More than one kinship group Land belongs to clans within a tribe Everyone knows everyone else by name and relationship

83 Tribes Social system egalitarian No upper or lower class
No one can become more wealthy Government still egalitarian Decisions are made in a group May have “big man” with limited power; still would live like others

84 Chiefdoms Population: several thousands to tens of thousands
Arose about 7500 years ago with rising populations In 1492 widespread in North and South America, Africa, Polynesia

85 States Populations of 50,000 to 1 billion Usually have literate elites
Sometimes literate population Arose first in Mesopotamia, later in Mesoamerica, China, Southeast Asia, Andes, West Africa

86 Religion Early: tribal deities Polytheist
Standardized temples and religions evolve under influence of kings Often these kings were head of state religion Monotheism evolves Temples or religious centers are crucial to economic redistribution, writing, crafts, technology

87 Advantages of States and Centralized Religions
Primarily as they allow for specialization Provide critical mass for technologies to emerge, be adapted, and spread May reduce numbers of armed conflicts Dissemination of ideas and information

88 Religions Can unite a people with shared goals and beliefs
May create central “mythos”: idea that God wants them to spread this religion Missionaries played critical role in providing Eurasian ideas and technology to isolated populations.

89 Development Diagram Ultimate Factors East/West Axis
Many suitable wild species Ease of species spreading Many domesticated plant and animal species Food surpluses, food storage Large, dense, sedentary, stratified societies technology Proximate Factors horses Guns, steel swords Ocean-going ships Political organization, writing Epidemic disease

90 Chapter 16: How China Became Chinese




94 Isolation + Conquest = Writing System and Language Unification






100 The End of China’s Reign
In the 1400s, fleets of a hundred treasure ships120 meters long sent to Africa In 1433, a political argument in the Chinese court led to the suspension of naval activities Due to political unification, this effectively halted China’s global progress.

101 The irony is that China’s greatest strength, political unity, is what led to China’s global downfall.

102 My years in New Guinea have convinced me that people around the world are fundamentally similar. Wherever you go, you can find people who are smart, resourceful, and dynamic. No society has a monopoly on those traits. Of course, there are huge cultural differences, but they're mainly the result of inequality; they're not its root cause. Ultimately what's far more important is the hand they are dealt, the raw materials they had at their disposal. Jared Diamond


104 That’s All, Folks! Don Rechtman
QQ (oorfeo)

105 Links for 枪炮、病菌与钢铁 One resource for buying the book in Chinese is at The complete Chinese translation of the book is at I could not find video with subtitles, but the DVD with Chinese subtitles can be found at Book City and online. Part 1: Part 2:

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