In this book, book, Jared Diamond argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.
... [a] fascinating and extremely important book. uns, Germs, and Steel is a volume no one should leave college without reading. The main argument, in simplified form, should be taught as early as grammar school. That its insights seem so fresh, its facts so novel and arresting, is evidence of how little Americans—and, I suspect, most well-educated citizens of the Western world—know of the most important forces of human history ... This synopsis, unfortunately, doesn't do credit to the immense subtlety of this book, which includes long sections about the use of linguistics to reach conclusions about ancient societies, employs knowledge gained from molecular biology and animal behavior to elucidate events otherwise lost to history, and recounts numerous mysteries about the course of human settlement ... Guns, Germs, and Steel is not without faults, although these are minor. There is a useful bibliographic essay at the end, but in a work with this heft it would have been nice to see footnotes or endnotes. Diamond tends toward the didactic. Parts of the book are repetitious. However, far more important than those quibbles—and actually far more important than the author's erudition—is Diamond's intellectual honesty.
... an ambitious, highly important book ... Before analyzing the deeper (and ultimately accidental) causes behind European domination, Mr. Diamond cleverly finesses the biological determinists with another tale of annihilation of one society at the hands of another ... In similar fashion, Mr. Diamond peels away the causes beneath the causes of other European cultural advantages, as if the humanized world were a gigantic onion and recorded history only its blighted surface. His multilayered analysis, however, should be consumed with a grain or two of salt. Its sheer depth compels him to wear the hats of anthropologist, archeologist, plant geneticist, epidemiologist and social, military and technological historian, as well as his own academic headgear. Mr. Diamond acknowledges that no single person can be an authority in all these fields, yet he mentions most of the other scholars who must have informed his ideas not in the text but only in an addendum. This makes for a smoother exposition, perhaps, but combined with the sometimes didactic style of the narrative, it imparts an unwarranted sense of objectivity, as if everything happened when, where and how in prehistory just as Jared Diamond says it did. Each of the disciplines into which he delves to further his argument is rife with uncertainties, differing interpretations and opposing viewpoints. A closer examination of them would have only strengthened an already formidable work.
Guns, Germs, and Steel is an artful, informative, and delightful book, full of surprises for a historian like myself who is unaccustomed to examining the human record from the vantage point of New Guinea and Australia, as Jared Diamond has set out to do ... there is nothing like a radically new angle of vision for bringing out unsuspected dimensions of a subject, and that is what Jared Diamond has done ... No one can doubt the general accuracy of Diamond’s account of the environmental differences that he makes so much of. Yet one can doubt whether there was not greater scope for what I would call 'cultural autonomy' than is allowed by Diamond’s effort to reduce (or raise?) history to the level of the biological sciences ... Diamond’s effort to make human history 'scientific' by emphasizing the tyranny of natural environments while neglecting the way diverse symbolic worlds shape and reshape human societies and their physical environments thus seems misguided ... I do not accept Diamond’s dismissive appraisal of 'cultural idiosyncrasies unrelated to environment.' A more persuasive view might be to suppose that in the early phases of our history, when technical skills and organizational coordination were still undeveloped, human societies were indeed closely constrained by the local availability of food, as Diamond convincingly argues ... Once again, much of what Diamond has to say in these chapters was entirely new to me.