What is History 9: Jared Diamond Guns, Germs & Steel Overview

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What is History 9: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond, 1997: Overview & Critique

1 Overview


I read Guns, Germs and Steel 1997 within a year of its publication and was strongly influenced. I had been looking for something about human history that was more scientific in its approach and that linked history to the evolution of human kind. It is now twenty years later.

I’ve mentioned before it is important that we start to look at history from a multidisciplinary view and certainly at least link it to our biological heritage. Jared Diamond says much the same thing in his introductory Prologue:

Those disciplines include, above all, genetics, molecular biology, and biogeography as applied to crops and their wild ancestors; the same disciplines plus behavioral ecology, as applied to domestic animals and their wild ancestors; molecular biology of human germs and related germs of animals; epidemiology of human diseases; human genetics; linguistics; archaeological studies on all continents and major islands; and studies of the histories of technology, writing, and political organization.

I would have added more categories at the time. In my 1995 Travel Journal in Pakistan inspired by the Taxila Museum, I wrote:

It is amazing how [our understanding of] history has improved in the past fifty years as the yoke of European ethno-centricity has been thrown off. Scholars knew some of these things before, but outside expert fields the knowledge was remote, and a belief in the superiority of Europeans masked enormous elements of human history. The contributions of science, anthropology, psychology and sociology have been enormous in the twentieth century…

Today I’d add economic history and ‘big data’ to the list.

Continue reading “What is History 9: Jared Diamond Guns, Germs & Steel Overview”


Kashgar Sunday Market

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Featured Image Cart Parking

Featured image: Cart Parking, Kashgar Sunday Market 1995

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Kashgar Sunday Market 1995


I’d always wanted to ascend the Karakorum Highway (KKH) to Hunza and to China ever since I’d first heard of the KKH from books, and in relation to the Great Game and Sir Francis Younghusband.

I’ve only touched on the Karakorum Highway briefly in my blog articles regarding Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden, but I’ll get to other things in Pakistan eventually. It was an amazing journey. I’ve been in contact with a couple of people who have been through the KKH and northern areas of Pakistan recently. One of whom is off to Pattale in Nepal on our recommendation.

Denise and I spent over two months going up and down the KKH. Most people take only a couple of weeks. It did affect us badly, healthwise.

Why should I write about Kashgar in 1995? I remember as a teenager being critically dismissive of friends of my parents talking about travel they did over twenty years ago.

Well, Kashgar has changed and it is useful to know how it used to be. The 1990s were also a transition in world travel from remote places being difficult to get to, to almost anywhere in the world being easily accessible.

I thought things changed quickly soon after we left Kashgar and they did, but not as quickly as they have more recently. There is also a humanitarian crisis brewing in the region.

An article and pictures in the New York Times in 2006, appears to show images of Kashgar not much changed from 1995. Although from 2009 the physical changes were drastic. Since 1995, awe inspiring changes have swept through Kashgar and other areas of Xinjiang, as they have across China. It is the greatest change in the shortest time the world has ever seen.

I cite two recent blogs by Josh Summers and Lesley Lababidi below to give detailed information about Kashgar today. Continue reading “Kashgar Sunday Market”

Pattale to Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest

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Dorje Points at Everest Feature

Featured image: Dorje Points to Everest near Teahouse above Pattale

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Pattale to Pikey Peak

Trek 2 Pattale to Pikey Peak, Junbessi, Taksinda La & Paphlu, November 2017


In the last article Pattale to Juke, I described a visit to the Pattale Health Centre, which we are supporting and a short trek from Pattale to Juke, There and Back, in March 2013.

In November 2017, we returned to Nepal to undertake another trek to Annapurna Base Camp. Then, we wanted to return to Pattale to see what had changed in the village and the clinic after five years. And, to undertake a new trek from Pattale via Pikey Peak in a large circuit, with almost constant views of the major peaks in the Himalayas. The trek was to end in Paphlu where we hoped to fly back to Kathmandu.


Denise, Lesley, Dot and I were to go up to Pattale ahead of the others so as to spend more time in the village. Denise in particular wanted to prepare a report on the health centre for the foundation. Dot who is involved in a charity in Kathmandu was curious to see another aid project.

We were up at 5.15 am. This time with eight of us we had a jeep or 4WD vehicle to ourselves. Despite the early start, with fiddling around, we didn’t get underway until 6.30 am and took an unusual back route to Bhaktapur to avoid traffic. Once we reached the main road the traffic was heavy up to Dhulikhel when we turned off the main road.

After a short piece of good road, the road deteriorated until we reached the Japanese Road along the Sunkoshi River. This was marvelous and quick. The bridges were all completed unlike five years ago. We stopped a couple of times at reasonable places and unfortunately ate all the cinnamon rolls we’d brought with us from Kathmandu. We crossed the Sunkoshi on a real bridge this time and headed into the hills before where we stopped for lunch at a spot where there is a large market nearby.

Despite a gorgeous looking teenage girl serving, one of two sisters, the place was indescribably filthy. We barely ate anything but I foolishly asked for a second cup of tea. It was only lukewarm, probably not properly boiled and was the cause of my troubles for the next three days.

Once we got into the hills proper the road became tar and the forests and the hills were lovely all the way to Okhaldhunga. From Okhaldhunga the road to Pattale was also tar, though rising rapidly up through many hair-pin bends. We arrived in Pattale in the late afternoon — a nine-hour jeep ride — but with enough time to be dropped off for a half hour walk into town, admiring the views and the scenery.

Continue reading “Pattale to Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest”

Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu, lower Everest

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Featured image: Everest and Spectacular Himalaya Range from Pattale

Entry to Pattale 2017

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Trek 1 Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu District, lower Everest region, Nepal
Pattale to Juke: There & Back, March 2013


The reason for this article is that Nepal is changing. The major treks are becoming crowded. Some tourists want to go to less visited places. We visited Pattale village in March 2013 and in late 2017. Much had changed in 5 years.

New roads are being pushed through into regions that were once isolated. One good example of this is Upper Mustang, which was once a long walk up the windy and gritty Kali Gandaki River to the former Tibetan Kingdom of Lo and its remote villages. Part of the construction of new roads is a subtle competition in influence between India and China. But other nations are also involved in providing aid, such as the Japanese, who are responsible for part of the excellent road along the Sunkoshi River, in the middle part of the journey to Okhaldhunga and Pattale in the Solukhumbu or lower Everest region.

Also the nature of the trekking fraternity is changing as well. Indians and Chinese are newer trekkers, and now middle class Nepalis have begun to be curious about their own country.

Continue reading “Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu, lower Everest”

Case Study of Q Research

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Case Study of Q Research, a Marketing Research Company

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Q Research: Portrait of a small Strategic Marketing Research Company


This is a portrait of a small business I started and ran for eight years from 1988 to 1995. It was a small strategic marketing research company that offered something quite different to clients; most of whom appreciated it and some didn’t.

It is perhaps a little self-indulgent publicising Q Research so many years after it closed, but there would have been sensitivities and confidentiality issues previously. Please skip this article, if the topic isn’t of interest.

The key elements described are small business, marketing research and what is involved. The theoretical framework for our approach was based on the work of Australia’s most recognised social scientist Frederick Edmund Emery, with whom I worked at ANU (the Australian National University), and in particular his Search Conference methodology, which I have mentioned several times previously (see The Art of Prophecy). Also relevant are sampling and survey research methodology, questionnaires, quantitative and qualitative approaches and analysis. Don’t switch off. I won’t be providing details.

Continue reading “Case Study of Q Research”

What is history 8: EH Carr History as Progress

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Feature Carr What Is History?

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What is History 8 by EH Carr: The next two Lectures or Chapters 5 and 6

History as Progress & The Widening Horizon


In What is History: Sleep Patterns we found that what we view as normal wasn’t necessarily the same in other periods. Sleep patterns were quite different before the coming of electric and gas lighting. Similarly the view of history has changed as well.

The two brilliant lectures in EH Carr’s What is History on the historian and his facts and causation were covered in the two previous articles: What is History 5: EH Carr Historians & their Facts and What is History 7: Causation in History covering EH Carr’s earlier lectures 1 to 4 in the book.

The current lecture 5 on History as Progress is perhaps Carr’s most brave and modern chapter in the book. While speculative, it raises issues that we still need to deal with, both in our understanding of history and our current understanding of what civilisation means. As such, the topic needs to be confronted and not marginalised.

The previous What is History? articles have been 1 Introduction, 2 Sleep Patterns 3, The Medieval Mind, 4 Love,  5  EH Carr Historians & their Facts, 6 Religion and 7: EH Carr Causation.

Progress in History

The changing view of History

The ancients were basically unhistorical in Asia, Greece and Rome, that is, basically uninterested in the future or the past. EH Carr says:

Poetic visions of a brighter future took the form of visions of a return to a golden age of the past — a cyclical view which assimilated the processes of history to the processes of nature. Continue reading “What is history 8: EH Carr History as Progress”

One Sentence

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Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina UK Film 2012
Featured Image: Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina, UK Film 2012

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One Sentence: a story about great sentences and great first sentences

This article on one sentence may veer in an entirely different direction, or not! I don’t always want to be predictable.

Journalists and newspapers often write articles on the first lines or one sentence of novels in holiday periods and the best of them are marvellous. Jane Austen and Tolstoy are always the first cabs off the rank.

Great opening sentences in fiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813

Comment: This one sentence isn’t a bad summary of the novel. Underlying it is an indictment of late 18th Century inheritance laws and the inability of women to make their own way in the world, of which Jane Austen was painfully aware. She covers this topic in all her books on 18th century county life and manners.

The Story: David Bader’s Haiku barely does a better job than Jane’s sentence.

Single white lass seeks,

landed gent for marriage, whist, 

No parsons, thank you.

Continue reading “One Sentence”