What is History 10: Polynesia a Natural Experiment of History

Have a look at breadtagsagas.com! Same blog complete stories.

Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries  navigation

Jared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steel, 1997

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 23 January 2020

Articles in the What is History? series are 1 Introduction 2 Sleep Patterns, 3 The Medieval Mind, 4 Love,  5  EH Carr Historians & their facts, 6  Religion 7 EH Carr Causation in History, 8 EH Carr History as Progress and 9 Guns, Germs & Steel Overview.

I introduced Jared Diamond and Guns, Germs & Steel in my introductory article on What is History? and again in article 9 with an overview. Diamond is a biologist as I am by training. His foray into history is almost one of frustration. Because as a biologist he understands evolution and is interested how an intelligent naked ape might develop into what we recognise as a human being (Homo sapiens) and how humans might develop agriculture, settled towns, city states, political structures and civilisations.

Yuval Harari (a historian) in Sapiens is attempting something similar from a different perspective.

The development of human history is set in a background of geography, climate, the distribution of plants and animals and other external factors. These sorts of things are quite acceptable as the study of ecology with animals and plants, but suddenly become less acceptable when one deals with human beings and human history.

Diamond’s frustration with history was because mainstream history did not cover the issues of the biological origin of human beings, the development from a hunter gathering background and the influence of such things that can loosely be called environment on human history.

Diamond is frequently labelled as an environmental determinist and dismissed, but that is wilfully misunderstanding what he is trying to do. Part of this is simply an unwillingness to accept a different approach, but Diamond is also at fault for the quirky way he approached his topic.

In article 9, I felt the need to give an overview to the good, the bad and the controversial in Guns, Germs and Steel to get over these issues so that we could begin to look at some of the important findings contained in the book and their implications for human history.


A unique idea

Of a normal book, if I said that Diamond’s one original idea was… I would be readying myself to belittle the work.

However, we are talking about a generalist work in Guns, Germs and Steel whose aim is to examine the impact of external forces on human history. Generalist integrating works are moderately unusual because they require synthesis of a diverse array of disparate academic disciplines and they rarely contain new ideas other than the generalist overview itself.

In spite of this, there is one very original idea in Guns, Germs and Steel, that Diamond appears to have had, which he outlines in Chapter 2 A Natural Experiment of History.

It is Diamond’s apparently novel idea that is the basis for the remainder of this article.

Continue reading “What is History 10: Polynesia a Natural Experiment of History”

Advertisement

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

Have a look at breadtagsagas.com! Same blog more polished layout. Hey, if you put a like here. Why not go over to breadtagsagas.com and put a like there as well. The posts there feel a little lonely!

Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries   navigationJared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steel, 1997

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 2  December 2018

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


1 Overview

Preamble

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”

What is History 6: Religion

Have a look at breadtagsagas.com! Same blog more polished layout.

Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries   navigation

Featured Image Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  2 October 2017


What is History 6: The Development or Evolution of Religion

Preamble

Yuval Noah Harari Sapiens: A brief history of humankind Harper 2014 (first published in Hebrew in 2011).

I feel guilty delving into Harari before embarking on Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel 1997 a much more profound book and one I have spent an enormous amount of time with, by reading and delving into Diamond’s sources. Harari himself acknowledges Diamond. He says:

Special thanks to Jared Diamond, who taught me to see the big picture.

Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind is a brave and ambitious enterprise, but he doesn’t quite carry it off. In some ways, he reminds me of Marvin Harris a popularising anthropologist who wrote Cannibals and Kings in 1977, which I also like immensely. For all his faults, Harari takes us on a great journey.

Continue reading “What is History 6: Religion”

What is History 1: Introduction

Have a look at breadtagsagas.com! Same blog more polished layout.

Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries   navigation

Ishtar Gate Relief, Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Ishtar Gate Relief, Pergamon Museum, Berlin

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  8 December 2015


What is History? An Introduction

A confession

I am not a historian. I didn’t study it at school or university. But as with most things I am interested in history, particularly its process. I am also interested in the general rather than the specific. Continue reading “What is History 1: Introduction”