Guns, Germs, and Steel
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Top Customer Reviews
Diamond's thesis in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is that geography, which governs climate which, in turn, governs indigenous species, is the reason for the unequal distribution of wealth in the world today. In short, Diamond is focused on why the Europeans conquered so much of the world.
There are 3 one-hour episodes in this series. The first is concerned with why agriculture took hold in parts of the world and hints at the benefits it bestowed in developing large, complex societies. The second episode is concerned with how these large complex (European) societies were able to develop weapons (guns and steel) to conquer much of the rest of the world. Germs were an unintended weapon against indigenous people that may have been the most beneficial. The last installment is concerned with another way to test the "guns, germs, and steel" hypothesis using the European march into Africa as test material. Here, climate (created by geography) creates indigenous germs that the Europeans can't handle. Nevertheless, guns and steel (apparently) still win the day.
This documentary is a reasonable, though somewhat superficial, overview of Diamond's thesis. The problem is, however, that it is somewhat glib and fails to get to the "Ken Burns" gold standard. There is much repetition of the "guns, germs, and steel" theme from episode to episode so that, even within the 3 hours, there should have been room to hint at some speculation on simple questions that the thesis itself invites. For example, there is essentially no mention of China (except the standard reference to gunpowder being developed there).Read more ›
Originally published back in 1997, "Guns, Germs and Steel" posed the interesting hypothesis that Western civilization's preeminence is due to mere happenstance, simply because its ancestral Fertile Crescent civilizations were lucky to have the richest abundance of potentially domesticated grains and animals. The eventual triumph of Western civilization is due to its successful colonization of the temperate regions of the globe, via its rich abundance in domesticated grains and animals, advanced weaponry and technology, and the accidental spread of virulent, often deadly, diseases associated with domesticated animals such as pigs and sheep.
This National Georgraphic miniseries is a somewhat successful exploration of Jared Diamond's work and the ideas described in "Guns, Germs and Steel". The first hour-long episode, devoted to domestication of grains and animals, is the most successful of the three.Read more ›
Suffice it to say here, the first episode is the best, and by far the most botanical, dealing with Diamond's controversial ideas on the origins of agriculture and domesticated plants and animals in the Near East and their global latitudinal (rather than longitudinal) spread. Episode 2 is a tad overkill, focusing almost entirely on that fateful November-1532 day when 168 Spaniards killed some 7000 unarmed Incas; smallpox was the cour de grâce for countless Incan survivors of the massacre, who lacked the resistance to the disease many Europeans had. Episode 3 deals with the European and Boer colonization of Africa and ends in hopeful platitudes but regretfully offers no solutions for the continent's troubles. [Because the first episode deals much with grains, and because guns and germs do not enter until the second episode, I suggest a better title for the book would have been Grains, Guns, Germs, and Steel.] Despite the obvious padding and repetition characteristic of video endeavors of this sort, the program is definitely worth watching for its historical and biological insights.
I would like to recommend another book, along the same lines: Conquests and Cultures, by Thomas Sowell. I'd love to see that one as a documentary.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An essential watch for anyone who is interested in human evolution or geography.Published 26 days ago by R. Derek Pattison
Explains a lot. Doesn't end the sadness, though, for what we have done to native peoples.Published 5 months ago by Denese S. Wong
I loved the book, I bought the movie so it would be more accessible to my history students. I was not disappointed.Published 7 months ago by Dan Powers
Excelents books. Everyone should read them. Written in non bias manner.Published 12 months ago by isaac j. crumbly