Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New Edition) / Edition 10


With a new chapter. The phenomenal bestseller—over 1.5 million copies sold—is now a major PBS special.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the peoples of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their peoples. This edition includes a new chapter on Japan and all-new illustrations drawn from the television series.

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Editorial Reviews

William H. McNeil - New York Review of Books
“Artful, informative, and delightful.... 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.”
James Shreeve - New York Times Book Review
“An ambitious, highly important book.”
Colin Renfrew - Nature
“A book of remarkable scope, a history of the world in less than 500 pages which succeeds admirably, where so many others have failed, in analyzing some of the basic workings of culture process.... One of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years.”
Paul R. Ehrlich
“This is a brilliantly written, passionate, whirlwind tour though 13,000 years of history on all the continents—a short history of everything about everybody.... By at last providing a convincing explanation for the differing developments of human societies on different occasions, the book demolishes the grounds for racist theories of history.... After reading the first two pages, you won't be able to put it down.”
Edward O. Wilson
“No scientist brings more experience from the laboratory and field, none thinks more deeply about social issues or addresses them with greater clarity, than Jared Diamond as illustrated by Guns, Germs, and Steel. In this remarkably readable book he shows how history and biology can enrich one another to produce a deeper understanding of the human condition.”
Martin Sieff - Washington Times
“Serious, groundbreaking biological studies of human history only seem to come along once every generation or so. . . . Now [Guns, Germs, and Steel] must be added to their select number. . . . Diamond meshes technological mastery with historical sweep, anecdotal delight with broad conceptual vision, and command of sources with creative leaps. No finer work of its kind has been published this year, or for many past.”
The New Yorker
“The scope and the explanatory power of this book are astounding.”
Alfred W. Crosby - Los Angeles Times
“[Diamond] is broadly erudite, writes in a style that pleasantly expresses scientific concepts in vernacular American English, and deals almost exclusively in questions that should interest everyone concerned about how humanity has developed. . . . [He] has done us all a great favor by supplying a rock-solid alternative to the racist answer. . . . A wonderfully interesting book.”
David Brown - Washington Post Book World
“Fascinating and extremely important... [A] synopsis doesn't do credit to the immense subtlety of this book.”
Thomas M. Disch - The New Leader
“An epochal work. Diamond has written a summary of human history that can be accounted, for the time being, as Darwinian in its authority.”
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2580393061317
  • Manufacturer: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/11/2005
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.55 (d)
  • These items ship to U.S. address only. No APO/FPO.

Meet the Author

Jared Diamond is professor of geography at UCLA and author of the best-selling Collapse and The Third Chimpanzee. He is a MacArthur Fellow and was awarded the National Medal of Science.

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Table of Contents

Prologue : Yali's question 13
Pt. 1 From Eden to Cajamarca 33
Ch. 1 Up to the starting line 35
Ch. 2 A natural experiment of history 53
Ch. 3 Collision at Cajamarca 67
Pt. 2 The rise and spread of food production 83
Ch. 4 Farmer power 85
Ch. 5 History's haves and have-nots 93
Ch. 6 To farm or not to farm 104
Ch. 7 How to make an almond 114
Ch. 8 Apples or Indians 131
Ch. 9 Zebras, unhappy marriages, and the Anna Karenina principle 157
Ch. 10 Spacious skies and tilted axes 176
Pt. 3 From food to guns, germs, and steel 193
Ch. 11 Lethal gift of livestock 195
Ch. 12 Blueprints and borrowed letters 215
Ch. 13 Necessity's mother 239
Ch. 14 From egalitarianism to kleptocracy 265
Pt. 4 Around the world in five chapters 293
Ch. 15 Yali's people 295
Ch. 16 How China became Chinese 322
Ch. 17 Speedboat to Polynesia 334
Ch. 18 Hemispheres colliding 354
Ch. 19 How Africa became black 376
Epilogue : the future of human history as a science 403
Who are the Japanese? 426
2003 afterword : guns, germs, and steel today 450
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 394 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 396 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    A reviewer

    I found it refreshing to read something which genuinely attempted to grasp the big picture of history. Ably dismissing the conceited and partisan theories of earlier generations (and of most people living today), Diamond proposes sensible scientific alternatives which carry the ring of truth, and apparently so self-evident that it seems amazing no one thought of them before. He isn't too concerned with the individuals and events which are the backbone of traditional histories. He won't explain why one or other political power in Europe gained the advantage in some situation. These are the fine details of the broader picture - and in a very real sense they don't affect the outcome of history. What Diamond wants to know is, for instance, why a steadfastly stone-age Europe was not colonised by gun-toting Native Americans. His ideas give a kind of tragic certainty to the history that we all know and I suspect that many will try to dismiss them as 'cultural determinism', as they have with other authors in this vein. If I have any criticism at all it is that Diamond rather labours the point, but this is not necessarily a bad thing with new and interesting ideas. This is an approach to history of which I would like to see a lot more - I could not put this book down. I have read most of the science books shortlisted for the 1998 Rhone-Poulenc prize and am very glad that this one won.

    30 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A fascinating account of early history

    This is a remarkable and thought-provoking book, full of insights into our past.

    At the end of the last ice age, in 11,000 BC, all peoples on all the continents were hunter-gatherers. Why the great subsequent differences? Biology? Different genetic endowments? No, it is not a matter of racial differences - there is only one human race, as Diamond shows.

    Why did bronze tools appear early in parts of Eurasia, but late and only locally in the New World, and never in aboriginal Australia? Diamond answers that environmental geography lays down the conditions of economic and social development.

    Eurasia is the world's largest and most diverse landmass. Diamond shows how its larger stock of domestic plants and animals gave it the lead, starting in southwest Asia's Fertile Crescent. Big-seeded annual cereals, like wheats (emmer and einkorn) and barley, were easy to domesticate, and Eurasia's wheats have a higher protein content than East Asia's rice or the New World's corn.

    Eurasia also had the largest number of wild mammalian species, 72 candidates for domestication. There were 14 ancient species of big herbivorous domestic animals: 13 were confined to Eurasia, one to South America. There were none in North America, Australia or sub-Saharan Africa. Eurasia had the unique combination of domesticable animals - sheep, goats, cows, pigs and dogs. Also, Eurasia's east-west axis enabled a swifter spread of crops and livestock across its 10,000-mile band of temperate latitudes.

    The ultimate cause of progress - food production - led to the proximate causes - germs, literacy, technology and centralised government. Guns, germs and steel are power factors.

    But Diamond underestimates how empires seized their given advantages to attack, conquer and exploit other less fortunate peoples. And he tends to justify the current inequitable world order, as when he writes of, "revolts . promising less oppression . all the misery still being caused by such struggles in the modern world."

    13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2007

    Book with an agenda/ bias...

    In reading this book it is obvious that it was written with a bias towards indigenous peoples ( especially those of New Guinea ). A seeming white European apologist view of history and an attempt to justify his claim that said people are more intelligent than the Europeans who came and in some areas subjegated and slaughtered them. The logic in this regard is quite flawed ( take his example of stating that europeans are better with technology then native people from new guinea because they were raised with such.., while people of new guinea are better in nature and the forests/ deserts then europeans because they grew up in this enviroment.., so, the people of new guinea are more intelligent.. ( huh?? ) ) I would say that any intelligent person knows that no one race or ethnicity of people is any more or less intelligent than any other. While I did find some interest in regards to the rise of agricultre and how/ why some crops were chosen over others.., the book truly should have been edited and made into a book about the history and peoples of New Guinea and the surrounding areas. Overall a book with an agenda and a bias which comes through quite clearly.

    10 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2010

    AP World History Review: Very Enlightening Book - Highly Recommended

    "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" is a very good book. The author's overall purpose of this book is to show how the tendencies of humans and the environmental influences on differing societies can be used to paint a general picture of the overall pattern of human development over time. He does this by providing countless examples of agricultural development, animal domestication, technological innovation, and the developments of societal structure on all 5 major continents: Africa, North America, South America, Eurasia (Europe and Asia), and Australia. Overall, Jack Diamond does a very good job in conveying and proving his intended message to the reader. He has an obviously profound understanding of human tendencies specifically all over the world. As a learning experience, I would recommend this book to someone who is wondering why human history has played out the way it has. It is very informational. A very good read.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2007

    Interesting but flawed

    Jared Diamond¿s Guns, Germs, and Steel examines the reasons for the success of Eurasia and the failure of the Americas, Africa, and Australia over the course of civilization. The support of his thesis includes topics such as systems of agriculture, animal domestication, environmental boundaries, and the spread of disease. It is excellent for one wanting to better comprehend the in connectivity 'and isolation' of certain regions, and examining interaction trends. Diamond¿s ideas about environmental boundaries 'or lack thereof'and how they prevent and allow interaction are especially enlightening, as are his notions about the domestication of animals and why Eurasia got the better end of the deal when it came to domestication. My complaints about this book are its overly scientific approach and its limited use of cultural topics. Human civilization is often looked at in a scientific approach using approximate data and analyzing of trends. One must remember that history is not all cause-and-effect and a trend line, which brings me to my other critique of Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is the absence of acknowledgement of cultural topics. Diamond seems to be coming from a discredited school of thought called Environmental Determinism, which asserts that physical environment, rater than social traditions, determine culture. This book is for someone looking for an analysis of geographical, agricultural, and biological reasons for triumph and failure in civilization.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2002


    Once again, a liberal who instead of actually applying logic but instead subsituting it with a whimsical fascade of bunk is able to garner fame. Pathetic. I hope people can still think for themselves, instead of reading good feeling books such as Howard Zinn's anti-European tome's, which wish to destroy any sense of pride in one's racial past. How come now-a-day's, with the proliferation of knowlegde, other culture's can't create new inventions with which to further civilization, but instead rely on Western inovations to keep them alive? Kipling, you were right, oh you were right. But with so few of us left and with our population dwindling worldwide, we shall see if Diamond was correct.

    6 out of 55 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Review on Gun's Germ's and Steel

    Guns, Germs, and Steel, illustrates why and how the world became to be the world we know today. I chose to read this book because a family member had recommended it to me. For anyone who enjoys history or anthropology this book is truly fascinating. Jared Diamond pragmatically takes the reader on a voyage from the time of the cavemen to modern times. He answers many of the underlying questions that people ask when they study history. These questions include why Europeans came to North America and why North American Indians did not come to Europe, why some empires grew more technologically advanced than others, and why cultures are so different. His arguments are well qualified throughout the entire book. Diamond always makes a point of delving into each subject to the best of his ability. The premise of Diamond¿s theories lie in how a cultures location and crops inevitably forced them onto a track they could not escape. Although at times the ideas are scientific and confusing Diamond is always capable of making them make sense to the reader. Another quality of Diamonds that cannot go unnoticed is his ability to use microcosms as an example for a bigger picture. For example, he uses two tribes in New Guinea as an example of how two cultures can grow to be vastly different. With this example Diamond demonstrates how cultures that had to hunt big game were more likely to develop technology than cultures who were hunting smaller animals. The bigger the animal the more technologically advanced the weapons needed to hunt the animal. This is just one of the ideas presented in this microcosm used throughout the book. Diamond continually stresses the point that no culture or peoples is more intelligent than another, and this point is accurately proven throughout the book. After reading this work the basis for all racist theories is disproved. It becomes clear that some cultures were merely lucky enough to begin in a better location than others. These are the cultures that were near rivers, had better crops, less disease, and had an abundance of animals fit for domestication. After reading this book ones understanding of the effects of disease on all societies and it¿s effects in the realm of war is redefined. One learns that entire war¿s were one not because of superior military technology or larger armies but simply because one culture was able to make the other culture sick first. This concept is revealed in several parts of the book but is especially stressed in explaining how Europeans won many of there wars against non-European nations. One learns that in some instances eighty soldiers were able to kill thousands partly because the disease would become rampant in the other cultures cities. Gun, Germs, and Steal is an excellent and logical read. It should be required reading in all world history classes and one could go even farther to say in all colleges. In such a globalized world the information of this work becomes a necessity in understanding the modern structure of the globe.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003


    I really didn't enjoy this book I don't even know why it won an award. This book is excessively long and under detailed it's a bunch of lies. I dont' reccomend it at all unless you need some tips on how to fall asleep if so grab this book and begin to read on page you will fall asleep guarenteed.

    4 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    Intellectual Delight

    Jared Diamond offers a concise, thought-provoking, and well researched multi-discipline approach, to how geography, guns, germs and steel have shaped world history and current inequalities around the world. This book is especially helpful to any future or current college student as an excellent example of the importance of bringing all academic disciplines together in order to solve historic and current world problems.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2002


    Some people just need to summarize. Guns, Germs, and Steel... was a waste of money. Don't buy it, or even say it's name aloud. Really.

    3 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Love this book!

    I was required to read this book for my geopolitics class in college. The task seemded daunting at first but when I actually started reading it I must say that I enjoyed every minute of the read. It was so interesting, it is a book that I believe everyone should read at some point. It does take you through the history of man's development. The theories and facts that are stated in this book draw you in. It's not your run of the mill historical book. This book kickstarted my addiction to historical nonfiction. I've gone on to read his other works, I love them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2010

    Diamond destroys deliberately, racist theories of evolution.

    I found this book to be an interesting in depth look at the prime factors that caused the patterns of social evolution in history. The research and scientific studies that he references are very compelling evidence for his conclusions about history. The book allows you to draw your own conclusions from the evidence and make an informed decision. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys studies about cultural and social evolution through the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    Fantastic understanding of human societies

    Jared Diamond is a terrific writer and thinker. His simple analysis makes looking at the evolution of human societies easy to understand and incredibly compelling. This is a fantastic book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2009

    Guns, Germs, and Steel Review

    I read this book for my AP World History book report, so, needless to say, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. This is due to the fact that I needed to read it in a much faster fashion than I liked. So, pressed for time, I did not enjoy this hardly at all. However, as terrible as it was for me to read, it did offer some enlightening facts and opinions into the formation of our human society. Jared Diamond does a fantastic job of giving relative and interesting information about his topic "The Fates of Human Societies." I think that his writing style is extremely easy to read in a way that mixes a kind of storytelling with actual facts and accounts along with his own opinions and experiences.
    Although, this book was very informative and interesting. I think that the beginning was very difficult to get through because Diamond gives us about a chapter's-worth of background before diving into his arguement fully. I also think that this book is much too long and at some points I felt it difficult to press on with reading, now for the most part it was easy to read and absorb, but there were times that it was not. If I had been able to take my own time to read this book then I think I would have liked it much more.
    I conclude with this statement; if you enjoy world history and are interested in how societies developed differantly across the planet, this book is definantly for you. However, if you dont enjoy lengthy lessons in history, this book is not at all for you. Try a shorter book. :)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009


    I really enjoyed Jared Diamond presentation of his theory on why different classes exist. The book is very organized and one can see where he is going with every example he provides to prove his theory. At times the books seems repetitive but that only adds to his strengthening of his ideas.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good account of human origins and history

    Jared Diamond does a good job of digging deep into why the spread of civilizations happened as it did. His approach uses archaelogical evidence as well as his background as a UCLA geographer to explain events. Well written, a little redundant at the end, but it's enjoyable and informative.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Read the book!

    I purchased the book-on-CD and found the information compelling, however the narrator was a bit...monotonous. There were several times that I had to go back after falling asleep while listening to this on a flight.

    That being said, the information is fascinating, and Jared Diamond has lived the life of 100 people already. I don't know where he finds the time!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Required reading

    With artistic ease Mr. Diamond grabbed the complexes of human development treating chance, luck and mystery as dust to be clapped off our hands before leading us cleanly to today good job, smooth read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2008

    Great look in to history

    This is a great book, it has given me a great insight into what it has taken for us as humans and a civilization to reach the point we are at now. The research that the author Jared Diamond put in to this book was extraordinary it allows you to look at something that most people don't take into account.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is an amazing book, and a lifetime of research and thinking by Mr. Diamond must have gone into creating it. Even though it is almost 500 pages in length, it concisely covers the basics of much of human history and civilization. Thankfully, Mr. Diamond puts forth the opposite of a racist interpretation of human history. It is very much taboo to suggest that genetic differences between different races resulted in one group of people conquering or dominating another, but it turns out that there are genetic differences in the brain between the populations of people in different countries of the world today. For example, different populations have differences in the composition of certain neurotransmitter receptors, that may influence such things as exploratory behavior (i.e., novelty seeking), and might something like that not influence global patterns of migration? Read C. Robert Cloninger's 'Feeling Good' for more information on dopamine receptors. Another point is that this book seems to have arrived at a time when people want to write and read 'histories of everything'. That type of book seems to be selling well right now. Overall, a very interesting and worthwhile read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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