Quynh Khanh Le Tran
Instructor: Hosuk Lee
Introduction to Human Geography 1101
21 May 2018
Guns, Germs and Steel
In the film Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond, an evolutionary biologist and biologist, has made much of the evidence of geographic factors for society. Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles. Although he holds a Ph.D. in physiology, his knowledge covers virtually every discipline, from architecture, language, archeology, to zoology and medicine. In this document film, Diamond has somehow explained the role of geography and the relations between geography and history.
Jared Diamond has set himself the task of explaining the course of human history on all continents over the past 13,000 years. To find the answer, he applied research results from various disciplines: biology, geography, archeology, linguistics…In the period of enlargement and European colonization beginning in AD 1500, many conquered Europe enjoyed enormous technological advantages over indigenous peoples. These advantages range from stronger weapons, more delicate and war machines, to writing languages, to an emerging trading class. As opposed to civilizations in South Africa and the Americas, the difference in social progress held by Europeans seems to be enormous. But these advantages are due to some innate ability of Europeans? Or do they arise from other factors? Why are European societies so rich compared to most other societies and could dominate many worlds in the 17th century?
The colony of South and Central America by the Spaniards is a wonderful example of the many advantages held by Europeans. When the Spanish explorers came to the mainland, they had steel weapons, war horses, and all kinds of goods in exchange for gold. They also had a more developed approach to combat, as opposed to indigenous people, who had no idea how to defend against cavalry mounts. In a short span of time, the Spaniards were able to surpass the population and began to create a resource-mining society, with which they held the majority of power and influence. We have seen that geography plays a significant role in society for the development of agriculture and the complex social structure. Beside success, many failures can also be attributed to geography. In the second episode of Guns, Germs and Steel, the author has shown that the range of diseases brought by the Spaniards from Europe also diminishes the local population. The smallpox virus is the most notorious disease at that time. Geographic barriers to social development such as resource shortages or unfavorable climates. Diamond has spent years trying to understand what factors contributed to the great difference in the early growth of societies. He suggests that differences in progress may be due to differences in the environment, not to any innate differences in the individual. In the film Gun, Germs and Steel and the book of the same name, Diamond claims that geography plays a huge role in shaping the results of early civilizations. More specifically, Diamond argues that geography contributes to climate, animal and plant diversity, migration and diffuse patterns and population size to the point that it can be considered as the determining factor. Main of the speed of progress of a certain person. Europeans have the advantage of living in an East-West continent, allowing them to intersperse with people from North Africa, the Middle East and parts of China. In addition to allowing the interaction of many different tribes, the east-west direction of the continent has allowed the evolution of many different plants and animals. According to Williams, geography plays an important role in climate, resources and market access (2).
Why are not Native American, African and Australian indigenous people who go to slaughter, conquest or destroy the Europeans and Asians rather than vice versa? That’s one of the topics that Guns, Germs and Steel are aiming for. The film is an explanation for the question: “Why have complex human societies emerged on every continent in different ways over the last 13,000 years?” Diamond boldly denied “racial” theories, claiming that these natives were more intelligent and talented than others who had previously been invoked to account for ethnic inequality people and the relations between geography and history.
In his book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” Jared Diamond cites environmental and structural factors that explain why Western countries dominate the world (1). His goal, Diamond said at the outset, was to eradicate the notion that race, culture and tradition have a decisive influence on the technological differences of different societies, different continents, throughout history. He argues that the history of diverse groups differs not because of the biological differences among the ethnic groups, but because of the differences in the environment from the beginning. In other words, the underlying rationale for inequality in the world today is so far from the past. More bluntly: Jared Diamond totally reject the theory of “race”, claiming that they were “more intelligent” or “more talent” than others.
Jared Diamond give the case about European colonization of the New World. Obviously, it was because the Europeans had ships, political organizations, guns, steel swords, horses, and the opportunity to carry disease germs that killed the Native Americans right before the people stands up (hence the name “Guns, Germs, and Steel”). Song Diamond did not stop there, he added: Why do the European peoples have such advantages that the American people do not have (in particular, why European germs are toxic to Native Americans, instead of the opposite?). The more backward to the past, the more Diamond sees the environmental factors are important. Diamond specifically has four different geographical environments. The first difference between the mainland is about the herbs and wildlife that humans can cultivate. He argued that the ability to cultivate is to determine the viability of the surplus food, and only if the food is surplus, does the new society “raise” a “specialist” to help society develop the field like technology, culture, … It is these developments that will make society relate political and military superiority to its neighbors. The second difference is about the factors that affect the shift (both humans and animals) in the same continent. These transitions are easiest in the Eurasian continent, because the main direction of the continent is east-west, with little environmental or geographical constraints. The third difference is about the factors that affect the shift between continents. Because of geographic barriers, many continents do not receive technology or animals, plants from other continents. The final difference is about population and land area. The larger the field, the more people, the more inventors. Moreover, in such a continent there will be more competing societies, and the competition between these close societies will put pressure on innovation and reform, because the countries that “fall post” will be dominated by other nations, even destroyed. Geographic and environmental factors are the main factors that Jared Diamond uses to explain the differences in parts of the world. There is no denying, however, that other variables contribute to the course of history: cultural identities in each place, and a more mysterious variable is the “individuals with unusual personality”.
Jared Diamond concludes that society has made many miserable decisions for a variety of reasons, but he also says that not all societies fail. Mankind nowadays has more advantages than in the past. One is that we have more information about the experience elsewhere, as well as in the past, that we can learn. Second, thanks to “globalization,” each country no longer depends on one country.
Although Jared Diamond has novel and enthusiastic interpretations of his historical interpretation, he also acknowledges that many other explanations may be more useful in certain circumstances as long as the explanation can describe the role of geography and the relations between geography and history.
Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton ;
Williams, Jeremy. “Geographical Factors That Affect Development.” Make Wealth History,
JEREMY WILLIAMS, 16 Oct. 2017, www.makewealthhistory.org/2007/07/01/geographical-factors-that-affect-development/