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Critical Reflection on Jared M. Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Book Analysis
  3. References:


Jared Diamond’s Gun, Germs and Steel won the Pulitzer Prize and the British Popular Science Book Award in 1998. This book points out that the environment has a great influence on human history and negates the theory of human determinism. Starting with the capture of the unfortunate Atawalpa (the bare-shouldered man wearing only a bath towel on the cover), the book elaborates on this contact between American and European civilizations and explores what has caused such a huge gap between America and Europe for tens of thousands of years.

Book Analysis

Jared Diamond is the professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. He is also a historian, and author who is best known for its book Guns, Germs, and Steel. I’ve heard about this book for a long time and I finally finished reading it. This book took me to another perspective, looking at the development of human beings for tens of thousands of years with the eyes of God. The author wrote this book only because one of his good African friends asked why most money and resources in the world were earned and gained by white people. Instead of giving an answer, Diamond was confused about the question. Thus, the book was born.

In this book, the author uses the question of one of his African friends as an introduction: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo … but we black people had little cargo of our own?.” We’ve heard so much about this kind of question, but it’s not put forward in a very ‘earthy’ way through academic packaging, and Jared begins his quest for answers. Let me try to give a brief overview of the human experience in Jared’s eyes. Some people were born in environments with potential development at that time, such as the ‘crescent fertile land’ in the book. There are enough large mammals but are easy to tame, and plants that are easy to be selectively improved. As a result, agriculture has developed on a large scale, and the population has increased. Because of the possibility of the emergence of outstanding people in a fixed probability, new technologies and civilizations were created.

The transverse expansion of Eurasian geography makes the dissemination of civilization relatively convenient. After all, the same animals and plants are more suitable for survival at the same latitude. In this process, Africa and the America unfortunately expand longitudinally, which not only causes the difficulty of the dissemination of civilization due to the different latitudes, but also makes the natural barriers such as Sahara Africa appear on those continents.

The emergence of advanced technology can only be slowly expanded. Then, there is the accumulation of conquering factors in Eurasia relative to other continents. Due to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, the increase of contact between human and livestock has led to the production of highly lethal pathogens. In one plague, the immunity of the old continental people has been continuously improved, and the lethality of pathogens has been continuously enhanced. At present, the development of agriculture in the new continents is slow, and there aren’t many lethal pathogens where people’s immunity is naturally low.

Finally, the Old World was ready, and with their destructive guns, the dead germs began to conquer the New World. The following scenes are all too familiar to us. Europeans brutally massacre the indigenous peoples of Africa, America and Oceania, while more indigenous people die of dead pathogens that frighten them. Finally, the old continent firmly occupies the new continent, and a solemn history of conquest ends.

“Thus, invention is often the mother of necessity, rather than vice versa.” Guns and steel represent technology, and the author believes that the development of European technology benefits from their region, Eurasia. It has to be said that Eurasia is a paradise relative to other continents. The reason for this is that the Eurasian continent has a relatively good longitude span compared with other continents, and the terrain is not too complex as that of Africa and America so that the transportation within the Eurasian continent is relatively developed.

Therefore, the exchange of civilizations is easier than that in other regions. “Thus, an observer transported back in time to 11,000 B.C. could not have predicted on which continent human societies would develop most quickly but could have made a strong case for any of the continents.” Therefore, the technology of wheels, words, iron smelting and gunpowder has been produced and disseminated in Eurasia. Moreover, there are many small countries in Europe. From time to time, there are wars between them.

As a result, small countries in Europe value technology very much. Dur to Europe’s technology is far superior to that of the Americas, the author put forward two ways of disseminating new technology, which made me shudder. The first is that only technology is disseminated, that is, new technology comes to the local area and is accepted or used by the local people. The second is the spread of the population, which is the people who master the new technology use the new technology to eliminate and occupy the local population. This will bring new technologies to the local market.

Ninety percent of Americans died of diseases brought by Europeans during the invasion of Europe, feeling that America was hell on earth at that time. Why do Europeans bring germs to wipe out Americans in large quantities? Firstly, the author confirms that most of the pathogens of human infectious diseases originate from livestock. And Americans have almost no livestock. Why? Because human beings have developed in Eurasia and Africa for millions of years, and in these years, human beings have gradually developed hunting techniques and strategies, and animals in Eurasia and Africa have gradually adapted and learned to deal with human beings. Therefore, the animals in Eurasia and Africa can reproduce to the ability of human beings to domesticate animals and become human livestock.

America was only migrated by humans 120,000 years ago, so people with high technology developed over millions of years came to the pure and foolish American animals who had never seen anyone before, and the consequences were conceivable. Large numbers of species are extinct. As a result, Americans lost livestock and the chance to get sick, and most of them had no resistance to infectious diseases. On the other hand, Eurasia has relatively developed transportation and a relatively large population, so infectious diseases can continue to multiply in Eurasia, tormenting Europe, tormenting Asia and tormenting Europe. This is why people in Eurasia have been experiencing the test of infectious diseases and have been screening out people who are resistant to infectious diseases. So, when contacted in Europe and the United States, Americans died of infectious diseases brought about by Europeans in large numbers.

The difference of development between people does not lie in the physiological difference, but in the environment in which they grow up. Past history tells us a concise truth: those who have material and technological advantages always expand at the expense of others until the latter cannot be exploited or people begin to share the cake and means of production created by these societies. Each person’s natural processes of differential survival and reproductive status make this choice, which constitutes people now and in the future.

If people’s living conditions as an individual have changed, then you’re likely to survive or reproduce better and be ‘naturally selected’ again. Your final result is that as an individual, you’ve evolved through life as compared to your previous results. And if a group or race has undergone this evolution, they have indeed been re-selected. Therefore, this group of people will expand according to the truth above. In this way, we can eliminate others, or we can survive on top of them.

Does this cruel and realistic tone mean that it is fine not to pursue these things without a person’s material base and the means of production to create wealth? No, as a life in the course of human evolution, it is an inevitable choice for human, which means we have to contribute our time and energy for these things, for the wheel of social progress. Different people have different willingness, whether passive or active, the destination is always similar. Therefore, after understanding all of these, what we need to do is to open our minds and strive to pursue these things.

Spiritual will eventually be transformed into material, material will accumulate more. To achieve the goal, we need to master as many skills as possible to maximize the limited time utility of individuals, which is to achieve the value of social requirements. However, the greatest success can only be achieved by a few people. The time difference for these people to succeed is also great, and the competition among the winners is still fierce. In the end, some people may have achieved success, but they have not made further progress and will inevitably be eliminated again. There are numerous cases in the political and business circles, which has become an unavoidable death for the vast majority of people in their lives.

“Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way.” People’s life is made up of countless variables. A hard life is only one of the variables. Nevertheless, I still advise everyone not to stop fighting. After all, there is only one kind of heroism in life, which is, after knowing the truth of life, we still love life. Only by striving hard and preparing well, we will not lose good luck and complete our individual life. This is what I learn and what I ‘d like to reveal.


  1. Diamond, J. (1999). Guns, Germs and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

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