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Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond

Guns, germs and SteelThis is one of the most scientific and logical history books I’ve ever read. Jared Diamond states his problem – “Why did people on different continents develop differently?” The whole book is a structured and logical answer to this question. The course of history has been that people from Europe settled in large parts of the world outside the Eurasian continent, exterminating to a large extent their native people – for example, in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa and Australia.

The most direct reasons for European conquests to be successful were guns (advanced weaponry), germs (European diseases such as smallpox which started epidemics and killed off a huge number of people) and steel (advanced technology) but these are just what Diamond calls “proximate causes”. In the book, he goes on to explain why Europeans developed these advantages rather than the people of other continents. Contrary to popular belief and assumption, he proves that this had very little to do with the innate qualities of the people, but everything to do with the geographical and biological implications of the European continent. He traces the “broadest patterns of history” which created a favourable environment in Eurasia, which include things like the rise of agricultural food production, domestication of animals, spread and interchange of ideas, rise of complex socio-political entities and so on.

An extremely readable book, it doesn’t present dry facts but analyses how they affected the stated problem and the known outcome. The book is extremely well structured, not only in terms of chapter progression but writing within each chapter. Almost every chapter begins with a set of questions that motivate the analysis and then the analysis and answers to the questions are logically presented, followed by a summary and conclusion. To a debater’s eye, the structure literally jumps out and makes the whole thing a pleasure to read.