The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and geography. Why weren’t native Australians, Americans, or Africans the ones to colonize Europe?
Diamond dismantles pernicious racial theories tracing societal differences to biological differences.
Until around 11,000 BC, all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers.
Most of this work deals with non-Europeans, but Diamond’s thesis sheds light on why Western civilization became hegemonic: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” Those who domesticated plants and animals early got a head start on developing writing, government, technology, weapons of war, and immunity to deadly germs.
In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders.
As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.
Diamond attempts in this book to draw a correlation between the plants available to natural population of humans and the likelihood of that population developing an agricultural civilization. First, increasing numbers of people today are, quite under- standably, interested in other societies besides those of western Eurasia.
Observing the plant life either natively available to a region or available by east-west transfer (as those plants would be mostly likely to succeed in the transplanted area), Diamond assessed the energy profit in calories of farming those plants versus hunting and gathering and then tried to link that to which strategy succeeded in that area. Jared Diamond takes us on an exhilarating world tour of history that makes us rethink all our ideas about ourselves and other peoples and our places in the overall scheme of things." —Christopher Ehret, Professor of African History, UCLA "Jared Diamond masterfully draws together recent discoveries in fields of inquiry as diverse as archaeology and epidemiology, as he illuminates how and why the human societies of different continents followed widely divergent pathways of development over the past 13,000 years." —Bruce D. After all, those "other" societies encompass most of the world's popula- tion and the vast majority of the world's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic 1O • P R E F A C E groups.