Guns, Germs, and Steel

The Fates of Human Societies

Jared Diamond
Paperback edition 1999

Geographical and ecological advantages, not differences in people, gave Eurasians a head start on the rest of the world.

At the time of colonization, the Europeans had a food production system in place that produced enough surplus to allow large parts of their society to engage in other activities, including war. They had better technology such as steel weapons and horses, a writing system that allowed them to share knowledge across generations and finally, over time they had developed immunity to diseases such as smallpox that they took with them to the New World.

About the Book’s Author: Jared Diamond is a professor of physiology at UCLA School of Medicine. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and was awarded a 1999 National Medal of Science. He is also the author of The Third Chimpanzee and Collapse.

Aztec ruins

500 Years Later, Scientists Discover What Probably Killed the Aztecs

The Guardian

In 1545 disaster struck Mexico’s Aztec nation when people started coming down with high fevers, headaches and bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose. Death generally followed in three or four days. Within five years as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named “cocoliztli” meaning pestilence. It’s cause has been questioned for nearly 500 years.

book cover for Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels

Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels

Ian Morris

Human social development, says Morris, is constantly generated by environmental and social factors. The amount of energy that can be extracted from the environment through technology defines the social possibilities, and thus influences the attitudes and world view of each epoch.

Further Reading