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Reddit mentions of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Sentiment score: 27
Reddit mentions: 57

We found 57 Reddit mentions of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Here are the top ones.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
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Found 57 comments on Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies:

u/lensera · 173 pointsr/books

I've recently read Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse by Jared Diamond and found them to be quite intriguing.



u/bananabee · 145 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

For one thing, it's cold enough in East Asia and Europe (note they're at similar latitudes) for germs to die every winter, so people live longer and technology can advance accordingly. In the case of Australia, humans inhabited the continent and killed off all the big game before they domesticated anything, so they didn't have the advantage of cows and horses. In Africa, in order to avoid diseases carried by mosquitoes, people traditionally lived in small communities far from water sources, meaning they have to put in a lot of effort to carting water. This means that they lacked the benefits of a city like job specializations, etc.

"Guns, Germs and Steel" is a really interesting read to answer this question more fully.

There was a Cracked article that made me think we don't get the whole story about Native Americans. Supposedly they were very advanced, but a plague wiped them out and allowed Europeans to conquer them.

u/PlusDistance · 71 pointsr/askscience


OP, if you're interested in these kinds of questions, you should read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. The book looks a bit intimidating, but it's really easy to read and he goes right to the root of the inequalities in wealth, technological development, social organization, etc. between the old and new worlds. (Spoiler Alert: It ain't about genetic superiority.)

u/jamiemccarthy · 28 pointsr/AskReddit

If this question interests you, you will very much enjoy Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel. His thesis is that the potential for cultural advancement is in many cases restricted by geography and climate.

For example, he looks at the habitat range of various domesticable animals, noting that Europe's horse helped the continent's cultures make huge advancements in civilization, while South America's (IIRC) llama, suitable for different uses, didn't offer the same opportunities in agriculture, transport, and warfare.

Pangaea would surely have mountain ranges and deserts, but on the timeframe we're talking about (tens of My) I don't think those limit the spread of land animals the way that oceans do. If domesticable land animals could spread everywhere, human culture likely would too. At the very least, what we call the colonialism of the last millennium would have played out very differently!

u/Montuckian · 26 pointsr/askscience

They didn't have chickens either, as those evolved from red junglefowl found in Asia. I'm also unaware of there being any large scale domestication of the alpaca and their range is centered in Northern Peru and doesn't extend beyond that. Llamas are bound by the same circumstances, although I believe they had a larger historical range than alpacas. Incas also had access to the guinea pig.

In reality, the only domesticated animals available to central Americans would have been turkeys, which were domesticated roughly 2000 years ago. Dogs were likely kept as a starvation food, and were probably 'unintentionally' domesticated. It's arguable that because of the likelihood that there was a low density of domestic turkey populations, there was a low amount of contact between humans and their domesticated fowl (given that they weren't used for egg production), and that they were domesticated relatively recently, that any diseases carried by turkeys didn't have time or opportunity to find a foothold in New World Human populations.

It should also be noted that the orientation of the New World continents is not beneficial for the transmission of diseases. You must traverse through a variety of different biomes, and thus different species, if you traverse the continents of North and South American from tip to tip. On the other hand, Asia, Europe and the Middle East are oriented in the opposite direction, which causes lateral planes of similar climates (e.g. the climate of France is roughly similar to the Ukraine, which is similar to Kazakhstan). Because of that, similar species can exist along a long lateral corridor and pass diseases between neighboring populations. This effect becomes more pronounced as people use similar domesticated stock in a more widespread fashion.

Most of this can be found in Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel in addition to a primer on other reasons why Europeans (and other historical populations) were able to colonize far off places without being fought back into the sea.

If you're interested in a complete list of domesticated animals worldwide, check here.


Edits: Details. Forgot about the tasty, tasty guinea pig.

u/soapdealer · 15 pointsr/AskHistorians

Some very inaccessible landmarks were first discovered by airplane. The world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls was first described to the world after being spotted by aviator Jimmie Angel (though it was probably discovered by earlier Europeans explorers and certainly was well known by indigenous inhabitants of the region).

Aerial exploration was extremely important in charting and exploring the Arctic and Antarctic regions as well. The flights of Richard Byrd and others were very important in charting and describing much of Antarctica. A very large section of the continent is today named after Richard Byrd's wife Marie.

Much of the interior of New Guinea was considered to be essentially uninhabited until the first aerial surveys revealed it to be densely populated by indigenous inhabitants. (I believe this was discussed in Guns, Germs and Steel but I can't find my copy of it right now, so I'm more than willing to be corrected on this one).

More recently, satellite images have been used to discover new achaeological sites in the Saudi desert and in Italy.

And I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but scientists first discovered that grazing cows use the earth's magnetic field to orient themselves using Google Earth satellite images.

EDIT: see my comment in reply to asdjk48 below for a more detailed citation of the New Guinea thing.

u/cudo · 11 pointsr/worldnews

According to some, it's about Guns, Germs and Steel.

u/DoYouWantAnts · 11 pointsr/AskReddit

Check out Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

u/[deleted] · 10 pointsr/books

Guns, Germs and Steel gives an almost biological view of conquest and innovation, and Collapse by Jared Diamond gives the cultural view.

u/markth_wi · 10 pointsr/booksuggestions

I can think of a few

u/realdev · 10 pointsr/atheism

Religion is basically a virus, like Smallpox. Europe has had much more time to develop an immunity to it. Thousands upon thousands of years. The US is the New World, this is still practically our first exposure to it.

To read more on this perspective, check out "Guns Germs and Steel" which talks a lot about how viral immunity came about in Europe, as well as "The Selfish Gene" by Dawkins.

u/Groumph09 · 8 pointsr/books

You might get "more" by starting to look at more specialized books. Biographies and non-fiction.

u/GerbilPants · 7 pointsr/AskReddit

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

I'll throw this in here as well because I see it in just about every thread similar to this. Jared Diamond basically tries to explain why some civilizations on our planet have advanced beyond others by leaps and bounds. So if you're looking for a good overview of the past 15,000ish years that attempts to explain how civilizations advance, this is definitely a good one.

u/IntangiblePanda · 6 pointsr/AskReddit

Guns, Germs, and Steel is spectacular.

u/lil_britches · 4 pointsr/books

Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It explains why there has been such disparity in income and technology between Eurasia and the rest of the world. It touches on most of the topics you said you'd like to learn about.

u/Halo6819 · 4 pointsr/Fantasy_Bookclub

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond: An amazing look at how civilization was formed

On Killing by Dave Grossman: If your characters kill anyone, know what it will do to them

*edit: Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell: You think Eragon is a rip off of Star Wars, or that Star Wars is a rip off of Jesus, or that Jesus is a rip off of some obscure norwegan god, find out the true origins of just about everything you have ever read and find out why Harry Potter had to die and had to come back from the dead!

u/phandy · 3 pointsr/WTF

Jared Diamond wrote a book on this topic: Guns Germs and Steel

He argues that culture and civilization is determined by geography, not genetics.

u/oh_no_its_shawn · 3 pointsr/AskReddit

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societes

An amazing read if you like anthropology/geography. It very briefly recaps the history of human civilizations from evolutionary migratory patterns to civil conquests for land and so forth. The emphasis is on how western civilization achieved it's global dominance today. I would recommend this to everyone.

u/samurai77 · 3 pointsr/AskReddit

Jared Diamond has an interesting take on that very subject. read or watch Guns, Germs and Steel. Link

u/el-comandante · 2 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

If you're interested in questions like this, you should really take a look at Guns, Germs, and Steel, the good old classic by Jared Diamond. I love it because it confronts questions about human history from a very academic perspective.

u/sylvan · 2 pointsr/canada


Europeans didn't come to dominate the globe because of any inherent superiority.

We lucked out when it came to access to domesticable crops and animals, on which to build a thriving technological society.

Our Enlightenment era values, philosophical and legal heritage, and technological prowess are good things, with which we can help the world. Our history of colonialism, the theft of land and culture from the natives, and legacy of self-interested exploitation of vulnerable peoples around the world are not.

Marsden is simply a racist who doesn't see the value in trying to build a world in which everyone can benefit equally.

u/jillredhand · 2 pointsr/AskReddit

You're doing this wrong. If you approach books as a task for self-edification that you view as a duty, you're going to hate it. Read whatever you want, for entertainment. Read funnystuff. Read thrillers. Read fantasy. Read weird science fiction. Heck, read history, economics, and science.

TL;DR: Read whatever the hell you feel like, and I guarantee you you will feel better about yourself than you would have by forcing yourself through Ulysses or War and Peace.

u/aletoledo · 2 pointsr/Anarcho_Capitalism

I've read a lot on the subject of food, so these two recommendation go beyond winning some debate points on reddit.

Real food

guns, germs and steel

u/Fuzzy_Thoughts · 2 pointsr/mormon

The book list just keeps growing in so many different directions that it's hard to identify which I want to tackle next (I also have a tendency to take meticulous notes while I read and that slows the process down even further!). Some of the topics I intend to read about once I'm done with the books mentioned:

u/brokenearth02 · 2 pointsr/WTF

If you like those books, also try [Guns, Germs, and Steel](http://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-Societies/dp/0393061310/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229375628&sr=8-1 "basically a short history of humanity") by Jared Diamond.

u/Ryguythescienceguy · 2 pointsr/AskReddit

Sorry this is a big post, but you've asked a big question

If you want a full and complete (but lengthy) answer, you need to read Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

I'll sum up some of his main points to give you an answer here. It all began with food production. There are many different parts of the world that independently "invented" the farming of many different local crops, but it was mainly the Fertile Crescent area that really began having agriculture on a large enough scale to support enough people in a small enough area to form cities. Why? Well, long story short, they had the right types of indigenous plants for farming. The same goes with the domestication of animals. There are many types of wild cattle, horses, and sheep in the middle east/fertile crescent region. What did north/south america have? They did domesticate animals, but mainly dogs, chicken-like birds, and alpacas. They had no large animals to break the land and increase the productivity/acre. All of this began in the fertile crescent and eventually was imported into Europe.

Another obvious advantage Europeans had was resource allocation. Iron and copper (along with other elements) were readily available throughout Europe, and other less obvious but equally vital resources such as rivers and wild animals were easier to navigate/hunt. The geography of Europe is also such that it isn't too difficult building roads that can carry goods quickly and efficiently from point A to B. Trying building/maintaining a road in the Amazon.

Next germs. As I'm sure you were taught in history class, Europeans wiped out most native americans in North and South America with several diseases, mainly smallpox but also the flu, malaria and others. What you probably weren't taught was just how massive this die off was. Tens of millions of native North/South Americans were killed off decades before whites even made it to most areas. The devastation that smallpox wreaked on these native populations was massive, swift, and in some cases, total. Whole societies were wiped off the map in a matter of months, so invading whites didn't really have to complete (ie go to war) with millions of natives. So why was it Europeans giving diseases and not the other way around? Once again he answer lies with livestock. Many of these diseases were a result of either humans living in very close contact and constantly spreading them around (the flu), or they were diseases in livestock that "jumped" to humans, like the cowpox virus. After thousands of generations of battling these diseases, Europeans became (comparatively) immune but Native Americans were left with no defense. This doesn't really answer why Europe was "ahead" of the Americas, but it certainly is telling when it comes to wondering why it was seemingly so easy to colonize the New World and subjugate the natives.

Another huge reason (perhaps the largest one you could actually point to) was that Europe became organized socially much sooner than anyplace else in the world. I mean this in terms of religion, class, and especially government. All other places in the world had these ideas at some level or another, but it seems that in Europe it reached a sort of critical mass where all of these institutions fed one another to form a stratified and organized culture. Once you have specific classes of people that are either on top or the bottom, the "ruling class" and run the land, making laws and a government that funds things like infrastructure and trips around the world looking for gold to steal.

Finally a more minor point, but one that I found most interesting. Look at a world map. All the continents except Eurasia are "tall" and not "long". In theory, being "long" is much much better for the transmission of crops and livestock because when you move longitudinally the climate changes rapidly, but when you move along a latitude line the climate doesn't change nearly as much. All livestock, and especially crops are very sensitive to the climate they live in. If it's too cold or too hot or too wet or the season isn't the right length, your crops won't grow well. Therefore it's much easier to spread agriculture and crops east west instead of north south.

u/SerratusAnterior · 2 pointsr/TrueReddit

There are lot of popular books that venture into these type of topics. I recommend The 10,000 Year Explosion, which is about how civilization and agriculture shaped recent human evolution. It's very interesting, though at the same time it sometimes creeps me out thinking to much about human biology in this way. I might add that they have a chapter on human intelligence which is controversial because of the nature of the topic. Anyway it's a good read, just don't turn into an eugenicist. ;)

I also the often recommended Guns, Germs and Steel on my reading list, which looks on how biology and illness shaped human civilizations.

u/Hostilian · 2 pointsr/atheism

Old dead classical dudes are always good. I ransack Epicurus and Marcus Aurelius for good ideas and advice fairly regularly. There are some excellent secular philosophers and thinkers out there. I enjoy Sam Harris' work the most. One of my favorite reference books is The Portable Atheist, which is a collection of secular philosophers, edited by Hitchens.

To get a sense of your place in the universe, try to find an old full-color hardback copy of Cosmos.^1 For your place in the Human story, Guns, Germs, and Steel, and your place in the American story with A People's History.

[1] As a minor biographical note, I credit this version of Cosmos for getting me through horrible angsty teenager time.

Edit: Also, good question.

u/undercurrents · 2 pointsr/AskReddit

Any book by Mary Roach- her books are hilarious, random, and informative. I like Jon Krakauer's, Sarah Vowell's, and Bill Bryson's books as well.

Some of my favorites that I can think of offhand (as another poster mentioned, I loved Devil in the White City)

No Picnic on Mount Kenya

Guns, Germs, and Steel


The Closing of the Western Mind

What is the What

A Long Way Gone

Alliance of Enemies

The Lucifer Effect

The World Without Us

What the Dog Saw

The God Delusion (you'd probably enjoy Richard Dawkins' other books as well if you like science)

One Down, One Dead

Lust for Life

Lost in Shangri-La


True Story

Havana Nocturne

u/ponanza · 2 pointsr/geography

At lot of people mentioned some pretty cool map books already, but these are two geography-related books I'm getting for Christmas: How the States Got Their Shapes (probably better if she's American) and Guns, Germs, and Steel. The latter is less to do with maps and more to do with how geography influences civilizations. Hope that helps!

u/DieRunning · 1 pointr/Random_Acts_Of_Amazon

As a History major, I can't help but suggest Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

u/turtlehead_pokingout · 1 pointr/books

Based on those interests, he might like 1491 or maybe Guns, Germs and Steel, I mean, not to be quick to judge, but my stereotypical image of someone that likes gardening and southern shit would probably be turned off by YA fantasy/action fare and would probably be willing to tackle a harder book that is more close to his interests. AskHistorians has a monster book list but I'm not really familiar with which of those listed are accessible.

u/fromclouds · 1 pointr/AskReddit

Hmm..., I've read the interview and something about it rubs me the wrong way. I find it unlikely, even in primitive times, that love was as free or casual as the author suggests. I'm not an expert, but don't humans have high maternal mortality rates that would discourage such behavior among women? That's not to say that I believe monogamy is necessarily the default position for humans, but I have trouble with several things the author purports. (The first link you posted, for example, claims that foraging tribes don't suffer from internal parasites, which I find to be highly unlikely). I am probably just going to have to break down and read this thing >.>

Since you seem to be interesting in this sort of thing, may I recommend:

Yale's open course on global population growth, which starts off with a good discussion of our evolutionary heritage.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, which I believe provides evidence for why the humans of today little resemble the primitive tribes of yore, and:
The Red Queen, which directly addresses this topic from the standpoint of evolutionary biology.

Don't feel obliged, though! ;-)

u/Phe · 1 pointr/books

There are some really good suggestions here, but a couple of books that were good entry points for me haven't been mentioned yet:

Sync by Steven Strogatz.

How The Universe Got Its Spots by Janna Levin.

Both of these books are rather specific interest type books, but they're both written so well that they are easy entry points into more reading later.

Edit: Ooh ooh I forgot about Plagues and Peoples. A great read that really makes you rethink global history, along the lines of (and drastically predating) another great book about cultural history Guns, Germs and Steel. Both of these books are kind of a mix of history, sociology and science, so it might not be what you're looking for though.

u/darien_gap · 1 pointr/Futurology

No, it's actually correct. For an in-depth explanation, see Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, chapter 13, "Necessity's Mother: The Evolution of Technology." The short version is that things don't get invented until their enablers exist, and once those enablers exist, the floodgates open and we find uses for things, solutions to problems we hadn't previously realized were even problems.

u/whyamisosoftinthemid · 1 pointr/InsightfulQuestions

If you'd like a richer understanding of the many factors tied into such a question, try reading Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.

u/Gargilius · 1 pointr/politics

> read Guns, Germs, and Steel, check it out.

...and try to get the British edition, not the US one (the cover picture is far more interesting)

EDIT: actually, the notable difference is between the non English language version and the English language version.

u/Sellivs · 1 pointr/todayilearned

I highly recommend Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" if you are interested in this topic. Definitely one of my favorite books.


u/timredditwis · 1 pointr/answers

If you're interested in this topic, you should check out Guns, Germs, and Steel, an anthropology book that's basically about why Europe conquered the 'rest of the world' and not the other way around.

u/TheBB · 1 pointr/AskReddit
u/crazindndude · 1 pointr/explainlikeimfive


Must-read for topics like the one you are describing. There is a strong belief that Europe had the right blend of raw resources, timely technological discovery, and immunities to otherwise lethal pathogens. Meaning that if we were to turn back the clock and let everything play out again, Europe would likely be a colonial power just as it was in our history.

u/Terrified_Cheese · 1 pointr/Random_Acts_Of_Amazon

the book it seeks to explain why certain civilizations rose above others due to environmental differences as oppose to certain races/peoples just being superior.

u/cynicalabode · 1 pointr/AskReddit
u/RecklessSerenade · 0 pointsr/AskReddit

You might enjoy reading Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. He discusses among other things the evolution of languages and dialects and how they spread, specifically in Africa. The book tries to explain the reason certain people's from certain continents prevailed over others. It's pretty awesome read if you're into that sort of thing.


Or if you feel like paying


u/alllie · 0 pointsr/politics

Gun, Germs and Steel. That is what Jared Diamond says, that is why they won.

But then there is also the James Webb thesis: Born Fighting. While Webb is writing about the Scots-Irish in America I think some of his conclusions can be extended to all of Europe. North Europe held one of the last people to have a warrior culture, one of the last places to be civilized. Perhaps they (and we) carry the seeds of that in their genes, making them more willing to fight than most other cultures that have a longer history of civilization.

u/MiniCooperUSB · 0 pointsr/offmychest

OP, read this book. It does a good job of explaining why Europeans and East Asians have dominated the rest of the world. Really good read, and it will explain in an relatively unbiased way why a lot of the unequal shit in the world is the way it is.

Also, it is my humble opinion that black people are the funniest race. So, there will always be that, despite the small minority of screw ups that can give a whole race a bad name.

u/origin415 · -1 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

Someone wrote an entire book on this: http://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-Societies/dp/0393061310/

tl;dr: Europe was much better suited for farming and such so society there could develop faster. You should probably just read it though. There was also a series of documentaries you could watch.

u/ShakaUVM · -1 pointsr/AskHistorians

Guns Germs and Steel is a book you might want to read. It talks about this exact subject.

u/luckytobehere · -1 pointsr/WTF

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

This book gives good insight to why certain societies developed at different rates. The short answer is geography - this is the most basic necessity for humans to move from hunter gatherers to more developed societies is the presence of very specific, interdependent circumstances based on geography.