November 06, 1999
Review of Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel

Why did Europeans conquer Peru, Mexico, Ghana, and Australia? Why didn't Incas, Aztecs, Ashanti, or Australians conquer Eurasians. That is the question that Jared Diamond answers--largely successfully--in this book. And his answer can be summed up in one phrase: "seeds, germs, size, and guns." (Note that the answer is not "guns, germs, and steel"--a phrase that is more euphonious but less meaningful.) Eurasian societies acquired a key advantage relative to other societies because of big seeds. Eurasian societies acquired a key advantage (relative to other societies) in their resistance to germs. The relatively advantageous biological endowment of Eurasian societies was then reinforced because of the size of Eurasia. And the relative edge possessed by European societies was then amplified to overwhelming proportions by guns....

Posted by DeLong at 04:17 PM