Author Topic: Guns Germs and steel  (Read 1319 times)

Mad Dr Jeffe

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Guns Germs and steel
« on: September 24, 2003, 02:03:22 PM »
I didn't like this book as much as Kija. While I found myself agreeing with many of the books undelying principles in general I found myself unsatisfied with his examples.
For instance the conquest of the Inca by Pizarro would on the surface sound like a great triumph of steel weapons and armor against barbarians armed with weapons that could not harm the spanish but the examples of Magellen, Cortez and the Spanish failure in the spice islands of Malacca and the Amazon point to an altogether different conclusion.  Cortez and his men were killed just as easily by hte Aztecs as any man could be and they were supported by cannon and indian rebels. The example only works if you take spanish sources at their face value. 80,000 warriors against 160 spaniards not only doesnt sound right, it probably isn't right. What the author doesn't take into account is the need by Pizarro to exaggerate his accomplishment to the locals and for the benefit of the spanish court.

All in all I found this book promotes a racist Eurocentric veiw of the world that puts European cultures before Asian or Native American ones using psudoresearch and half truths.

but thats just me.
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Lieutenant Kije

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2003, 04:09:01 PM »
The Pizarro incident was one example to illustrate a principle.  I think Magellan, Malacca, etc. are the exceptions to the general rule.  As a whole the European colonization of Africa, the Americas, and Australia is overwhelming proof of that.  I'm not saying they were right to colonize as they did, but they were definitely able to.

And racist?  Diamond goes to great lengths to specifically refute the racist idea of history.  I quote, "the striking differences in the peoples of the different continents have been due not to innate differences in the peoples themselves but to differences in their environments.  I expect that if the populations of Aboriginal Australia and Eurasia could have been interchanged during the Late Pleistocene, the original Aboriginal Australians would now be the ones occupying most of the Americas and Australia, as well as Eurasia, while the original Aboriginal Eurasians would be the ones now reduced to downtrodden population fragments in Australia." (Guns, Germs, and Steel, p. 405 of the 1999 Norton printing.)

I'm not trying to get into an argument, but am curious as to what you consider pseudoresearch and half-truths.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2003, 04:12:23 PM by Lieutenant_Kije »

Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2003, 05:42:28 PM »
Granted it has been a while since I have read the book and I have loaned it to my inlaws I rmrmber being struck by the fact that the author mentioned the stigma of racism and then proceeded to explain why europeans were the best thing ince sliced bread.  

Dont get me wrong, but your isolated occurances of natives beating back colonists is much more widespead than you thought.  Wars between the Caliphs of Mayasia, Indonesia and the Phillipines and the Spanish, Portugese and Dutch raged for the better part of 3 centuries and are continuing today under the guise of terrorism.

In Africa as well a series of Wars between the colonizers and natives ended with the natives on the winning side or at least winning a signifigant number of battles.  I noticed that the author decided not to analyze the events in history that directly counteract his theory (Shaka Zulu, Afganistan, and even the mongol invasion of Europe (in which a number of lighly armed nomads were able to defeat an army of Teutonic knights).

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Fellfrosch

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2003, 07:43:24 PM »
Having read a significant portion of the book (I admit that I haven't finished it yet), I'm having a lot of trouble understanding where you're coming from, Jeffe. The current state of the world is pretty inarguable: imperial societies originating in western Eurasia have colonized the majority of the world. Scattered examples such as the Shaka Zulus and others do not change this--the groups you mention, despite some impressive victories, are nowhere near as prominent today as the Europeans.

While you can certainly find fault with some of Diamond's methods, racism is a pretty hard one to prove. Just because the western Eurasians were generally more successful conquerors than anybody else doesn't mean that Diamond is a racist for telling us about it. The fact that he specifically tries to counter the traditional racist explanation is a pretty big point in his favor, I think.
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Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2003, 08:37:48 PM »
Like I said right at the moment I dont have the book and I am at a loss for examples... I plan to re borrow it this weekend.

Unfortunately without that proof I can only say the racist thing is just how I felt about it when I read it.

It struck me as subtle because he could have just as easily done something on the Chinese invading Vietnam or Even Simone Bolivar throwing off the Spanish yoke.

Or even the Ottoman Turks Nearly Conquoring Vienna and taking all of Greece, Macedonia and the Balkens in the Process.
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Lieutenant Kije

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2003, 01:41:05 AM »
I think Diamond chose the examples he did because they were most representative of the whole.  Like it or no, Europe (and its derivatives) has been the power in the world for several centuries.  Sure, the Chjinese dominated much of Southeast Asia, the Turks much of Southwest Asia (and parts of Europe, for a time.)  (I think Diamond might put the Turks in with the Europeans in the term Eurasian that he uses more often than European, so that would makes the Turks' conquest of Europe Eurasian vs. Eurasian.)  But the biggest case of haves versus have-nots, to put it bluntly and very generally, has been Eurasians vs. the rest.  So his example used Eurasians (the Spaniards) vs. the rest (the Incans.)

By the time Bolivar comes along, Latin America is westernized enough that it's Eurasian vs. Eurasian there.

Lieutenant Kije

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Re: Guns Germs and steel
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2003, 08:34:32 PM »
The author (Jared Diamond) came to speak at BYU today and I attended.  Aside from summarizing his book, he mentioned ways in which it was being used other than he had imagined.  Apparently the business world is catching on to some of the ideas and adopting it to their circumstances.  Global economists are using it also.

I had mentioned in my review of the book that it was lacking a detailed discussion of India.  I was pleased with myself when he said that the greatest omissions in his book were detailed discriptions of Japan and India.   :)