Guns Germs And Steel

by Jared Diamond

Tries to understand why Western Civilization became so much more successful than the rest of the world.

Review : Underlying these immediate causes, however, is what Diamond sees as the central key to understanding human history - food production, or the domestication of plants and animals. In an excellent summary - probably the best popular account I have seen - Diamond chronicles the origins of Agriculture. He describes where and when food production originated, how it spread with demographic expansion and by emulation, and why it never took off in some regions. He also touches on the largely unconscious coevolutionary (Co-Evolve) processes underlying domestication, the origins of specific crops, and the characteristics that made some plants more suitable than others for domestication.

Cosma Shalizi: The only genuinely scientific approach to history I've ever seen. Brilliant and utterly convincing. The big picture of all human societies over the last 13,000 years or so.

Review : The book is even more persuasive on the systematic edge that food-producers (Agriculture), wherever they are found, enjoyed (and enjoy) over food-collectors.

Jul'2005 review of PBS mini-series.

Niall Ferguson has a different explanation. 1. Competition: a DeCentralization of political and economic life, which created the launch pad for both nation states and capitalism. 2. Science (Scientific Method): a way of understanding and ultimately changing the natural world, which gave the West (among other things) a major military advantage over the Rest. 3. Property Rights: the rule of law as a means of protecting private owners and peacefully resolving disputes between them, which formed the basis for the most stable form of representative government. 4. Medicine (HealthCare): a branch of science that allowed a major improvement in health and life expectancy, beginning in Western societies, but also in their colonies. 5. The Consumer society: a mode of material living in which the production and purchase of clothing and other consumer goods play a central economic role, and without which the Industrial Revolution would have been UnSustainable. 6. The Work Ethic: a moral framework and mode of activity derivable from (among other sources) Protestant Christianity, which provides the glue for the dynamic and potentially unstable society created by apps 1 to 5.

Aug'2011 Quora thread specific to US-vs-rest. Interesting discussion around Venkatesh Rao's answer.

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