(Read between 12/04/2016 – 11/05/2016)
I had previously attempted to read this book roughly 3 years ago whilst on holidays. I had gotten roughly half way through the book before leaving it in a taxi in the middle of Cambodia! So this year I finaly had the heart to buy it again and hold on to it long enough to finish it! And I am very glad I did.
The first thing that will strike any reader is the ambition that Jared Diamond shows in this book. He tries to answer the question of why some sets of people and communities throughout history have been more successful than others. He does this by examining almost 13,000 years of human existence! This incredible scope means that in 400 pages Diamond examines a huge length of time, in fact if you do the maths, it roughly equates to 325 years of human history per page!
One of the most important aspects of the novel is to dispell any notions of superiority some nations may feel over others in modern times. Instead of being genetically or naturally ‘superior’, Diamond emphasises the point that it was only because of factors outside many communities’ control that some became conquered or died out. For instance, one of the leading reasons for the success of some nations was the domestication of animals and the growth of crops, leading from the shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a food production one. Well in many societies, this was impossible because of the simple fact that no animals were suitable for domestication or that they lived in areas where the tilt of the axis menat that crops weren’t possible to grow all year round. This meant that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was the only viable option for many communities. The reader is constantly reminded that the fact that some nations and countries find themselves in a more successful position than others, was largely down to the luck of the draw and factors that were largely out of their control in their long histories.
One of the main attractions of the book is how well written it is and how knowledgable Jared Diamond appears. In certain sections he makes assumptions of what may have happened (as he is discussing scenarios that could have played out with no records available) and they make sense to the reader. As well as this he often uses historical examples of what happened in other places and communities to back up these assumptions. The reader gets the sense that Diamond is not only extremely educated on the topic, but he also greatly cares about it. Diamond has spent lots of time living with some of the few remaining tribes around the world and he seems to really be interested in their history and way of life, and this constantly shows throughout the book.
I will however warn the reader that the book can be tough going in parts. The first half is extermely gripping and hard to put down, however the latter parts of the book can get difficult in some sections and sometimes quite repetitive. This is all understandable given the wide scope of the book, and what Diamond is trying to achieve.
Overall I would strongly recommend this book to everyone. It gives people a wider view of why some nations and continents today find themselves in a superior position to others. Historically people have narrowed the lens, resulting in racial and divine superiority complexes, whereas what Diamond does is widen the lens and see how a lot of these advantages are as a result of mostly geographical factors which were uncontrolable. Although it may be difficult in parts, if you stick by it you really learn a lot about human history in the process