Author: Jared Diamond
Listening length: 16 hrs 20 minutes
You need to read the book with an open mind because it has a different take on history .Agriculture according to him was the deciding factor with farmer power and had it not been so then Africa with its diverse population head start by their early civilization would have dominated the world but on the other hand it did not give them any edge over European colonization while Africans were still hunters and gatherers they were controlled by these giants with the help of modern discoveries and lifestyle. He uses the same logic to prove his point on what happened with the native Indian being overthrown by the immigrant Americans such similar comparisons are drawn across the globe from Eurasia to Australia then back to Indonesia ..
Describing all these he draw parallel with his own childhood working in a farm for an elderly man at Montana who had inhabited the land of native Americans land.the authors acquaintance with Levie a native American who otherwise sober and well mannered on an unfortunate moment cursed him to go back to his white land on the ship he came .This incident gave him a different perspective on the native Americans according to whom the white farmers had robbed them from their own land making them an outsider in their own place, while his school history taught him about the heroic wars his ancestors waged upon the land to make it their home while all of this on the other hand took away their heritage, warriors and a beautiful life.
The evolution of human from being hunters and gatherers to produce their own food and managing their own life stock., Authors emphasis that its foundation of moderns days guns germs and steel didn't depend on the geographical variation in food production but that in turn gave few population an advantage over other.In other words availability of more consumable calories at their disposal meant that they could feed more number of people by going one step further by finding out the limited number of vegetation and learning to grow their cattle that could be consumed. learning to cultivate his land man first found a way to get his needed energy at his arms length , was another big step towards Organising military coup which in turn gave them an upper hand over the tribe of hunters and gatherers that were always in a smaller number.All this domestication of animals and vegetation Prmoted denser population Which led in the invention of more sophisticated instruments to get on with their farming harnessing their animal force with instruments such as plough letting them live even on the uphills away from the riverside..This also gave away to smaller birth intervals in the settled population multiplying their number very fast.They also learnt the art of storing surplus food slowly paving way to political societies in terms of chiefdom and kingdom while most of the energy of the hunters and gatherers was consumed for their search for food.. He also brings out the direct and indirect results agriculture brought about in the society in building various classes in the form of priests, artists which laid the building blocks for the military conquests with horse and big mammals being used for transport.
Then he moves on to the importance of germs that according to him came from animals that after mutation and evolution became infectious diseases like smallpox , measles and flu to the human being resulting in epidemic killing many. Germs thus acquired from the animals evolved to cause severe damage to humans became an indispensable part in the civilization for the later years to come.following food surplus and energy in these denser area also gave these kingdoms to widen their horizon and paved way for further technological innovations..
Food production didn't kick start in the major ecologically fertile land such as the pacific area of the united states at the beginning while it was on the seemingly sparsely fertile lands of Iran, China , Mexico things began hence author gives another point that the modern civilization didn't really start off as per the geographically superior land.He further asks questions on how independently certain places food production started while certain areas needed assistance from the outside world. Those answers might never be clear to us as the history is about the people who won and not by the ones who lose.
Author follows the slow evolution about the food production from the olden days to the production of nuts and cereals making up for a balanced diet that we now follow. Being a person with life science background I developed a even more liking to the whole facts on why only certain crops were domesticated that too in certain areas while some were not. he analysis the fertile crescent for their ability to cultivate certain crops over other..
He also emphasis the importance of open mind for adoption of innovation played an important role for the ultimate success of certain societies over others which he links to their earlier ability to domesticate certain wild vegetation to add on to their necessary energy.
Animals that could be domesticated according to author are all similar quoting Tolstoys principle about marriage that is for a successful domestication which were few Eurasian terrestrial small animals those animals have to domesticable. He refuses to acknowledge elephants to be a part of this group as according to him they are just tamed and not domesticated yet. Though humans might have tried many species they could only domesticate few as only they had certain qualities for being domesticated. Even though certain Indian prince had a stable of 1000 of cheetah it was just not possible to domesticate as later biologists found that cheetah do not mate in cage nor female ovulate under watchful eyes.So is the case of African wild buffaloes and Rhinoceros that's too wild and large to control.So are Zebras that go wild when they go old and do not give up their grip on bite hence making then unsuitable for domesticating.
He compares how animals live just as humans living in herd with their own hierarchy to submission to each other forming a leader and their own ranks in the herd. Social animals that can be put together imprints on humans and making it easy for them to be domesticated.Some animals like dogs are instinctively submissive while cats are not.
Ecologically suitable for food production The book takes an interesting take on how agriculture shaped the world that we see now.The book is thought provoking in terms of geography, flora fauna and the successive life that molded the course of mankind. The book is for anyone who love to know about the human history beyond just war and king.