A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years

Just finished reading the Pulitzer prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and would have to give it a 5-star rating.

Diamond’s basic thesis is that some societies developed while others didn’t, not because of some inherent human quality that some races possess and others don’t, but because of the accident of their environmental/resource endowment. So, for example, intensive farming replaces hunter-gatherer societies where there is availability of domesticable mammals and edible grain crops, and in the case of some continents (e.g. the Americas and Australia) this wasn’t the case. Intensive food production means food surpluses which, in turn, permits larger settlements and the formation of armies and administrations. This facilitates conquest and colonisation, not just through the application of military force, but through the spread of disease (common to dense populations) on unsuspecting hunter-gatherer societies. There’s obviously a lot more to it than this, and it’s a fascinating read. If I have one minor criticism, it’s a bit repetitive at times, but even this is excusable. Given the complexity of the story (an explanation of the history of humankind!), Diamond obviously seeks to reiterate his central themes so the reader does not lose the plot.