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am 17. März 2017
Das Buch ansich hat sicher 5 Sterne verdient. Super interessant zu lesen und sehr gut geschrieben. Man sollte allerdings schon sehr gute Englischkenntnisse mitbringen um es zu lesen (immerhin weiß ich jetzt was Hirse auch Englisch heißt)
Warum dann nur 4 Sterne: Das ebook ist eine Katastophe! Die Tabellen sind teilweise nur schlecht lesbar, wenn sie zu breit sind. Man kann sie auch nicht drehen oder so. Die Abbildungen fehlen dafür ganz. Und das finde ich eine Frechheit bei einem solchen Buch, wo offentsichtlich viele Abbildungen drin sind, auf die auch wiederholt referenziert wird. Der Vorteil der ebook Ausgabe ist aber sicherlich das integrierte Wörterbuch (siehe Anmerkung oben) und das der Reader leichter ist als 450 Seiten Buch ;)
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am 14. April 2017
Ein tolles Buch, das unsere Vergangenheit und Herkunft in verständlicher und fundierter Weise erklärt. Dadurch kann man auch die Unterschiede in der heutigen Welt, zwischen den verschiedenen Ländern und Kontinenten besser verstehen. Ich kann es nur jedem empfehlen!
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am 25. Februar 2005
Jared Diamond is a thoroughgoing geographical determinist. His book highlights both the strengths and the weaknesses of this approach.

Diamond's major topic is the Neolithic Revolution. His intention is to demonstrate that environmental conditions were not equally suitable to the development of agriculture on different continents. Eurasia, he contends, was the most appropriate place. It had the largest number of domesticable plants and animals, an east-west axis favoring the diffusion of inventions, offered good possibilities for inter-continental communication, and was the largest and most populous continent. So the Eurasians were first in developing agriculture, gaining thus a headstart in history. Agriculture led to rising populations and created a dynamic that prompted the evolution of states, writing and a sophisticated technology (guns and steel). These social and technological advantages, plus immunity to the most dangerous infectious diseases (germs), allowed Eurasians to easily subdue the natives of the Americas, Australia and Southeast Asia.

On the whole this argument, which takes up the first 410 pages of the book, is convincing. Diamond is also right to insist on adopting a long time-frame. As early as 8000 years ago Eurasians had a substantial edge over their rivals on other continents, making it unlikely for those peoples and civilizations to catch up.

Had Diamond stopped writing at this point, he would have published a good work.

However, he was not content to treat only the Neolithic Revolution, but wanted to cover all major turns in world history. Hence the last 15 (!) pages of the book are devoted to a completely different subject. Having explained the rise of Eurasia, Diamond now wants to explain the rise of the West. Quickly the question becomes: Why Europe, not China? Borrowing an idea from Eric Jones ('The European Miracle'; but beware: Jones' approach is much more sophisticated than Diamond's, avoiding any kind of monocausal determinism) Diamond provides a simple answer: Europe was geographically more diverse than China. Therefore it did not become politically unified. Political fragmentation led to openness and openness to progress - ideas and inventions that were rejected at one place could succeed at another.

This speculation is not plausible at all.

First, there is no geographical NECESSITY for European fragmentation and Chinese unity. Europe has many features favoring political unity. Its long coastline and a great number of navigable rivers allow for easy transportation by water, offering an important asset to any would-be imperial power. The Romans took advantage of this to the utmost, and if they were able to conquer a great part of the continent, there can surely have been no compelling GEOGRAPHICAL reason for later powers to fail. Diamond himself seems to realize this when he admits that India had even more agricultural core areas than Europe. Yet India was ruled as a unified empire for most of its history.

Second, Diamond's explanation - even if assumed to be correct - accounts only for INNOVATION. It tells us why certain inventions made by Chinese craftsmen were not introduced into the production-process of China's economy. A more important question to ask would have been why many significant inventions were not made in China in the first place. A prime example coming to mind is modern natural science, which was never developed in the Middle Kingdom.

Third, it is easy to see that Diamond's argument is undermined by his own evidence. As he tells us, China was scientifically and technologically ahead of Europe (and the rest of the world) for more than 1000 years. If China could achieve this superiority despite its supposed geographical disadvantages, we cannot escape the conclusion that those disadvantages either did not exist or were of minor importance. Europe, on the other hand, remained a cultural backwater for most of its history despite its supposed geographical advantages. Again we cannot but conclude that these advantages either did not exist or were of minor importance.

Thus Diamond's environmentalism is completely refuted by Chinese and European history before 1500 a. d. Moreover, no other version of geographical determinism is likely to fare better. Since China's geography did not change within the last 2000 years, every purely geographical interpretation of its history must be wrong. It will either fail to account for the period of Chinese superiority or for the period of Chinese backwardness.

Diamond's errors are grounded in his method. Geographical determinism can explain the Neolithic Revolution, because this transformation was brought about by small bands of hunter-gatherers extremely dependent on their environment. Even so, Diamond needs FOUR causal factors to account for its different outcome on each continent (1. The wild plant and animal species available; 2. Orientation of the major continental axis; 3. Possibilities for inter-continental communication; 4. Size of area and population of a given continent). When we look at the great Eurasian civilizations, we have to deal with a type of society vastly more complex and far less dependent on its environment than are bands of hunter-gatherers. Yet Diamond wants to explain the history of these civilizations with reference to just ONE causal factor (the impact of geography on political unity). Instead of becoming more sophisticated in accordance with its subject, Diamond's approach turns brutally simplistic just as it is applied to the most difficult problem of world history.

It is unlikely that the rise of the West can ever be explained geographically. Any serious attempt to write global history for periods after the Neolithic Revolution will have to be sensitive to the complex interplay between geography, economy, technology, politics and culture that shapes the development of large societies. The work of Max Weber and Fernand Braudel provides good examples of the kind of scholarship needed for this task. Jared Diamond's book not only fails to rise up to this standard, but is crude, superficial and disappointing even from a geographical point of view.

Clearly Diamond did not know when to put his pen down. His book would have been better if he had refrained from addressing topics unsuited to his method.
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am 14. September 1999
Diamond takes on an extremely complicated topic that spans essentially all of human history and boils it down to some very basic premises. For example, he argues that Eurasia (i.e. Europe and Asia) enjoyed the advantage of the lion's share of the most desirable and domesticatable grains and large mammals. This advantage led to earlier agriculture, which led to denser populations, which led to more specialization, which led to better technology and organization, which led to societies better equipped to wage war and conquer their neighbors. Other reviewers, however, take Diamond to task. But is this premise really so darn controversial? The idea that the Fertile Crescent had a nice variety of native large-seeded, protein rich, perennial grains is not new. Heck, I learned as much in my History of Agriculture class as an undergrad (10 years ago). If you believe that Europe was somehow destined to rule the world because of some innate cultural and/or genetic superiority, this book is not for you. If you want wonderful insight into the biogeography of different regions of the earth, and how these differences contributed to differences in development, check out this book. I simply could not put it down.
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am 13. Februar 2000
Many years ago a New Guinea native asked Jared Diamond a simple question: "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" Only slightly rephrased, Diamond devotes this book to answering the question why, from the depths of the primeval forests of Africa, mankind emerged at different rates, some achieving the heights of civilization and technology while others remained virtually in the Stone Age? And why did people on some continental landmasses prosper while people on others lagged behind, especially because some locations, like the California Coast, are mild and desirable while others, like Northern Europe are harsh and forbidding?
Diamond's thesis is that some populations got a head start over others in the development of civilization. But the head start resulted from favorable geography and natural resources, not from any innate superiority. Given the same location and advantages, any group of people over time would have reached the same result. The first beneficiary of geography happened to be the Fertile Crescent. The "cradle of civilization" not only had all five major large mammals (sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and horses) available for domestication, but they also possessed the major wild seed groups that would become domesticated grain and cereals. Not all areas are so favorably endowed.
Once hunting and gathering gave way to food production, population density took hold, which in turn made possible civic development and technology. The head start then spread roughly along the same parallel east to Asia and west to Europe. Diamond contrasts Eurasia's wide girth and similar climates with America's and Africa's narrow waist and elongated longitude. Technology and culture can shuttle back and forth vast distances between east and west, but climatic zone differences as well as mountain ranges and deserts inhibit flows north and south.
I have two criticisms of the book. One, it has no footnotes so that one can source out the author's materials. For example, on page 108 Diamond asserts that early man, because of his ego, would rather hunt giraffes than gather nuts. Is that theory his, or someone else's? The very nature of a book such as "Guns, Germs, and Steel" requires that it pile theory upon theory to make a picture puzzle of a distant and hidden past. If key pieces don't fit, the picture may take a decidedly Cubist theme. A few footnotes would help the reader who wants to delve deeper into a topic.

The second criticism is the author's failure to address the role of human intelligence in the development of civilization. Considering the grief Charles Murray took into for writing "The Bell Curve," which held that certain populations have actually raised their intelligence level through centuries of using their brains to solve problems, one understands why Diamond steers clear of the topic - no academic can afford to be tinged with even a hint of racism or euro centrism. Plenty of professors on the leftist fringe stand ready to point the accusing finger any anybody who deviates from the acceptable norm. But surely scholars can deal with the role human intelligence in a non-racist way; after all, the physiology of the human brain is the same in all Homo sapiens. Diamond owes it to his readers to complete the mosaic he has created.
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am 21. Juni 2000
Reading Diamond is a bit like getting into an engrossing conversation while riding on a train. Suddenly, you realize that the train is at the final stop, while you were supposed to get off three stations back. Diamonds prose is so excellent, his arguments so compelling, his answers to questions that most of us had never thought to ask so persuasive that it is someting of a surprise to finish the book and realize that he has gone too far. Geography may be important, but surely it is not everything. If it were, why was Taiwan primitive while Japan was advanced and wealthy? Why was Holland the wealthiest province on the continent while Denmark was a nation of peasant farmers? Why did northern Italy lead the renaissance only to fall into backwardness, before resurging to become a powerhouse of twentieth century industry? Culture matters. Nevertheless, we are all in debt to Diamond. Rarely are such important ideas presented in such a well-written book. David Fisher's Albion's Seed comes to mind, and Diana Muir's recent Bullough's Pond, but it is rare to find someone who is both an original thinker and a good writer.
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am 22. März 2000
I concur with most of the favorable reviews. The subject and thesis are fascinating. The delivery is less than perfect. The fact that the thesis is also politically correct does not make it any less compelling. Addressing some of the unfavorable reviews below: Repetitive? Yes, but certain dynamics neccessarily repeat. Culture, Food production, language, writing and other technologies (and animal and plant species themselves) make their transfer from the peoples of one geographical location to those of another based on the same repeating factors: presence or absence of geographical and climatalogical barriers, density of population (i.e. "critical mass"), and finally whether the receiving culture is otherwise primed to receive. This point neccessarily has to be repeated throughout the book. Technology transfer across geographical boundries. The criticism here is that the author picks and chooses which technologies could have been expected to transfer. ("The easy ones transfer, the hard ones don't," implying that the Australians, for example were to stupid to make use of Indonesian tools, or the Sub-Saharan Africans to use writing.) I found no contradiction here. The individual nature of each advance in technology determines whether it will (a)likely transfer and (b)"stick" in a new location. The analysis is very neccessarily case by case, depending on need, availiblility of raw materials, climate, population density, and stage of prior cultural development. Can even the greatest salesman really sell refrigerators to Eskimos? -- or even to New Guineans, if they don't have electric plugs? The Mexican wheel. I too noted the contradiction here. The lack of a beast of burden does not render this technology any less valuable. Why didn't Aztec kids who played with toy wheels grow up to be Aztec adults who pushed wheelbarrows or pulled carts up ramps to build pyramids? Is it possible that Diamond has stretched too far in "discovering" an Aztec wheel in the pictures on Aztec pottery? I agree that the photos add nothing. Some intermediate junior editor pulled out his set of old National Geographics and threw in a few photos to make the book more salable.
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am 5. Juli 1999
The book takes the point of view that geography determines the success of societies and cultures for ALL time. It is a good read for those who like to know more about human history, especially the early part (before 500 BC). However, the book's basic premise, that culture is of little account, is hard for this reader to accept. Some of the explanations are essentially 'just so' stories. Also, others may not be able too, but I can ignore Diamond's occasional bow to political correctness (e.g. Columbus "discovered" America; many pages on the evil Spanish conquistadores) and use the text to learn about Polynesia, Africa, and the Americas. Certainly, in the early stages of human history, geography plays a big role. It also dictates where people will face too many difficulties (due to limited resources or extreme temperatures) such that they won't succeed. But his overall theme is hard to swallow as an understanding of how some groups succeed, while others don't. In fact, he contradicts himself several times. Native North Americans were dispersed, so they could not get together effectively. Yet China is viewed as one big lump, which leads to an overly strong central government that stifles development. Well, which is it? (Or must it be 'just right' -- shades of Toynbee's challenge&response.) The last chapter is absolutely the worst, because he is explaining differences between civilizations after (approx.) the year 1500. Yet by now everybody knows about guns and steel! His approach is to look at a map, and explain success or failure by whatever he happens to comes up with. Mountains that hinder travel? Or not enough to keep out the barbarian hordes? You get the idea.
Still... it has much material that will please anyone who likes to pick up an encylopedia and read about this or that place or time in human history. And it is always good to keep in mind that geography has some effect. But it's not quite as deterministic as Diamond would have you believe.
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am 21. April 2000
The author has an excellent theory about why world history took the course it did, with the western world taking control and then subjecting the rest of the world to its ways. It is well thought out and the documentation is excellent. The writing style makes it an easy book to read. The major problem I have with the book is it should have been half as long. Page after page is devoted to sideline discussions and irrelevent facts that are not important to the main theory being presented. I enjoyed the book but the thesis could have been explained and documented in less than 100 pages. Still, the thesis is sound and should have an important impact on historical analysis.
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am 10. Juni 2000
A dazzling display of erudition, insight and synthesis that seeks to explore the factors that have enabled some societies to be more successful than others. Many of the ideas in this book can be found elsewhere but I have not found any other single work that manages to combine history, biology, linguistics, geology, paleontology and anthropology into a unified argument that provides such a useful paradigm for studying the unequal outcomes of world history. Whatever your own beliefs and opinions and however much you might disagree with Diamond's particular arguments, you can't help but learn from this book (ever heard of glottochronology?). All in all, an impressive and thought-provoking work.
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