Jared Diamond's 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning popular science book presents, in some circles, a controversial theme or even racist explanation for the differences in the development of societies over time. However, the author states early on "the modern world's inequalities: why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? Those disparate rates constitute history's broadest pattern and my books subject." In addition, to counter the racist's question he states "History follows different courses for different people because of differences in environments, not because of biological difference"
He proceeds in a well written logical progression to explain this thesis throughout the book starting with spread of humans around the world and the beginnings of civilization and the various rates at which they have developed. He proceeds to explain that there are four sets of factors which have caused the unequal speed and development of civilizations between the various continents. They are:
1. Differences in the wild plants and animal species available for domestication.
2. Factors affecting the rates of human diffusion and migration which differed greatly among continents.
3. Diffusion between continents, which may also help build up and spread these domesticates and technology.
4. Continental differences in area or total population size which with a larger area or population gives that society more opportunity to develop.
Which brings us to his main conclusion: "All human societies contain inventive people which speeds development. It's just that some environments provide more starting material and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions, than do other environments."
You will not find footnotes in this book because it is popular science and not a scientific treatise. However, at the back of the book, you will find a well-organized Further Reading section if you want to dig into more detail of his presentation and concepts.
Overall, the book presented well the themes, concepts and overall conclusions, which I had thought for years, to be the reasons for the differences in societies. Mr. Diamond just presented it a better way !