Tuesday, January 17, 2006

History and its telling (part2)

8:30, Monday night, I saw the third part of the three part ‘Guns, Germs And Steel’ series by controversial author Jared Diamond

‘Guns, Germs And Steel’ looks at why the Europeans have dominated the globe for the last 500 years.

This week’s show looked at why the Europeans could not dominate Africa.

Basically it came down to the fact that much of Africa is tropical. Thus the crops and animals they had used in the Americas as and Australia were not suitable to the climate and were subject to new diseases.

The Europeans, themselves were also at the mercy of (for them) new diseases.

The one question that Diamond did not look at is why the European dominated, while the other four major Eurasian cultures (Arabs, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese) did not. These other cultures knew about iron & gunpowder (invented in China, about 700AD), had access to highly productive plants & animals and had resistance to the same diseases.

What was the difference? Was is a matter of Climate, Geography, Biology (Germs) or Technology (Gunpowder & Steel)?

I’ve read one theory that says the shape of Greece is major factor. That its large amount of coastal fringe in a compact area, make it productive yet hard to control. The ideal birthplace for democratic and egalitarian traditions (if you were not a slave). Where as the great river basins like the Nile and Euphrates-Tigres, while being productive, required strong central government to control the irrigation systems that were the technological heart of these emerging civilizations.

I find this an interesting idea. Any comments? Anyone got any others theories?

I note that Jared Diamond has a new book out.

and here is the book this series is based on.

Tune in next week for another adventure of GNOLLS IN S-P-A-C-C-E!

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