Guns, Germs and Steel
* Basis: Why did history unfold differently on different continents? * Predominant focus on histories of literate Eurasia (western Eurasia) and North African societies 3 disadvantages 1. More people today are interested in understanding societies besides that of Western Europe a. Other societies encompass most of the world’s population and vast majority of the world’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups b. Other societies are already or becoming among the world’s most powerful economic and political forces 2. History before emergence of writing around 3000BC (preliterate) receives brief treatment (99.9% of the million human history) c. Cannot provide deep understanding for how the modern world was shaped d. By 3000BC, western Eurasian and North African societies were already highly developed and systemic (central state govt, use of tools, weapons, animals for work and transport etc.) while other societies had not gained such advancements Shows that the roots of western Eurasian dominance in modern world were established before 3000BC and the reason should be investigated 3. W/o understanding the history of other societies, one lacks the basis for comparison to understand why western Eurasian societies flourished and were disproportionately powerful and innovative e. Proximate reasons for advancement: merchantilism, scientific inquiry, technology and germs that killed people who came into contact with western Eurasia (prevent spread of knowledge and technology) however, why did these factors only flourish in western Eurasia and not other parts of the world? f. Idiosyncratic cultural factors
i. E.g. Confucianism in China stifled scientific advancement vs Greek traditions encouraged it in western Eurasia ii. However, Confucian China was more technologically advanced than western Eurasia until about AD 1400
* Disparities in lifestyles (wealth and power) of people living in different parts of the world inequality * Why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? * Interactions among disparate people: conquest, epidemics, genocide which led to * Political reverberations
* Africa struggling with legacies from recent colonialism * Still-numerous indigenous population waging guerrilla warfare and civil unrest against govts dominated by descendants of invading conquerors e.g. Mexico, Peru * Scant indigenous population incapable of mounting civil war but increasingly asserting their rights i.e. Aboriginal Australians * Linguistic reverberations
* Impending disappearance of most of the modern world’s 6000 surviving languages * Replacement by English, Chinese, Russian and a few other languages whose numbers of speakers have increased enormously in the last few centuries * Objections to discussing Yali’s question (how world history modern world inequality) * It may make domination seem inevitable and any attempts to rectify the outcome today would thus be rendered somewhat futile * Explanation of causes does not equal acceptance of it * Understanding the causes is more often used to prevent a repeat * It may glorify western Europeans since they were the dominant society that developed faster than other societies and managed to conquer and grow * European prominence is but an ephemeral phenomenon of the last few centuries Japan and SEA slowly rising to supersede Europe in prominence * Moreover, basic elements of western European civilization in civilization were developed elsewhere and imported in * It shows a bias towards ‘civilisations’ and against ‘hunter-gatherers’ or other lifestyles * Book does not intend to celebrate one type of society over another but to simply understand what happened in history POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS...
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