Guns, Germs, and Steel
Europe’s geographic position was a key influence on its development. Not only was Europe close to the Fertile Crescent, but it also it contained climates and habitats that animals and crops could adapt to. In the 16th century, livestock animals that came from the Fertile Crescent dominated European farms. These animals included the cow, sheep, goat, horse, and many others. They served as a source of meat, milk, wool, manure, and muscle power. They transformed the productivity of farmland, as European farmers were able to grow more food and feed more people, who could then build bigger and more complex societies. Horses provided an efficient form of transport since they allowed people to move around control their land. Farming also gave some cultures an enormous head start. Those who had the most productive crops and animals became the most productive farmers. The spread of animals and crops spread to North Africa and Europe triggered an explosion of civilization. The Spanish were also amongst the earliest of Europeans to obtain Arab knowledge and technology. Guns originally came from China but were developed by the Arabs. The Spanish were able to turn these guns lighter and more portable, and were used for the first time by foot soldiers on the battlefield. However, production of gunpowder was still in its infancy. Real power lay within the production of steel. Swords were the result of a long process of trial and error that began outside of Europe. People began working with metal in the Fertile Crescent. Because Europe was close, it inherited metal technology. European soldiers’ demands led to the production of stronger, longer, and sharper swords. The rapier, with its extra long blade, represented a very high point in metalworking technology and became fashionable in Renaissance Europe. Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish conquistador, and his most trusted officers debated their options for how to deal with Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor....
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