Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Guns, Germs, and Steel

Go To

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 non-fiction book by Jared Diamond. It became a bestseller, and in 2005 it received a documentary Mini Series produced by the National Geographic Channel. The documentary covers the theories in the book on why a disparity between civilizations exists as such that there are people living in an industrialized society while at the same time there are still people with primitive lifestyles.

Produced by and starring the author of the book Jared Diamond (as himself) as he goes around the world trying to figure out why the world in the present day is unequal with one civilization more advanced than the other. Diamond went to New Guinea originally to study about the birds when in his trips, one of his New Guinean friends asked him an Armor-Piercing Question: "Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?" Diamond found the question that seemed simple at first to be much more complicated and thus went on his journey to figure out the answer to the question.

In between Diamond's journey, the theories was slowly explained throughout a re-enactment of historical events from Ancient Middle East to the Spanish conquest of the Americas to the European colonization of Africa.

The book and the documentary provide examples of:

  • Improbable Infant Survival: Shown when the Zulus massacred a Boer family. Everyone died, except the baby. There is also a rather tragic, real-life aversion... Near the end of the third installment, Jared Diamond visits a children's hospital in Zambia, set aside for malaria patients. He is informed that children less than a year old die there almost on a daily basis. Diamond breaks down in tears at realizing many children he's seen there will die.
  • Schmuck Bait: The instance of conquistador Francisco Pizarro's encounter with the Incan Emperor Atahualpa, depicted on the cover of some editions. Pizarro's men persuaded Atahualpa to come to Cajamarca with a large but lightly-armed entourage to meet with them. Diamond discusses not just why the Spaniards were able to defeat them with so few men, but also why Atahualpa (and other indigenous leaders) walked into a trap.
  • Series Of The Book: The documentary adaptation by the National Geographic.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Discussed by Diamond. He argues geography was the main cause of imbalances in world wealth and that conquests and colonization were direct consequences of this. However, he is not rigidly deterministic and in the documentary, he cites the examples of Singapore and Malaysia as hope that tropical Africa can overcome similar challenges.