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  • Writer's pictureArjun Patel

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Part 3

Hey guys! Part 3 of Guns, Germs, and Steel was the most prolonged section, and I am also happy to announce that I have finished the book already and am moving on to my new book, which is the second part of the three-part series, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I enjoyed this section and would highly recommend it to people interested in the evolution of humans and our worlds. 

In Part Three, Diamond explains how minor agricultural differences between early societies were magnified over time, leading to significant health, technology, and social structure variations. Firstly, he argues that agrarian societies developed immunity to deadly diseases. Due to constant proximity to domesticated animals and increased population density, new germs circulated in agricultural societies. This resulted in societies becoming resistant to many epidemics, where those who couldn't survive died off, while those with immunities survived and passed on their immunity to their offspring.

Another essential development in the history of agricultural societies was the invention of written language. Although it's challenging to determine precisely why writing emerged in certain agricultural societies and not others, it's clear that the structure of agrarian society, which requires extensive record-keeping for crops, placed a high premium on a writing system. Additionally, east-west diffusion patterns ensured that once one society developed language, it spread, along with agriculture itself, to surrounding areas, especially those with similar latitudes.

The history of language serves as a case study for technology's general history. While it's again difficult to explain why certain inventors developed specific inventions, the structure of agricultural societies favored the creation of new technologies. This is true for several reasons. Agricultural societies resulted in the creation of leisure time since crops could be stored for long periods. During their leisure time, citizens of early agrarian societies experimented with the resources and raw materials around them. Also, agricultural societies were denser than hunter-gatherer societies, increasing the speed with which people exchanged ideas. As a result, farming societies developed more new technologies than hunter-gatherers and passed on their innovations to neighboring agricultural societies.

Ancient agricultural societies tended to develop into large, complex states. While the earliest agricultural societies were "bands" and small tribes, these small tribes gradually merged into more extensive societies through conquering or mutual agreement. As societies became more extensive and denser, they tended to develop centralized structures of power—in other words, a central leadership that commanded a set of subordinate leaders who, in turn, commanded local groups of people. States ruled through a balance of kleptocracy—i.e., leaders ordering their subjects to give up a portion of their possessions—and religion or patriotic fervor. By the 16th century—not coincidentally, when Europe began its conquest of the New World—the state had become the dominant mode of society.


This is what the Diamond discussed and wrote about in Part 3, and I am so happy I got to share it with you guys! In a couple of weeks, I will give another update on the Lumiere program and my 103-page research paper, so stay tuned for that. 


- AnthroManTalks 

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