Book review – best seller on how environment and tools have shaped humanity

Diamond’s perspective on human history contradicts most perceived wisdom, he explains that Western society developed due to chance rather than some special attributes. Differences in geography and wildlife meant that humans in some areas developed agriculture and domesticated animals, and also suffered from and developed immunity to diseases.

Once settled, rather than nomadic, peoples used natural resources to create superior weapons to became imperialists. Certain animals were more easily domesticated and small bands of humans grew to form villages then larger agglomerations, in which wealth was no longer evenly distributed. These social structures led to the rise of nation-states which could engage in greater imperialist enterprises.

Diamond argues that the East-West oriented Eurasia had advantages of temperate climate and easy mobility, compared to the Americas’ North-South orientation. Once long distance sea voyages became feasible, the Western Eurasians turned to more distant lands.

As individuals our “vain” brains imagine we have far more to do with our “success” than reality would indicate – Diamond explain that Western civilisation owes more to luck than many would like to imagine.