In our earliest societies, humans lived as hunter-gatherers. The first step towards civilization is the move from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, with the domestication and farming of wild crops and animals. Agricultural production leads to food surpluses, which supports sedentary societies, specialization of craft, rapid population growth, and specialization of labor. Large societies tend to develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which leads in turn to the organization of empires.
Although agriculture arose in several parts of the world, Eurasia gained an early advantage due to the availability of suitable plant and animal species for domestication. In particular, the Middle East had by far the best collection of plants and animals suitable for domestication – barley, two varieties of wheat and three protein-rich pulses for food; flax for textiles; goats, sheep and cattle provided meat, leather, glue (by boiling the hooves and bones) and, in the case of sheep, wool. As early Middle Eastern civilizations began to trade, they found additional useful animals in adjacent territories, most notably horses and donkeys for use in transport.
Eurasia's large landmass and long east-west distance increased these advantages. Its large area provided it with more plant and animal species suitable for domestication, and allowed its people to exchange both innovations and diseases. Its East-West orientation allowed breeds domesticated in one part of the continent to be used elsewhere through similarities in climate and the cycle of seasons.
The plentiful supply of food and the dense populations that it supported made division of labor possible. The rise of non-farming specialists such as craftsmen and scribes accelerated economic growth and technological progress. These economic and technological advantages eventually enabled Europeans to conquer the peoples of the other continents in recent centuries by using the "Guns" and "Steel" of the book's title.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns,_Germs,_and_Steel
hoser expat wrote: »
Jared Diamond's follow up book, Collapse, is great too. It follows the reasons why some societies succeed and some just collapse.
Dr. Diamond is a Geography prof at UCLA.
Dacian wrote: »
I do understand his point (Must read that Dawkins book soon) I realise that what Diamond is writing about is the long term emergence and strengthening of the gene types that give greater immunity to disease. (I was trying to use my personal situation to illustrate a pale reflection of this process)
My understanding of the process is that certain people were ressistant,thus passing this onto their children,over many generations the resistant genes got passed on more than the less-resistant ones. Thus the entire European population became on average, more disease resistant than another population that were not exposed to the same environment over many generations.