The history of how plants and animals spread the Earth is a fascinating one. But it is often strange to reason what caused the great differences between societies. Some people have attributed these to intelligence, which is an incorrect conclusion. Jared Diamond discusses these differences and the evolutionary process of agriculture in his book Guns, Germs & Steel. We can probably all remember from our (western) history classes that Europeans went on trips at one point, and started establishing new societies outside of their own continent.
However, why did they go on this trips? Why didn’t the natives visit Europe and create establishments there? Diamond reasons that it has to do with the environments people were in and not their innate abilities. A lot of it is dependent on the soil and other cues in the environment that made agriculture possible at one point. And Fertile Crescent is one of those places, this is an area in the Middle East. When people started domesticating plants and animals, they had more free time to invest in other projects. For instance, they could create new political systems or focus on technological innovations.
Another interesting point the author makes is the east-west major axis in Eurasia. Trade and ideas spread much easier and faster in in Eurasia, because of the limited boundaries on this axis. However, it is much different for North America, where such travel would have been more difficult.
Diamond also spends a great portion explaining how languages spread around the globe, especially focussing on Polynesia. He goes a great length to explain how and which factors contributed to the formation of agriculture and the voyages of the Europeans. And how these affected that natives living in the Americas. It is a very thorough, interesting read, definitely worth the try if you love learning more about the macro factors in history!
Societies also fall apart, leaving behind traces from which researchers try to reconstruct their story. The interesting and simultaneously scary part is that current day societies show signs that can result in their collapse, think rapid deforestation and climate change. In Collapse, Diamond explains the factors that contributed the fall of societies we mostly have heard about through history classes, such as Easter Island or Greenland. I will discuss this book in a future post.