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28.7.05

More On Guns, Germs, And Steel

Apropos Brad DeLong's comments to my previous post, I should clarify the intent of my criticisms of Guns, Germs, and Steel. Geography's "GG&S problem" as I defined it there is a problem of the lay public's understanding of Diamond's argument. Thus we have to respond, not (only) to the book as Diamond intended it, but to the book as it's understood by the general readership. In particular, DeLong points out that the aspect of Diamond's argument that I spend the most time criticizing -- his attempt to explain why, of all the parts of Eurasia, it was western Europe which ultimately took the lead -- is a relatively minor part of a book mostly devoted to explaining (with mixed success) the rise of Eurasia by 1500. But I think most readers of GG&S take it as an explanation for the rise of Europe, and thus it's important to respond to that framing. One element of that response may be the sort of internal critique that DeLong's comment suggests -- pointing out that even Jared Diamond doesn't have a lot of confidence in GG&S's ability to explain the last 500 years.

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