Guns, Germs, And Steel By Jared Diamond: Chapter 11-14 Plot Summary

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Table of contents

  1. Chapter 11
  2. Chapter 12
  3. Chapter 14

Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is mainly about the effect livestock had on the people along with warfare. Livestock proved to be a leath gift given to the Eurasians. The Eurasians used livestock and domesticted them, which yielded a result. This was the transfer of illness between the domesticated animals and the people who handled them and were around them. Diseases such as the flu, smallpox, the plague and many others all came from animals. The information of illness from animals was extremely important because as the author states in chapter 11 on page 197 “The winners of past wars were not always the armies with the best generals and weapons, but were often merely those bearing the nastiest germs to transmit to their enemies. ” This being said it shows they used the diseases to their advantage to gain power through war. Even to this day some adults and many children pick up infections diseases from our pets.

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This chapter goes on to talk about how over time, populations of people either die off or they must develop immunities to diseases. This directly affects the diseases themselves. They must either die out or change into new, more dangerous diseases (natural selection).

Chapter 12

Chapter 12 is mainly about how language affects societies. The explorers from Europe could both read and write. This gave them an advantage over all the other illiterate societies that they conquered. Since the Europeans were literate they were able to create maps, written sailing directions, accounts by earlier explorers, and much much more. The author next discusses how come the Europeans had all this writing while many other culture did not along with where writing came from. He says that there are 3 basic strategies for languages in written symbols… Alphabetic (written signs), logographic (display words as signs), and syllabic (syllables as signs). While the first written language cuneiform didn't fit these because it was a mix of all three types. Jared Diamond compares the diffusion of agriculture (the difference in the spread of ideas to the spread of actually crops). To the diffusion of language (the difference between spreading the language to just spreading the idea of the language).

Chapter 14

In this chapter the author's main focus is that of religion and government. He starts by dividing societies into 4 groups… Bands, tribes, chiefdom and states. First bands, they were never really agricultural. The had almost no specialization for their people, this was basically the opposite of what was view as important during this time. Tribes were seen by their importance placed on family and the structure of family. These societices believes that unlike tribes order is not found in a ruler but in the family/ community structures. One of the highly important parts of chiefdom is how the chief builds and takes power from violence. The best type of chief provides their services through listening and settling arguments, and leading their people to a military victory. Lastly, states. States have hierarchies of power, like the passing down of jobs through generations. Like chiefdoms, states put a lot of pressure on specializations, kleptocracy (which is in the title of this chapter!) and religion. Religion was of GREAT importance it allowed large amounts of people to gather over one system of ideas.

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