Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 10 and 11

1) Quick review:  Summarize in 1 sentence the findings of the last reading (chapter 8).


2)  OK.  This chapter is about diffusion of domesticated plants and animals.  It looks like Diamond answered all the important questions in chapter 8.  But he still has a hard task to answer Yali's question about the different rates of development among different peoples.  Let's start with the basics.  What are the axes of orientation among the world's major continents?


3)  Reduce the entire chapter to a single sentence that compares East-West diffusion and North-South diffusion.


4)  The ease of EW diffusion (in contrast to NS) is clearly made in the parable of the Canadian farmer.  What was the point of that story in relation to the growth cycles of plants.


5)  Why didn't the Pilgrims immigrate to the Amazon?


6)  Other than length of day, what inhibited crop/animal diffusion in Africa?


7) Other than length of day, what inhibited crop/animal diffusion in the Americas?


8) Diamond ends his discussion with a brief word about the wheel.  Clearly, a wheel doesn't respond to differences in day length or tropical lowlands.  What point is he making then?  Hint--this example makes a link to the "proximate" factors that we are about to discuss:  namely, germs, technology, and politics.

Chapter 11

9)  Sorry about the story at the start of this chapter.  But Diamond is trying to make a point.  What is it?


10)  Does this chapter present a proximate or an ultimate explanation for Yali's question?  Explain.


11) Why do diseases make us sick (cough, diarrhea)?


12) What is a necessary ingredient for epidemic diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and smallpox?  Quick, can you connect the answer of this question to the "power of farming"?


13)  Explain how city folks are exposed to "crowd diseases."  Explain how farmers are exposed to the same diseases.


14)  This is an important connection.  Describe why the plague was so successful, using what you have learned from Diamond, especially his thoughts on the importance (ease of spread) of the east-west axis.



15)  Diamond remarks that when he was a student in high school, he had learned that there were only about 1 million Native Americans in the New World.  What, in his estimation, did this justify?  Do we play similar games with numbers today?  Think of the widely diverging estimates of the number of people at the New York City protests.


16)  Give the two most important reasons for the failure of epidemic diseases in the New World.





17) Where do we find such diseases as malaria and yellow fever?  How did these diseases impact the history of European colonization?