Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 2, A Natural Experiment of History
1) Briefly describe the nature of the 1835 conflict between the Moriori and the Maori.
500 militaristic, well-armed Maori warriors (from an agricultural society on NZ's North Island) travelled 500 miles by boat and brutally conquered a much larger population of peaceful, hunter-gatherer Morioris. Morioris and Maori's were related groups. Moriori's had moved from NZ and reverted to hunting and gathering existence.
2) In what way was the conflict a "small-scale natural
experiment that tests how environments affect human societies"? pg. 54
New Zealand and Chatham Islands offered very different physical environments for societal evolution of two groups descended from a single group of people (Polynesians who colonized Pacific islands from Bismarck Archipelago between 1200BC and 500AD).
~What thesis is
Diamond attempting to prove?
Different physical environments caused significant variation in the adaptation of human societies.
3) If the Maori-Moriori conflict
is a small scale test, Diamond spends the rest of the chapter conducting a
medium-scale test. Describe the nature (or method) of the test.
Your response should include the fact that the
1. Establish common
heritage of Polynesians. This removes a biological and/or cultural
explanation for different adaptations.
2. Establish a common general time of colonization of Polynesia. This removes the variable of time.
3. Identify environmental varibles on the isalnds colonized by common people at same general time.
4. Trace differing paths of societal evolution.
4) What were the key 6 environmental variables of the
Temperature: tropical, sub-tropical, temperate
Precipitation: tropical rainforest, dry
b. Geology: for soils
and material for tools
coral, limestone, volcanic, continental
c. Geology related to rainfall, streams, weathering and creation of soils
d. Coastal geology:
shallow coast = abundant fish resources
deep coast = sparse food resources
e. Area and topography
steep-walled valleys, rolling terrain, small islands
small, remote islands = little contact
Archipelagoes with regular contact: Tongan, Fijian, Samoan, Wallis.
5) How did different environments affect the islanders' various methods of subsisting?
Tropical and sub-tropical island populations subsisted on varieties of slash and burn or intensive agricultural production of taro, yams, and sweet potatoes (all introduced crops). Also included introduced domesticated animals (pig, chicken, dog)
Temperate Chatham and NZ's southern South Island = reverted back to hunting and gathering because tropical crops couldn't produce enough food in those environments.
6) How did the islanders'
various methods of subsisting affect population densities?
Large variation in population densities.
Intensive agriculture = high densities: 210-250/sq. mile
hunter gatherers = low densities: 5/sq. mile
7) Describe the social, political, technological and economic developments of those islands with very high population densities.
and religious complexity
Hierarchically ranked lineages ruled over, and organized labor of mass of commoners. High ranking lineages directed religious life.
Hierarchically ranked lineages ruled over, and organized labor of mass of commoners. Lineages unified into island chiefdoms, and, in some cases, led to island conquests and creation of island empires.
High density islands developed specialized and complex technology: tools. In Hawaii, they even purchased European ships and guns to expand empire.
High density islands developed economic specialization, whereby only a portion of population actaully produced food for themselves and the
classes of bureaucrats, chiefs, priests and warriors.
8) The outcome of the "test"
can be found on the lower section of page 65. Paraphrase the outcome in
your own words.
Polynesian societies are descended from the the same stock, who colonized the widely varying physical environments of the Pacific Islands at the same general time. The differing environments represented different resource packages on which societal evolution depended. Polynesian societies followed widely diverging evolutionary paths, primarily because of these environmental differences.
Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 3, Collision at Cajamarca
9. How would you characterize Native American
culture before 1492 as portrayed at the start of chapter 3?
"Biggest population shift of modern times"
Pre-1492 Native American culture included complex agricultural societies that developed in isolation from Old World societies.
At the time of Pizarro's conquest, the Inca empire was one of the New World's most complex, populous, and powerful societies.
Pages 69 through 74 contains an account of Pizzaro’s conquest of the Incas in 1532. Because it is written by eyewitnesses of the battle, we call this a primary source.
10. How did the authors characterize the
Inca; what terms do they use to describe them?
Spaniards called the Inca "infidels" and "heathens". They also noted the Inca's vast population (40,000-80,000), Atahuallpa's beautiful camp, his well-organized attendants, the Inca's colorful uniforms, a well-developed atmosphere of royal pomp. Inca were terrified at sight of mounted Spanish warriors, and sound and damage created by guns.
11. What was the role of religion in the
account, specifically, the Catholic Church?
The Spanish chroniclers identified themselves as servants of the Catholic god, represented on Earth by Spain's "Emperor of the Roman Catholic Empire", who glorified his name by subjugating the "heathen" Inca.
12. How was the Spanish mission of salvation
used as a way to legitimize political conquest?
Conquer to convert. "We come to conquer this land by his (King of Spain) command, that all may come to a knowledge of God and of His Holy Catholic Faith."
13. What did Pizarro tell Atahuallpa’s messenger? What does this say about the nature
of European-Native American relations?
"Tell Atahuallpa that I am a friend, that I want to meet him, and that no harm will come to him. This suggests that the relations could be deceitful.
14. What event precipitated the battle? What
was the last thing the friar said before the fighting began?
Atahuallpa threw the Bible to the ground, not realizing its importance to the Spaniards, nor the significance of his action. The friar exhorted the Spaniards to "March out against him, for I absolve you."
15. Pizarro had 168 soldiers. How many
Incas were slain? Specifically, what class of Incas were slain and how did
Pizarro turn this to an advantage in taking over the empire?
~7000 according to Atahuallpa. The Spaniards had killed much of the ruling elite, and best warriors of the Inca empire. Because the Inca empire was so centralized, this severely limited the Inca's ability to organize a resistance against the Spanish.
16. Diamond moves on to discuss some of the
advantages that the Spanish conquistadors had over the Inca. What were some of
the military advantages?
Guns, steel armor and swords, and horses vs, Inca's wooden, and stone clubs and cotton armor.
17. What was the state of the Inca Empire
before the battle? How did European colonization cause this state of affairs? How
is this an example of ecological imperialism?
Atahuallpa had just won a civil war to determine ascendancy to empire's throne. However, his authority was not yet completely in place. The Spanish introduction of smallpox into Panama 10-15 years earlier, and its later overland spread, had killed (1526) the previous Inca emperor, his court and designated heir. This caused the contested ascendancy that led to the civil war. This is a case of unintended subjugation that was possible because of the differing ecologies of the warring sides.
18. How did European political organization
enable Pizarro’s colonization of
European nation-states were developing centralized political organization, which covered the expenses of exploration, and conquest.
19. How did writing and literacy figure in
Writing and literacy were essential for rapid diffusion of information (Columbus' discovery, Cortez’s conquest). Atahuallpa had only inaccurate word of mouth information about Pizarro.
20. Diamond considers the European advantages
(military technology, horses, infectious diseases, maritime technology,
centralized political organization, and writing) proximate causes of Pizarro’s
victory. What does Diamond mean by "proximate"?
By "proximate", Diamond means that Europe's guns, germs and steel were the "immediate reasons" of Europe's successful colonization of the New World.