Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Preface

1)  What are some of the problems of "narrowly focused accounts of world history"? pg. 9

 

2)  Diamond introduces us on pg. 10 to a distinction between ultimate and proximate historical explanations.  In your own words, explain the difference.

 

3) What historical question is he attempting to answer?

 

4)  Diamond tells us that world history is like an onion.  What does he mean? 

 

Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Prologue

1)  What, according to Diamond, is the "most basic fact of world history"?

 

2)  What was Yali's question?

 

3)  Diamond reformulates Yali's question.  You can find it on pg. 16 in a paragraph that begins with "Thus."  This is the objective of the entire book.  It's important, so copy down this short paragraph.

 

4)  OK, look at that paragraph in #3 again.  Are there any problems with Diamond's objective?  What are his assumptions about "development"

 

5)  Briefly, what are the three objections to the project that Diamond addresses.  Pay close attention to the third objection on pg. 18.  Do you think he jumped over the hurdle?

 

6)  What is the most common answer to Yali's question, in Diamond's estimation?

 

7)  Diamond cites an example from his own field work to defuse the charge of racism.  What does he say about "intelligence" and how does he compare New Guineans and Americans?

 

8)  What is the "climatic" explanation for the "rise of the west"?

 

9) Diamond gets closer to his mark on pg. 23 where he brings up guns, disease, tools, and products.  He calls this explanation "proximate."  What does this mean?  What is an "ultimate" explanation?

 

10)  The book thesis (as opposed to the topic) is clearly stated on pg. 25.  Write it down.

 

11)  Diamond then chronicles his qualifications for telling this story?  Do you think it is important, or at all odd, that an evolutionary biologist is writing this history?

 

12)  Diamond outlines the book in the next few pages.  Very briefly, what is the key objective of each part:

 

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV