I really wish I’d read this book years ago. Earlier this year, I read Jared Diamond’s Collapse and very much enjoyed it but I didn’t enjoy this book quite so much for several reasons. Firstly, and this is why I wish I read it years ago, the ideas and theories it discusses have become fairly well established since the book was first published in 1997. Namely that the onset of food production led to formation of organised societies, which could then dedicate people and resources to development of technology, statecraft and culture, and this ultimately led to conquest of the New World and other parts of the world by the Europeans (to simplify). Furthermore, that the onset of food production and animal domestication was influenced by a variety of environmental factors including geography, continent orientation (East-West and North-South axis) and isolation. So, some peoples ended up having more of a head start in development through pretty much being in the right place at the right time. While Diamond didn’t originate some of these ideas, he does provide a very good synthesis by applying studies of environment, ecology, linguistics and so on to history. Of course, these ideas now make a lot of sense and I was perhaps hoping to learn more from this book, especially as I’ve just been studying conquest of the New World. So, basically this book was not quite in the right place at the right time for me, which really is a shame. The other reason why I didn’t enjoy it quite so much was its repetitiveness, which did get a bit infuriating at times. I did, however, like the conclusion very much and there’s no doubt that this is a very good book.
In other reading related news, I am really enjoying Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, although am getting through it quite slowly (has been relegated to ‘occasional bed reading’ as Diamond took priority for being ‘important for study’). Am going to read Niall Ferguson’s Colossus next as ‘important for study’, it’s referenced in my course books and I’ve had it for years so may as well get on with it.