Why Did Human History Unfold Differently on Different Continents for the Last 13,000 Years?

by Jared N. Diamond


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Haskins Lecture that addresses issues involving the forces at play in human cultural development. Stated simply, the broadest pattern of history — namely, the differences between human societies on different continents — seems to be attributable to differences among continental environments and not at all to biological differences among peoples themselves. In addition, the availability of wild plant and animal species suitable for domestication, and the ease with which those species could spread without encountering unsuitable climates, contributed decisively to the varying rates of rise of agriculture and herding; which in turn contributed decisively to the varying rates of rise of human population numbers, population densities, and food surpluses; which in turn contributed decisively to the varying rates of rise of epidemic infectious diseases, writing, technology, and political organization.

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