Tag Archives: jared diamond

I’m not sure if you should be invoking Jared Diamond as a good worldbuilding resource. A lot of anthropologists in particular really critique his work for ignoring recent anthropological scholarship and portraying things in too simplistic and deterministic a manner. The websites Savage Minds and Living Anthropologically have some really good round-ups of Diamond criticism. Might be worth investigating.

I’m assuming, when you say “recent anthropological scholarship” you’re not talking about Guns, Germs and Steel, given that the book was published in 1997. That might be a legitimate critique of Collapse, though, I’m not sure. It’s also possible that Diamond’s gone off his gourd since I got out of college.

So, for the uninitiated, this is kind of how academia works. Someone publishes a thing, and then everyone else dog piles on to tear it apart and look for it’s flaws. The more prominent the literature, the bigger the dog pile. The further it is from the field’s norm, the more savage the critiques.

If I’m completely honest, I actually tend to forget that Guns, Germs and Steel is supposed to be an anthropology text. To me, it’s always read more like a (sharp) criticism of Huntington’s civilizations model. Stopping just short of actually calling Huntington a racist by name.

And, as a result, I’m not surprised at all that Diamond drives mainstream anthropologists absolutely nuts. He’s taking the study of people, and then ignoring the role of people in social development.

That’s a big part of what Jason Antrosio (the author behind Living Anthropologically) seems to be taking issue with.

He does make a few good points, though. Diamond is prone to making sweeping generalizations. I’ll take it over something like Michael Walzer’s horrifying attention to minutiae, paragraphs that never stop, and pathological fear of footnotes. But, this is one of those, endless debates, between providing enough information without providing too much. As writers all of us should be familiar with that dilemma.

By definition, Guns, Germs and Steel is incredibly deterministic, which is one of Antrosio’s points. It’s a valid. Philosophically, the book is sort of saying that individuals are meaningless in the grand scheme of human development. That factors like the distribution of physical resources, actually shape a culture. But, I’m not sure I buy Antrosio’s claim that this somehow reveals a deep failing in Diamond’s work, especially given what the book was reacting to.

So, why am I recommending Diamond? Because he’s accessible.

For your writing, having a coherent world model you can build and tear apart is invaluable. Also, because of the deterministic qualities, it provides you with a racially agnostic system. Now, that probably doesn’t mesh with how you view the world, but when you’re building a world from scratch, it can be immensely useful.

If you’re never going into anthropology, the issues with his work probably won’t matter (though, obviously, that’s a point of debate). If you are, then you’ll have professors who will show you the error of your ways, they’re used to doing that. So, I’m still inclined to say Diamond’s a resource point, even if he isn’t perfect.


Japan actually was not one of the first to develop firearms nor did they ban the use of them. The Japanese were introduced to proper firearms in the 16th century through Nanban trade with the Portuguese through the island of Tanegashima. Through this they gained the ability to create simple matchlock arquebuses, a technology that had existed throughout Europe for a while at that point. They would be used commonly up until Sakoku and firearms were brought back during the Meiji Restoration.


Whoops. That’s my bad.


Partial credit. The Japanese did originally get introduced to guns in the mid 16th century by Portuguese traders. Initially they loved them, and put a great deal of effort into refining the technology. By the beginning of the 17th century they had more firearms than any other nation and, some of most advanced designs of the time. (Arguably the most advanced firearms.)

There was also serious social opposition coming from the Samurai. The gun represented a direct threat to their place in the social structure, it disrupted their concepts of warfare and combat. And because they were the core of the government, they were in a position to dispose of that threat. Which, they did. It was never a formal ban, per say, but production was initially limited to government contracts only, and then the government stopped ordering guns.

A number of European governments had attempted bans, but always found themselves at a severe disadvantage when facing forces armed with guns in warfare, while in Japan, there wasn’t a similar external threat.

The result was that Japan effectively banned guns, in all but name.

There’s a very abbreviated version of this story in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, but honestly, that’s a fantastic resource to work through before you start world building in general, so, go ahead and read it if you haven’t. Also, his book Collapse might be useful for those of you planning a dystopic setting.


wetmattos said: Yup yup, I do indeed :3 I’m almost asking for ya to keep on it, it’s really, really interesting <3

Don’t worry about it, I love martial history and looking at all the different inventive ways different societies came up with to deal with their problems. And the more you look at different cultures and their history, the more we see that people are, well, people. Clever and inventive people finding solutions to deal with problems.

This is why I always suggest researching history, philosophy, and culture beyond just looking at one single thing. When you see the whole picture, you can break that picture back down into it’s smaller pieces.

If you’re really interested in the sociological development of societies, particularly Europe’s, I recommend reading Germs, Guns, and Steel by Jared Diamond. It’s a really good and informative book that attempts to examine Europe’s evolution to the world stage by looking at sociology and anthropology instead of assuming they’re just “better” than other cultures. If any of you want to write a fantasy or historical novels that are based on Europe, I really recommend it.

It’s dense but it’s good.