Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – The National Geographic DVD/Video based on the book by Jared Diamond.

(This book won the Pulitzer Prize, but is not easy to read in its entirety.) The DVD/video however, is dramatic, outstanding, and profound in topics for discussion and debate. It is free on Netflix; and on Youtube there are 18 brief episodes (about 8 minutes each) spanning all of world history:

Guns, Germs, and Steel bookcover.png GG&S wide picture.png

Note for Teachers:

The title is a succinct and powerful theme for understanding world history through "The Three Agents of Conquest", but the author's

simplistic reductionism "Everything depends upon geography", omits essential other subjects and aspects of peoples and societies.

A brief arbitrary list of such topics include: religions, psychologies, governments, technologies, economics, etc.

But the DVD/video is a fantastic resource to get everyone started with a common historical experience and vocabulary; then let the discussions, debates, and projects begin.


"Jared Diamond's journey of discovery began on the island of Papua New Guinea.

There, in 1974, a local named Yali asked Diamond a deceptively simple question:

'Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo, but we black people had little cargo of our own?'

Diamond realized that Yali's question penetrated the heart of a great mystery of human history --

the roots of global inequality.

Why were Europeans the ones with all the cargo?

Why had they taken over so much of the world, instead of the native people of New Guinea?

How did Europeans end up with what Diamond terms the agents of conquest: guns, germs and steel?

It was these agents of conquest that allowed 168 Spanish conquistadors to defeat an Imperial Inca army of 80,000 in 1532,

and set a pattern of European conquest which would continue right up to the present day.

Diamond knew that the answer had little to do with ingenuity or individual skill.

From his own experience in the jungles of New Guinea, he had observed that native hunter-gatherers

were just as intelligent as people of European descent -- and far more resourceful.

Their lives were tough, and it seemed a terrible paradox of history that these extraordinary people

should be the conquered, and not the conquerors.

To examine the reasons for European success, Jared realized he had to peel back the layers of history

and begin his search at a time of equality -- a time when all the peoples of the world lived in exactly the same way."