GUNS GERMS AND STEEL Essay

Submitted By Newman1360
Words: 1762
Pages: 8

After reading both Preface to History and Guns, Germs and Steel, I was exposed to two different opinions in the way that Gustavson and Diamond explained how and why they believe that historical events have taken place. Although each of the authors present a lot of evidence to support their viewpoints, they differ from each other significantly. In Preface to History, Gustavson makes a case for the fact that he believes that the historical method is key if someone wishes to understand and study history efficiently. By historical mindset, Gustavson defines it that in order to study history well, it is mandatory that one creates a historical mindset which encompasses seven characteristics. The first characteristic is based on the fact that there should be a natural curiosity to learn. Secondly, Gustavson states that events are interconnected and are not isolated although on the surface it may appear that way. Thirdly, there are forces that impact history and in order to understand this, it often requires us to “think outside of the box”. In order to best understand that present, the fourth and fifth principle is based on the idea that the past impacts the present and things are always changing. The best example to give to understand this is the domino effect and how one thing directly impacts another. The sixth principle centers around the idea that it is important to keep an open mind despite what you “think” may be the case. Once a student studying history has this ability to see past the event itself, they can then start to find the influences, reoccurrences, or causes of that event. He also writes that the student who thinks in a historical way will find that one event in history cannot be placed on a single person or cause. The last of the seven characteristics that Gustavson teaches centers around the fact that each event is unique in its own way.
In Guns, Germs and Steel, Diamond has a whole different approach as to why historical event takes place. Diamond bases his viewpoint off of a politician named Yali from New Guinean. Yali asked Diamond, “Why were Europeans able to conquer so many other societies around the world?” (Diamond 14). Diamond could have answered that it was all based on genetics or another reason, but instead knowing that it was incorrect, he wanted to find the real reason as to why “Europeans” were more superior, and during the process disproved that genetics was the cause. After studying and digging deeper, Diamond realized that Europeans were more superior because “history followed different courses for different people because of peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves” (Diamond 25). When he referenced the environment, he was basing this on what got them to this point such as the domestication of animals and the production of crops which provided people who had access to these things an advantage as they were able to use this to be built upon more and more over time.
After reading both books A Preface to History and Guns, Germs, and Steel, it is obvious that Gustavson and Diamond had very different viewpoints as to what could spawn a certain event in history. For instance how to even study history, Gustavson thinks that it is because of the seven historical characteristics that are a natural curiosity as to what appears on the surface, that all events are not isolated but rather all connected like a chain of dominos. Also someone must be able to measure each event, and one must know the past to figure out the future. There are also the other three characteristics, one being that history is always being added to, and the scholar must also suspend all bias. Finally the scholar must each event and situation is unique. Diamond thinks that anyone can jump right into studying history like he did, whether the person studying history is a geologist or a historian. Another difference is that Diamond thinks that when people spread out across the…