The paper “ The World According to Jared Diamond by McNeill" is a great example of a book review on history. Whereas McNeill accepts some of Diamond’ s arguments, his objections to the rest of his arguments are pertinent. McNeill prefaces his commentary on Diamond’ s work with admiration for its unique exposition of the role of biogeographic factors and environmental inheritance in shaping the economic standing of some continents and societies. Diamond’ s holistic inquiry of human experience and optimism for a science of history are acceptable to McNeill. Diamond’ s overemphasis on the role of geography in shaping history is McNeill’ s primary contention with Diamond’ s arguments.
\ Diamond’ s arguments acceptable to McNeill McNeill accepts Diamond’ s claim that biogeographic factors and environmental bestowal of a place are important to its economic wealth and power. He conquers that the potential of a place to support the domestication of both animals and plants is an example of such a factor. Actually, places such as Mesopotamia attracted massive migration due to their environmental endowment and this accrued economic gains1. There is no doubt such endowments give regions advantages over those that are lacking in them.
Darwinian perception of the survival for the fittest is endorsed this claim. McNeill’ s praise for Diamond’ s holistic perception of human experience demonstrates his awe for Diamond’ s deviation from a mere mainstream inductive study of history. According to McNeill, whereas many historians will be inclined to seeking the inherent meaning of a text, Diamond stands out because his account brings in knowledge from outside of history. Another point of consensus between McNeill and Diamond is the idea that historical inquiry can be scientific.
Scientists from physical and chemical sciences account for the occurrence of certain phenomena by trying to combine different variables under similar conditions and assesses whether this combination is the causes of the said phenomena2. In the same way, historians can investigate whether certain variables such as time and geographical conditions that prevailed in certain times in history were the causes of the existing condition of a place or region. McNeill’ s objections to Diamond’ s arguments McNeill objects to Diamond’ s implication that Eurasia has had an impact that is more important in world history than Europe.
Whereas McNeill concedes the fact that Eurasia was endowed with both domesticable species and geography that enhanced the spread of these species, he believes that these endowments were not solely responsible for the formidability that originated from the region. The propensity of a region to cause major patterns in the world is underlined by much more than its geography. It is noteworthy that McNeill thinks it is considerably illogical to credit short-lived phenomena such as cultural and political splendor to more long-lasting phenomena such as the topography of a place3. Furthermore, McNeill’ s assertion holds because different regions can have different topographies but spawn similar inventions.
McNeill’ s argument that the inventions that a place can spawn are not necessarily advantages is pertinent. Certainly, desirable endowments of a place attract rivalry and some regions have made enmity because of their natural resources. Actually, some natural heritage of different regions has at times impeded the development of these regions. The civil clashes and leadership problems that have continuously bedeviled oil-producing countries are a case in point 4.
McNeill’ s main contention against Diamond’ s arguments Diamond’ s endorsement of geographical determinism is McNeill’ s main contention. Diamond purported that the environmental conditions of some regions are the primary basis of their advantage and success. The setback with geographical determinism is the lack of a single, consistent, and comprehensive account of the fluctuations of the successes and advantages that a region experiences at different points in time. McNeill’ s assertion that the scientific method has the same setback as geographical determinism is correct. This is because it has its origin in natural sciences and emphasizes the role of natural variables in the occurrence of phenomena5.
It applies for plants because of their dependence more on the short-lived influence of weather conditions than on the long-term climatic conditions. According to McNeill, the spread of certain species was more deliberate than caused by geographical factors. Whereas McNeill admits that climatic conditions influenced the growth of some of these species, he charges that human beings were responsible for spreading them through migration and trade movements. This explains, for example, why tea is grown in certain regions and not in others even when some of these other regions have climatic conditions that are favorable for the growth of tea6.
In conclusion, whereas Diamond’ s ideas about the important role of biogeographic factors to current phenomena, robust perception of human experience and optimism for a science of history are admissible, they have aspects that can be objected. The implication that biogeographical factors are more important than other factors is one such aspect. Largely, geographical determinism is not a sufficient explanation of the existing condition of different regions and societies.