This has had "enormous, sometimes tragic consequences" for human history (p. Africa and the Americas were unable to progress throughout most of history because their "axes" are north-south, not east-west.
But Diamond is not really talking about axes; mostly he is making a rather subtle argument about the climatic advantages that (in his view) midlatitude regions have over tropical regions.
Culture is largely irrelevant: the environment explains all of the main tendencies of history; cultural factors affect the minor details.
Diamond proceeds systematically through the main phases of history in all parts of the world and tries to show, with detailed arguments, how each phase, in each major region, is explainable largely by environmental forces.Rice is simply declared to have been domesticated in midlatitude China, not tropical Asia. The agricultural revolution occurred in the Fertile Crescent earlier than in China because the former has a Mediterranean climate.This proposition stands unsupported except for a very thin argument: Mediterranean climate, says diamond, favored the evolution of large-seeded grains.To restore access and understand how to better interact with our site to avoid this in the future, please have your system administrator contact [email protected] AND EUROCENTRISM: A REVIEW ESSAY J. BLAUT "Environment molds history," says Jared Diamond in _Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies_ (p. Everything important that has happened to humans since the Paleolithic is due to environmental influences.The first and most basic cause is the shape of the continents: their "axes." A continental landmass with an "east-west axis" supposedly is more favorable for the rise of agriculture than a continent with a "north- south axis." Diamond divides the inhabited world into three continents (he uses the word "continent" rather broadly): Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas.Eurasia has an east-west axis; the other two have north-south axes.(Again maize, rice, and large-seeded varieties of sorghum are dismissed, along with grains that have smaller seeds but are also used in various places as staples.) Diamond concedes that very old dates have been obtained for agricultural origins in China and tropical New Guinea: respectively 75 BC, as against 8500 BC for the Fertile Crescent.Apparently because the Chinese center does not enjoy a Mediterranean climate, and the New Guinea center is tropical, neither (he argues) would be as old as the Fertile Crescent.Diamond needs -- for his central argument about environmental causes in history -- to show that these two midlatitude Eurasian centers were earlier and more important than tropical centers (New Guinea, Ethiopia, West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Mesoamerica, the Andes...) And he needs, further, to show that the Fertile Crescent was the earliest and most important center because this region's environment led, by diffusion westward, to the rise of Western civilization.(Indeed, at various places in Guns, Germs, and Steel the traditional Eurocentric message is conveyed that the Fertile Crescent and Mediterranean Europe are a single historical region; that history naturally moved westward.) The priority of the Fertile Crescent, according to Diamond, resulted from its climate in relation to the distribution of cultivable grains (a second "ultimate factor").