Guns, Germs and Steel
Search for ultimate explanations through synthesis
- Molecular biology
- Plant/animal genetics
- History of technology
History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among
peoples environment not because of biological differences among people themselves.
- One type of people dominated then the other because nature gave them a
Physical environment determines fate of humans.
Brief History of Environmental Determinism
The constitutions and habits of people follow the nature of the land where they live
- Variety, vigour, fierceness
- Rapidly changing seasons excite the mind, demand fortitude and exertion
- Equable and gentle dispositions – mild and uniform climate GGR329
Those who live in a cold climate and in Northern Europe are full of spirit but wanting
in intelligence and skills.
Therefore they keep their freedom but have no political organization and are
incapable, the natives of Asia are intelligent and inventive, but the Hellenic race
which is situated b/w them is likewise intermediate in character being high-spirited
and also intelligent.
Charles de Secondat: Climate affects physiology, physiology determines
psychology, and so evn religion might reflect physical conditions.
Charles Darwin – Principle of natural selection.
Previous insights of Herbert Spencer
- Survival of the Fittest
- Social Darwinism (reality: social spencerism)
- Projection of biological evolution onto social plane. Biological evolution onto
As people began to understand physiological and biological evolution.
Herbert Spencer’s theory
Species/society change – factors of evolution
- Extrinsic (e.g climate, surface qualities)
- Intrinsic (e.g physical and intellectual character)
Secondary or derived (brough – social evolution itself)
- Modifications of the environment
- Size and density of the social aggregate: the more people, the more idea, more
mouths to feed, bigger armies
- Inter-societal reactions: different societies react differently. Some absorb the
good ideas while others do not. GGR329
People were shaped by their environment and they tend to shape it as well. As
societies develop, there is a feedback to the environment itself.
Geography and Religion (Oscar Peschel)
- Monotheistic religions – desert plains
- Polytheistic religions – forested countries
The races of man, and their geographical distributions
ED then developed/used in context of colonial expansion.
ED and human geography late 19 C to 1930s
Natural environment (especially climate) creates natural selective conditions
That bring out either
Best in humans – superior cultures
Worst in people – inferior cultures.
- To describe regions of ecumene (habitable earth) and distribution of mankind
- To study human migratory movements of all types and dependency on land
- To analyze the effects of the natural environment on the human body and
spirit, both on individuals and entire social groups.
Ratzel’s writing reached a large audience
(Lebensraum: Vital space – originally lebenstrum) GGR329
ED in the USA
Midlatitude climates stimulate achievement (Ellsworth Huntington)
Tropical heat and humidity inhibit cultural progress
The influences of the Geographic Environment (1911) (Ellen Churchill
Natural environment provides the physical basis for history and is immutable
- Human temperament
- Economic practices
- Social life
- All derived from environmental influences
Northern Europeans: Energetic, provident, serious, thoughtful
Mediterraneans: Easy-going, improvi