It is perhaps the most fundamental question of world history: why are some civilisations conquered and others conquerors? Author and scholar Jared Diamond's surprising answer, found in his acclaimed bestseller, 'Cum, Germs and Steel', is the basis of this thought-provoking three-part series.
Out of Eden Evidence from Papua New Guinea to the Middle East supports Diamond's theory that a society's development may have had less to do with skill or ingenuity, than with an ability to raise high-protein grains and domesticated livestock. He suggests that successful farming gave rise to an explosion of sophisticated civilisations, from the Fertile Crescent to the New World. Conquest Diamond focuses on Spanish conquistador Pizarro's 16th-century assault on the Inca. Was it the Spaniards' advanced weaponry that defeated the empire? Was it also the Europeans' innate resilience to some infectious diseases - a resistance born of centuries of contact with domesticated animals? The European triumph of the New World may have rested on an agent of conquest, unknown to even the conquerors and that proved deadlier than any human foe. Into the Tropics Diamond extends his quest to Africa, probing early European attempts to colonise the continent. The conquerors were initially successful, repelling native attackers with rifles and Maxim guns but they met unexpected obstacles when they moved from temperate zones to the tropics. The debilitating scourge of malaria, like the AIDS epidemic of today, overwhelmed their mightiest resources.