A PBS documentary concerning Jared Diamond's theory on why there is such disparity between those who have advanced technology and those who still live primitively. He argues it is due to ... See full summary »

Watch Now

on Amazon Video








Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Incredible Human Journey (TV Series 2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

This series explains the evidence for the theory of early human migrations out of Africa and subsequently around the world, supporting the Out of Africa Theory.

Stars: Alice Roberts, Robert Bednarik, Sandford Bigplume
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Andrew Marr's History of the World is a 2012 BBC documentary television series presented by Andrew Marr that covers 70,000 years of world history from the beginning of human civilisation, ... See full summary »

Stars: Andrew Marr, Pierre Marais, Aubrey Shelton
Inside the Human Body (TV Series 2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

Inside The Human Body - takes us deep under our skin where we are dwarfed by even the smallest cell, where blood vessels becomevast cathedrals and the tiniest cluster of cilia becomes an expansive forest.

Stars: Christopher Cotten, Michael Mosley
The Story of Science (TV Mini-Series 2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Michael Mosley takes an informative and ambitious journey exploring how the evolution of scientific understanding is intimately interwoven with society's historical path.

Stars: Michael Mosley, Robert W. Allan, Marlon Beale
Animation | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Alloy is given the glimpse of the future and the only way for this madness to end is to collapse the universe and began again. Witness the waking, the rebirth, and the future.

Director: Michael Boydstun
Stars: Val Carpenter
Animation | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Naitai, the evil head of the Great Bear God religion, hatches a plot to destroy the 108 Dragons. His henchman, Oshu Togoku, the world wrestling champion, squeezes Ron Tayan unconscious in a... See full summary »

Director: Shigemori Yamauchi
Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Chiharu Kataishi, Masako Katsuki
Animation | Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

In L.A.'s Chinatown, the crime cartel known as K.O. hatches a plot to bring down Ron Tayan and the 108 Dragons. Ron joins forces with the computer-savvy daughter of the local boss; she ... See full summary »

Director: Harunisa Okamoto
Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Chiharu Kataishi, Gara Takashima
Animation | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

With the blessing of the 108 Dragons, Yo and Emu marry and receive new names, Ron Tayan and Fu Ching Ran. The elders send them to Macau to find out who's behind a new attack. Fu is kidnaped... See full summary »

Director: Nobutaka Nishizawa
Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Steve Bulen, Chiharu Kataishi
Animation | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Ron Tayan now leads the 108 Dragons; Fu Ching Ran is his loyal wife. As their body tattoos show, he's the dragon, she's the tiger. The 108 Dragons are attacked by African Tusk, a syndicate ... See full summary »

Director: Jôhei Matsuura
Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Chiharu Kataishi, Kôhei Miyauchi
Stossel (TV Series 2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A weekly program that focuses on libertarian and economic issues.

Stars: John Stossel, Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie
Animation | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Director: Shigemori Yamauchi
Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Chiharu Kataishi, Bin Shimada


Series cast summary:
 Narrator (3 episodes, 2005)
Jared Diamond ...
 Himself (3 episodes, 2005)


A PBS documentary concerning Jared Diamond's theory on why there is such disparity between those who have advanced technology and those who still live primitively. He argues it is due to the acquisition of guns and steel and the changes brought about by germs. Written by bzb2001

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Official Sites:



Release Date:

2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Háborúk, járványok, technikák  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Where's the cargo? (For the answer: See James Burke's "Connections")
17 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you are in an anthropology class and get an essay question on the final, and you don't answer the question, what sort of grade will you get?

The question "Guns, Germs and Steel" purportedly set out to answer was: "Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?"

"Cargo" originally referred to the manufactured goods brought in on cargo planes, and became a general term to describe all sorts of stuff, including pens, paper, radios, factory made clothes, books, boxes of cornflakes, fertilizer, cars, etc. So the question is why Western countries make more manufactured products than under-developed countries like New Guinea.

GG&S instead talks about how, beginning some 10,000 years ago, various agricultural techniques, crops and animals contributed to the development of more advanced, complex civilizations. Diamond doesn't say whether he took an introductory cultural anthropology course, but if he had, he would have probably learned about this; the theory has been around for at least 40 years.

He then talks about why Western countries were able to conquer and colonize the Americas and much of Asia: Because of superior weapons and, incidentally, germs that killed people in these new regions by the millions. OK, got it. But when the Europeans arrived, they weren't bringing tons of cargo in their small sailing ships, beyond that needed to do a little bartering.

The "cargo" comes much later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, and has little to do with agrarian practices, and much to do with the industrial and scientific revolution that was born in Europe. So to answer the New Guinean's question, Diamond should have explained the origins of science and technology, and its applications in industrial and factory production, including the assembly line.

But why did this scientific and technological revolution occur in Europe, when the Middle East, China, and ancient Greece and Rome had at least some science and technology that just sort of petered out?

Diamond doesn't say.

He does say that he thinks the New Guineans and the people of other under developed countries are as intelligent as people in developed countries. I agree with this; there is absolutely no link between genetics of groups and IQ. What you do have is a vast difference in education and knowledge.

Europeans found a way to, in a sense, pool individual intelligence and knowledge. A vital step was the creation by Queen Elizabeth at the suggestion of Sir Francis Bacon of the first government supported and funded scientific societies. These societies enabled scientists to share and critique each others' work, and to publish these findings for anyone to read, a truly revolutionary idea.

This not only spurred further scientific research that spanned generations, but made it possible for any common person with common sense to apply these scientific principles to technological innovation and produce a product that could make them rich. Throw in mass produced books, newspapers and journals by movable type printing presses, patent protection, and a free market with economic mobility, and you got "progress," a self-propelling growth of new ideas, new technology and commerce. This is where the "cargo" comes from.

Why didn't regions like China, India or the Muslim Middle East create "progress"? In part, because they valued tradition and stability more highly. Another reason is because they value the social group more highly than the individual; Europe placed more value on individual non- conformity. This is why these regions still lack self-generating progress (much of China's "progress" comes from industrial espionage, theft of intellectual property and general plagiarism).

If you want to learn where the "cargo" came from, what you really need to watch (and read - the documentary is the key work, but he talks very fast) is James Burke's "Connections," a true work of genius. I have read a fair amount about the history of science, and I can tell you that I have never seen anything like what Burke's account. Sure, he relies on the historical work of others, but he shows the chance, non-linear connections between science and technology, step by step, and why they occurred. (It's available on Youtube.)

For these connections to occur, there needed to be a culture that encouraged the sharing and expansion of knowledge. That's what was different about Europe over the past 500 years from every other region of the world in all other eras of history. You can't explain that by guns, germs and steel.

So if this were Jared Diamond's essay test in cultural anthropology, he would deserve a C minus, for not answering the question. There is far too much redundancy, with the second and third episodes spending far too much time recapitulating the previous episodes -- padding the program. It is also short on originality over what social scientists already knew, though there do appear to be some original ideas. But it is still worth watching, puts those ideas together in a novel way, and provides a perspective on the history of the world that many people will find interesting, especially high school students.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss Guns, Germs, and Steel (2005) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: