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Steve Jones

10 September 1992
The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How our animal heritage affects the way we live 
by Jared Diamond.
Vintage, 360 pp., £6.99, August 1992, 0 09 991380 1
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... is whether it does anything to illuminate ourselves. Is it really the case that, to quote W.S. Gilbert, ‘Darwinian man, though well-behaved, is really but a monkey shaved’? Generally speaking, JaredDiamond believes that it is. He has a mass of up-to-date and well-presented evidence to support his views. The double helix of DNA is tough stuff. By boiling up together the DNA from different ...
4 September 1997
Guns, Germs and Steel 
by Jared Diamond.
Cape, 480 pp., £18.99, April 1997, 0 224 03809 5
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Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality 
by Jared Diamond.
Weidenfeld, 176 pp., £11.99, July 1997, 0 297 81775 2
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... explanation, a rarely asked and hence largely unanswered question: over the past 10,000 years, why did some societies develop in size, complexity and, most of all, power, while others did not? JaredDiamond has written a book to answer this question. He is a remarkable man: as much a natural philosopher as a scientist, he has studied the digestive systems of Burmese pythons, described a new species of ...


Partha Dasgupta: What Environmentalism Overlooks

19 May 2005
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive 
by Jared Diamond.
Allen Lane, 575 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 7139 9286 7
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... of those that went under. We would then want to know what those societies that have enjoyed material progress in recent centuries did that was not only not wrong, but may even have been right. JaredDiamond, a professor of geography in California, looks for answers to these big questions by examining the societies that collapsed. The body of his book contains accounts of four such societies: the Easter ...

At the Wellcome

Peter Campbell: ‘Dirt’

2 June 2011
... horizon. But what was once the reality here, and is now a reality in the slums of Mumbai, is at worst something to put alongside climate change and the pathologies of the collapsed civilisations JaredDiamond writes about. Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life at the Wellcome Collection (until 31 August), which works on the instincts that make filth disgusting and cleanliness desirable, is not ...

Crops, Towns, Government

James C. Scott: Ancestor Worship

21 November 2013
The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? 
by Jared Diamond.
Penguin, 498 pp., £8.99, September 2013, 978 0 14 102448 6
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... do not depend on the nuclear family or inherited wealth. History can show that the social and political arrangements we take for granted are the contingent result of a unique historical conjuncture. JaredDiamond, ornithologist, evolutionary biologist and geographer, is best known as the author of Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years, one of the most ...

70 Centimetres and Rising

John Whitfield: Plate tectonics

3 February 2005
The Earth: An Intimate History 
by Richard Fortey.
Harper Perennial, 501 pp., £9.99, March 2005, 0 00 655137 8
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... statues collapsed once deforestation and soil erosion made agriculture impossible. Our refusal to accept the limitations of climate and soil now threaten to repeat this on a global scale, as JaredDiamond argues in his new book, Collapse.* The fastest growing cities in the United States are in the desert; to someone flying over Phoenix, the bright green scars left on the Sonoran desert by the ...

Hayek and His Overcoat

Geoffrey Hawthorn

1 October 1998
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations 
by David Landes.
Little, Brown, 650 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 316 90867 3
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The Commanding Heights 
by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw.
Simon and Schuster, 457 pp., £18.99, February 1998, 0 684 82975 4
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... trade in currencies, that was largely deciding who would succeed, who fail. Over the longer term, as Landes explains, this has not been the case; the answers have been more local. For Landes, as for JaredDiamond (whose history of the past 13,000 years, Guns, Germs and Steel, was reviewed in the LRB on 4 September last year), they lay at first in geography. What the Europeans came to call economic ...

Against Whales

Paul Keegan

20 July 1995
The Moon by Whale Light 
by Diane Ackerman.
Phoenix, 260 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 1 85799 087 0
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The Last Panda 
by George Schaller.
Chicago, 292 pp., $13.95, May 1993, 0 226 73629 6
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The Great Ape Project 
edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer.
Fourth Estate, 312 pp., £9.99, June 1993, 1 85702 126 6
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... hybridisation (applied by its pioneers to bird taxonomy in the Seventies, as a molecular ‘clock’ to measure genetic distances and put a date on times of evolutionary divergence between species), JaredDiamond approvingly recalls one geneticist saying: ‘Their results are The Revealed Truth, and you’d better believe it.’ DNA Revelation, in the case of the higher primates, preaches that humans ...

Ultimate Choice

Malcolm Bull: Thoughts of Genocide

9 February 2006
The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 580 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 521 53854 8
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State. Vol. I: The Meaning of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 266 pp., £24.50, August 2005, 1 85043 752 1
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State: Vol. II: The Rise of the West and the Coming of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 463 pp., £29.50, August 2005, 1 84511 057 9
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... in great ape societies). Egalitarianism did not arise spontaneously but had to be rigorously enforced by sanctions, expulsions and executions of potential upstarts and free-riders. So, unlike JaredDiamond, who has suggested that human genocides are continuous with the murderous inter-group skirmishes of chimpanzees, Boehm sees a radical discontinuity between the hierarchical social organisation of the ...

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