In chapter 10 of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, what is the importance of diffusion?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 10, Diamond explains that the diffusion, or spread, of crops happened more easily in some geographic locations than others. If crops are not spread naturally from one region to another, the crop must be domesticated independently in different regions, making the process more difficult.

Food production spread through natural processes in Southwest Asia (the Fertile Crescent) but not in the Americas and probably not in sub-Saharan Africa. Diffusion occurred more easily in Eurasia because of its east-west axis, meaning that areas within this region are in the same climate and biome zones. Crops that spread from the Fertile Crescent to other parts of Eurasia were therefore well adapted to the regions into which they spread, unlike in the Americas and Africa (which are on north-south axes). The orientation of a continent or region not only affected the diffusion of crops but also the likelihood that innovations would be easily spread from one part of the region to another. Regions with east-west axes, like Southwest Asia, were better able to naturally diffuse crops and innovations, making them more productive and prosperous. 

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter Ten discusses the factors that promoted (or inhibited) the diffusion (or spread) of food production from its places of origin (the Fertile Crescent, Mesoamerica, sub-Saharan Africa) to other locations. Diamond argues that geography was a key determining factor: that the orientation of land-masses—whether they were predominantly east-west, like Eurasia, or north-south, like Africa or the Americas—played a key role in the speed with which agriculture was able to spread. It is easier for agriculture to spread east-west because growing conditions remain similar long the same latitude. In Eurasia, agriculture spread east and west relatively quickly since crops did not have to adapt as much to different growing seasons. In the Americas, however, the diffusion of food production from Mexico to Peru was slow because crops domesticated in the Mexican highlands could not spread across tropical Central America to Peru. Diamond suggests at the end of the chapter that the relatively quick diffusion of food production in Eurasia also made possible the diffusion of several key technologies, such as the wheel and writing.