How did the axis orientations of continents affect the success or non-success of human beings in various areas of the world?

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

According to Jared Diamond, the axis of a continent had a lot to do with whether people were able to creat civilizations on that continent.  Basically, Diamond says that a continent with a long east-west axis (like Eurasia) has an advantage over continents with long north-south axes (like Africa and the Americas).

The reasoning here has to do with crops and longitude.  In general, similar crops can grow at similar longitudes.  That means that a crop developed in one place can spread east to west (or west to east) but it is less likely to be able to spread north to south.  this makes sense because a crop that is grown near the equator (say in Florida) is less likely to grow well in the north (say Maine).

So Diamond argues that Eurasia had an advantage because the crops developed could spread on the long east-west axis.  This meant that people all across the continent did not have to develop agriculture on their own -- they could borrow from their neighbors.

We’ve answered 320,047 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question