According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, how does an agricultural society naturally provide the opportunity to develop the proximate factors?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The proximate causes are those factors that were immediately responsible for the greater power of the Europeans relative to other peoples.  They can be found in Figure 4.1.  These factors include:

  • Horses
  • Guns and steel swords
  • Ocean going ships
  • Political organization and writing
  • Epidemic diseases.

Agriculture allowed all of these to happen.  First, agriculture consists in part of domesticating animals such as horses.  Having animals living in close proximity to humans allows epidemic diseases to pass from the animals into the people.  Agriculture also allows food surpluses to be produced.  This allows for greater population densities and it allows specialists to create technologies.  These technologies include guns and steel swords and they also include government and writing, which are simply different kinds of technology.

In these ways, farming leads to the proximate causes of European power.