In Guns, Germs, and Steel, how does Diamond explain the fact that domesticable American apples were not domesticated until the arrival of Europeans?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jared Diamond uses apples as an example to explore the larger question of domestication. He focuses on the apple species found in North America and treats the absence of domesticated species as a “failure,” and he seeks to assign “fault.”

Diamond argues that Native North American peoples were all nomads,...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Jared Diamond uses apples as an example to explore the larger question of domestication. He focuses on the apple species found in North America and treats the absence of domesticated species as a “failure,” and he seeks to assign “fault.”

Diamond argues that Native North American peoples were all nomads, although there were many groups that successfully practiced agriculture. He concludes that there is a possibility that Native North American people could have domesticated apples but either chose not to do so or were delayed in developing the technology—grafting—required to do so.

Despite his repeated use of the term “failure,” Diamond concludes that there were adequate wild resources or “biological perquisites” available, so the indigenous peoples did not recognize a need to domesticate that particular type of fruit.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You can answer this question by looking at the last page or two of Chapter 8.  There, Diamond gives us two reasons that explain why Native Americans did not domesticate apples on their own.

The first reason is that apples are very difficult to domesticate.  They require people to do such things as grafting a branch from one apple tree onto another tree.  This means that it would be very difficult to discover how to domesticate apples. 

The second reason is that Eurasians had much more time than Native Americans to learn how to domesticate apples.  It took Eurasians 8,000 years from the time they got agriculture to domesticate apples. Native Americans started producing food late due to geographical factors.  If Native Americans had taken 8,000 years to domesticate apples, they would have domesticated them in 5500 AD.  

Therefore, Diamond says geographical luck caused Eurasians to start agriculture much earlier than Native Americans, thus giving them the time to learn how to domesticate apples.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team