In Guns, Germs and Steel, how did irrigation development affect the development of river civilizatons?
Diamond in this book explores many different factors that could account for why some civilisations developed faster than others and moved from small groups of hunter-gatherers into larger, more organised groups characterised by bureaucracy and a concentration of numbers. One theory that he explores is that large-scale irrigation systems necessitated a state system and bureaucracy in order for them to run successfully. This approach therefore argues that such nations chose to merge their chiefdoms into one larger group so as to capitalise on the benefits of large-scale irrigation. However, Diamond does not agree with this view:
Construction of large-scale irrigation systems did not accompany the emergence of states but came only significantly later in each of those areas. In most of the states formed over the Maya area of Mesoamerica and the Andes, irrigation systems always remained small-scale ones that local communities could build and maintain themselves.
Large-scale irrigation systems did not by themselves cause chiefdoms to develop into larger civilisations, but were a secondary cause, Diamond argues. Thus he successfully manages to debunk the myth that large-scale irrigation by itself was what caused development in early civilisations.