What, according to Guns, Germs, and Steel, are the proximate causes of Pizarro's defeat of Atahualpa and the Incas? 

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One very obvious cause of Pizarro’s defeat of Atahualpa and the Incas was superior weapons. They had guns, steel swords, and steel armor. They moved on horses, which gave them an advantage in terms of speed as well as force.  

In addition to advanced weaponry, other factors enabled Pizarro’s win. The Incas had been significantly weakened by diseases such as smallpox long before they encountered the Spanish. Also, the Spanish had a well-developed communication system that enabled them to exchange messages over long distances. Better communication, coupled with maritime developments, facilitated their conquest of other territories. According to Diamond, the lack of a communication system among the Incas was the most probable cause of their defeat. If Atahualpa had prior information about the Spanish and their conquests, he would have predicted their moves and strategized differently.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this can be found in Chapter 3.  There, Diamond lists a number of proximate causes.  These are found on page 80 in the paperback edition of the book.  The proximate causes include:

  • Military technology.  Diamond includes guns, steel weapons, and horses among these.  
  • Infectious diseases that killed many Indians.
  • Ships
  • Centralized political organization that was much more systematic and organized than that of the Incas.
  • Writing

According to Diamond, these proximate causes allowed the Spanish to conquer the Incas.  He then devotes most of the rest of the book to understanding why the Spanish had these advantages and the Incas did not.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel

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