illustrated profile of a man spitting in the same direction that a pistol and three steel bars are pointing

Guns, Germs, and Steel

by Jared Diamond

Start Free Trial

Why didn't Aboriginal Australians develop metal tools, writing, and complex societies according to Guns, Germs, and Steel?

Expert Answers

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

The answer to this can be found in Chapter 15.  Specifically, it can be found on pages 311 through 313 of the paperback edition.  The question you ask is taken verbatim from p. 311 and the answer to the question is found in the subsequent pages.

The main reason why the Australian Aborigines did not develop these things is that they were not able to develop agriculture.  Diamond tells us that things like metal tools and complex political societies only emerge in places where agriculture can support sedentary populations.  Australia could not.

This brings up the second main reason.  Australia had a small population because agriculture could not flourish there.  This meant that there were not very many people who could potentially invent technology.  What people there were were also spaced out into many groups that did not interact much with one another.

Diamond emphasizes throughout this book that societies need to have good geographic luck so they can develop agriculture.  They need agriculture to develop civilizations that have things like metal tools and complex political systems.  Australia did not have geography that was conducive to agriculture so its people remained “backwards.”

This brings up the second main reason.  Because Australia had no agriculture, it could not have a large human population.  This means that there were fewer people who could invent technology.

One of Diamond’s major points in this book is that only societies with good geographic luck get to develop agriculture.  It is only those sorts of society that get to have   things like metal tools and complex political systems.  Australia was not lucky.  It did not have the sorts of animals and plants that were needed to create an agricultural economy.  For this reason, it did not develop a complex and modern society.

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

According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why did Aboriginal Australians not develop metal tools, writing, and complex political societies?

The Aboriginal Australians suffered mostly from their geographic location, the environment and adverse climates. Although Australia had been inhabited much earlier and saw developments in stone tools and water transport, the people did not pursue these developments much further. The author attributes this stagnation to poor environment and harsh climates. The people were unable to develop their food cultivation and weapons. There were no animals to domesticate because by the time people settled on the continent most native mammals had become extinct. These challenges forced the Aborigines to become hunters and gatherers leading a nomadic way of life. The group was more focused on survival and kept moving around especially towards the wet areas of the continent. It is by their arrival to these wet areas that they began some form of land management and development of canals to enhance their fishing. The challenges that the Aborigines faced naturally impeded their progress and the decision to become hunters and gatherers was their only option given the circumstances.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why did Aboriginal Australians not develop metal tools, writing, and complex political societies?

The answer to this can be found in Chapter 15.  It is very much in line with Diamond's argument in the book as a whole.  Basically, Diamond says that Aboriginal Australians did not develop these things because they were unlucky in terms of geography.  Australia was not a good place for agriculture to arise.  There were not many domesticable plants or animals and the climate was unpredictable.  Because of these things, agricultural societies could not arise.  If agricultural societies do not arise, the things that you mention cannot develop.  Thus, Aborigines did not develop these things because the geography of their continent was not conducive to agriculture.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why did the Australians not develop things like metal tools, writing, and political societies?

The answer to this can be found in Chapter 15.  There, Diamond tells us that the Aboriginal Australians did not develop these sorts of things because they were unlucky in terms of geography.

Diamond says that Australia was really not very well suited to developing agriculture on its own.    He cites two major problems.  First, he says that Australia is inhospitable because of its dry and unpredictable climate.  Second, he says that there are very few domesticable wild plants and animals.  Since there were so few plants and animals that could be domesticated, and since the climate was not great, it was not possible for agriculture to develop.  Because agriculture could not develop, the things that you mention could not develop either since they can only develop in agricultural societies.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why did the people of Australia not develop metal tools, writing or complex political systems?

Diamond’s thesis in Guns, Germs and Steel is that geography played a deciding role in the rise of civilization and the spread of technologies like agriculture, written language, and the use of metals. Australia, isolated from the rest of the world, is a case in point. Diamond points out that Australia is “by far the driest, smallest, flattest, most infertile, climatically most unpredictable, and biologically most impoverished continent.” As a result, Australia was never able to support the population densities needed to develop those technologies. Diamond compares Australia to its neighbor, New Guinea. New Guinea, although only one-tenth the size of Australia, is much wetter, has far richer soil, and a wider range of climates. For this reason, people in New Guinea were able to domesticate local crops, develop and use pottery, and invent technologies like the bow and arrow.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why did the people of Australia not develop metal tools, writing or complex political systems?

In Chapter 15, Diamond tells us that Australian natives did not develop these things because of their bad geographical luck.  The geography of Australia did not allow for agriculture and a lack of agriculture meant no large societies that could create such things.

Australia had no domesticable animals since all large animals were made extinct when humans arrived.  It had bad soil and is the driest continent.  It also has a very unpredictable climate.  Diamond says it is hard to make modern agriculture work well in Australia and so it would have been essentially impossible to make it work with what the Aboriginal Australians had.

Because they couldn't farm, the Australians couldn't have dense populations, which are needed to give rise to things like tools, writing, and complex political systems.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on