Name: _________________________________  PD: _____

WHAP - Guns, Germs and Steel  VIEWING GUIDE  -- Episode 1 (first 30:00)

Pre-Viewing Background:

Try to picture the world as you know it today.  Think of the entire globe.   What places are developed, modern, advanced in technology?  What places are not?  How would you describe those differences?   How might you explain those differences?  Why is it that some places have a lot more “stuff” and trappings of “modern civilization” than other places?  Can we explain those differences?

Now, think back to your earlier U.S. History and World History courses here and in middle school.   Recall the encounter of the Europeans with the indigenous populations in the Americas.  How was it that Spanish Conquistadors with just a couple hundred men were able to defeat much larger Incan and Aztec armies?  How was it that the Europeans so easily conquered and dominated two large continents?   What was going on?  How can it be explained?

Today (and again much later in the course), we will be viewing excerpts from the film Guns, Germs & Steel.  The film follows a book of the same name written by a UCLA scientist named by Jared Diamond which won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction Writing several years ago.  Diamond has an interesting hypothesis for how these inequalities came to be, and his explanation takes us back to where this course begins – at a time before recorded history, before humans had begun to live in “cities” or even communities, or even began to farm.  He takes us back to about 10,000 BCE and makes a strong case about the very early global inequalities that allowed some societies and civilizations to flourish and others to remain, nearly literally, in the Stone Age well into the 20th century.

What to watch for in the film:

As you view the first 30 minutes of the film, take notes about:

  1. Questions Diamond raises.
  2. Theories Diamond poses.
  3. Evidence and Facts that Diamond offers in support of his theories.

I’ve listed some fact-based questions directly related to the film that you might think about as you watch the film. We will discuss them as class after the episode.  Don’t worry about answering them specifically in your notes.

Some Questions to have in mind before film begins.  

(Don’t worry about them too much as you view the film)

  1. What does Diamond say “guns” “germs” & “steel” represent?
  2. What is the big question Diamond poses?
  3. What is the Question that Diamond’s friend Yali asks?  What do the New Guineans mean by “cargo”?
  4. How did Western colonialists usually answer Yali’s question?
  5. What 3 things does Diamond say all great civilizations have in common?
  6. To answer the origins of inequality, D knew he would have to go back to when people were living more or less the same … to a time before inequality.  When was that time?    
  7. What is the principal problem with hunting and gathering?
  8. What 2 cereal grasses does Diamond say would “set humanity on a course toward modern civilization?  Where were those 2 crops growing?
  9. What is the significance of the ancient granaries that were found in the Middle East?
  10. How were the people in those ancient communities able to find enough grain to fill a granary in a time of drought and scarcity?
  11. What does it mean for a crop to be “domesticated”?  What are the advantages of domesticating wild crops?
  12. Why was domesticating crops & farming such a decisive turning point in human history?
  13. How does Diamond explain the fact that farming did not lead to great civilizations everywhere?  

Put two columns on a separate sheet of paper to take notes during the video.

Preliminary Notes (key words, quick thoughts)

 -- Questions / Theories / Evidence and Facts

Expanded Meaning (written soon after the film excerpt ends)

Post-Viewing Exercise work at home before the next class:

  1. Expand on your Notes in the Right-hand column.

Try to make the meaning from your preliminary jotted-down notes more meaningful.  

It is best to do this SOON after you view the film.

  1. Try to answer some of the specific fact-based questions below.   (You may not be able to answer all of them.)

  1. Respond to the following:

What do you make of Diamond’s theory?  

Can geography fully explain the inequalities among different parts of the world today?  

What weaknesses or strengths do you see in Diamond’s theory?