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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For High School History Teachers looking for something to challenge their more amazing students.

Diamond, Jared (1999) Guns, Germs and Steel:  The Fates of Human Societies  New York:  Norton

This book is not written for high school students, but since high school students tend to straddle the young adult and adult mega-genres, and since some of your students are really bright and need a challenge, I wanted to mention it.
     The premise it really interesting.  Diamond brings the tools of science to bear on the questions of history -- mainly why certain civilizations developed in certain ways and eventually conquered other civilizations.  Specifically, for example, why is it that  the tiny nation of Spain was able to completely conquer that far more numerous, well-organized, and experienced armies of the Incans instead of the Incans conquering the Spaniards.  Well, obviously, you say, the Spaniards had huge ocean-going vessels and gunpowder.  Indeed, but why did they have these things and the Incans didn't?  And why did the Incans and many Native Americans all the way up into Canada die from exposure to the germs of the Spaniards instead of the other way around.  The answer lies in a complicated series of variables that calls upon evolutionary biology, climatology, plant biology, geology, anthropology, and other disciplines besides.  The resulting treasure hunt for answers is a wonderful ride.. 
     Again, though, most of your students will not care for this book.  Get it for the one or two who will find it fascinating -- because this book may be able to fan a spark of interest into a career-spanning flame.   Great book.

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