Originally Posted by Kampfringen
I wouldn't recomend Jared Diamonds book Guns, germs, and steel. He completely ignores the Martial Culture of the West and Western Culture in general. He avidly promotes the crazy idea of the "noble savage".
I would read Victor Hansons book Carnage and Culture. He discusses how Western thought, culture , and Martial Culture put the Western world in power and influence around the world.
I completely disagree. I did not see any reason whatsoever to conclude this 'noble savage' idea you are stating.
As far as Guns,Germs and Steel are concerned, that book deals with the propagation and setting-up of civilizations. The next book, "Collapse" is more relevant to this discussion, as it deals with various subject matters concerning hostile takeovers of civilizations and their collapses.
The reason Diamond focusses on the tribal societies and fringe cultures to drive home his point is because the socio-politics of those civilizations are lesser determinants than natural/resource- conditions.
Places like India/China/Mesopotamia etc. have been profoundly impacted by the political and cultural ideologies of those lands- far more than say the Vikings. Ultimately, Diamond's thesis is based on natural determinism.
As per the question of The americas, i would not say that their civilizations were less advanced than the Europeans at the 1400s-1600s timeframe.
But a like-to-like comparisons must be made.
The continental US and Canada were lacking in grain crops like wheat or barley, which are suited to the north american climate. As a result, the cultures of the USA-Canada region tended to be hunter-gatherer-foraging cultures, essentially based on meat-fish-berries diet. Their lifestyle was similar to those of the central asian steppe nomads and technologically speaking, they were just as adept- once you factor in the lack of horses and thus, having far limited roaming grounds.
The central American and South American cultures, which were sedentary, were actually far more advanced than Europe of the reneissance-late medieval period when it came to building, city planning and agriculture.
Buildings on a larger scale, with better stability principles and better form-fitting finish can be observed in Mesoamerica and Incan lands. Their agriculture was far more intensive- not only were the mesoamericans the pioneers in hydroponics, their farming and irrigation methods gave them significantly higher yeild per acre than Eurasia at that timeframe.
As far as the warfare is concerned, the meso-american/south americans were restricted by two prohibitive factors: lack of iron and lack of tin.
This meant that iron and bronze implements were unavailable to them, leaving them with far softer copper implements and obsidian(volcanic glass), which, while holding a far sharper age, was also far more brittle in their make.
Mesoamerica also suffered from another insurmountable problem: they had no pack animals or beasts of burden. The largest native animal of the meso-americas was a small-ish deer. This meant that everything was human-powered- from tilling the land to carrying supplies. The latter( carrying supplies) makes a profound difference in warfare: if you have no animals to carry supplies, your force-projection is far more limited. One can only imagine the limited effectiveness of a human porter, who has to carry food for himself and his comrades- considering that a load no larger than 50-70 pounds is efficient, it is far more restrictive.
Indeed, Mayan city-states were known to've engaged in warfare very close to their cities- cities who were at war with each other were often visible from the top of their temples.
The real success of Hernan Cortez wasn't gunpowder or steel weaponry, it was his horses, which gave him an incredible logistics advantage over the meso-americans.
The terrain is also an important factor- the mesoamericans had very little contact with the 'USA-Canada' natives due to the rocky desert of mexico-arizona and even less contact with the Incas due to the prohibitive landscape of Panama region- mountains covered in dense jungles. The odd fact in meso-american history is that while they independently invented the wheel, their lack of interaction with the north or south Americas meant that they never invented the wagon, while the North American cultures domesticated the donkey but never used the wheel.