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Old December 16th, 2017, 01:10 AM   #1

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Hunter-Gatherers Always Lose to Farmers?


I've very recently started reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Early on in the book, the author makes the argument of how agricultural societies almost always win against hunter-gatherer nomadic societies.

But, what about the early Arab Islamic invasions of Persian and Roman Middle East and North Africa/Mediterranean?
Or the Mongol invasions of, well, most of Asia and Russia?

Surely both of them took on empires that supported significantly more people and perhaps even superior technology.

Do you think the assumption that nomads always lose can hold true always?

Last edited by Satuf; December 16th, 2017 at 01:17 AM.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 01:15 AM   #2

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In the long term the agricultural societies will always win. Even if we consider the Mongols and Arabs to be strictly hunter gatherers, which is debatable, they cannot win in the long term, even if this takes several centuries. By which time the invaders are usually assimilated into the lifestyle of the vanquished.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 01:24 AM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belgarion View Post
In the long term the agricultural societies will always win. Even if we consider the Mongols and Arabs to be strictly hunter gatherers, which is debatable, they cannot win in the long term, even if this takes several centuries. By which time the invaders are usually assimilated into the lifestyle of the vanquished.
You're right about both not being strict hunter-gatherers, as both most certainly raised livestock. But they weren't farming societies in the same scale as those they've subdued.

I suppose the technological gap between Arabs and Persians/Romans and between Mongols and everyone else wasn't as great as the gap between the Sioux and the Europeans?
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Old December 16th, 2017, 05:41 AM   #4

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As far as the Arab Islamic conquests go, it should be considered that the plague that hit the Byzantine Empire in the mid sixth century had decimated the population, and by the time of the Islamic invasion of the first part of the seventh century it was still an ongoing problem. Possibly the Levant had suffered a loss of 40% of it's pre plague population. The Muslim Arabs marched into almost a wasteland.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 05:48 AM   #5

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Yes, In the long run, the farmers/herders outnumbered the hunters/gatherers because their food supply was more reliable. They could feed a larger population.

Having more people equals having more eyes and more brains with which to invent the future.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 08:40 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satuf View Post
I've very recently started reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Early on in the book, the author makes the argument of how agricultural societies almost always win against hunter-gatherer nomadic societies.

But, what about the early Arab Islamic invasions of Persian and Roman Middle East and North Africa/Mediterranean?
Or the Mongol invasions of, well, most of Asia and Russia?

Surely both of them took on empires that supported significantly more people and perhaps even superior technology.

Do you think the assumption that nomads always lose can hold true always?
There are not only Hunther-Gatherer and Farmer, there is Pastoralism too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastoralism
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Old December 16th, 2017, 09:02 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corvidius View Post
As far as the Arab Islamic conquests go, it should be considered that the plague that hit the Byzantine Empire in the mid sixth century had decimated the population, and by the time of the Islamic invasion of the first part of the seventh century it was still an ongoing problem. Possibly the Levant had suffered a loss of 40% of it's pre plague population. The Muslim Arabs marched into almost a wasteland.
Disease has always had a major influence on history.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 09:16 AM   #8

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Agricultural societies by definition have greater energy storage, and so consequently a greater capacity to produce superior technology (including weaponry). They also tend to have more people to participate in military exercises.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 09:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isleifson View Post
There are not only Hunther-Gatherer and Farmer, there is Pastoralism too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastoralism
Yes, nomadic pastoralists still exist in northern latitudes, reinder herders for example.

Where hunter gatherers come under pressure is when there is competition for land or resources. Deforestation, because of the value of the timber, is a major threat to hunter gatherers in the rain forest.
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Old December 16th, 2017, 03:12 PM   #10
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The Arabs and Mongols were herders, which is very different from hunter-gatherers. They typically have a good deal more complex social organization (tribal level) than hunter gatherers (band level).
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