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Today we will go over Chapter 2; we are reading one chapter a week.

I encourage this to be slow blogging - the very opposite of "breaking".  I will leave this on my hot list for a week, so comment any time during the week.

When we get near the end of GGS, I'll start a poll for the next book

Ground rules: I expect vigorous discussion.  But I expect civil discussion.  A sign I saw in a restaurant said

Be nice or leave

If you want to have a flame war, go elsewhere, please.

In Chapter 2, Diamond surveys the history of Polynesia in general, and of the Chatham Islands in particular.

Polynesia stretches New Zealand to Hawaii.  It encompasses an incredible diversity of island, in terms of pretty much any characteristic you'd care to name: The islands vary in size (1/6 sq. mile to 103,000 sq mi), topography (atolls, volcanic islands, etc), climate (subantarctic to tropical, extremely dry to the wettest places on Earth), type of soil and everything else.  The societies on the islands range from very egalitarian to very hierarchical.  The density of population ranges from 5 per sq mile on the Chathams to 300 on Hawaii and to over 1,000 on tiny Anuta (that's almost the density in Bangladesh).

The Chathams are among the least favorable islands in Polynesia; located 500 miles east-southeast of New Zealand, they are too cold for the tropical crops the settlers brought with them around 1,000 AD, too far from other islands for regular contact, and they have relatively poor soil.  After the initial settlement, they were isolated for several hundred years, until the Maori, on New Zealand wer told about them again.  The name of the tribe changed from Maori to Moriori, they became hunter gatherers, with a very egalitarian and peaceful society.

The north island of New Zealand, on the other hand, is much more favorable to human habitation, and the Maori on that island developed a complex civilization, and also a very warlike one.  Tribes fought each other, and they raided other islands as well.

When the Maori rediscovered the Moriori, they enslaved and killed them all.

Diamond poses this Maori-Moriori interaction, and Polynesian history more generally, as a "natural experiment" in history.  Polynesia offers a large diversity of habitats in a relatively small space; as such, it offers a sort of 'trial run' of Diamond's larger hypotheses about the history of the world.  

Originally posted to plf515 on Sun Jul 26, 2009 at 03:35 AM PDT.

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