kottke.org posts about gunsgermsandsteel
Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poor. The Brian Greene series on string theory had the same problem.
Jared Diamond's Gun, Germs, and Steel three-part Jul 10 2005
Guns, Germs, and Steel Aug 29 2003
Jared Diamond has written a fantastic book that lays out in simple terms how Europeans came to dominate the rest of the world without resorting to racist notions of Europeans being intrinsically smarter or more gifted than the inhabitants of the rest of the world. Diamond's thesis is so simple and powerful, it seems, as Erdos would say, to come from "God's book of proofs". An illustration of this powerful simplicity is how the orientation of the continents affected the spread of domestication of crops, animals, germs, and ideas (which in turn influenced how fast difference cultures matured):
Why was the spread of crops from the Fertile Crescent so rapid? The answer partly depends on that east-west axis of Eurasia with which I opened this chapter. Localities distributed east and west of each other at the same latitude share exactly the same day length and its seasonal variations. To a lesser degree, they also tend to share similar diseases, regimes of temperature and rainfall, and habitats or biomes (types of vegetation). That's part of the reason why Fertile Crescent [crops and animals] spread west and east so rapidly: they were already well adapted to the climates of the regions to which they were spreading.