In this talk, recorded in his study in Los Angeles, the geographer and polymath Jared Diamond argues that apparently slight differences in geography can have profound consequences for the culture and history of nations.
He takes as his examples Britain and Japan. "When one examines a globe," he says, "one's first impression is that no country would be more similar to the United Kingdom than is Japan. Japan and the British Isles look like mirror images of each other, as the big archipelagos flanking the Eurasian continent respectively to the east and to the west."
And yet, he argues, "it would be hard to find two modern industrial societies more dissimilar to each other than are Japan and Britain." The comparison, he argues, "reveals the big effects of even modest geographic differences."
Producer: Sheila Cook.