Summary and Response for Yali’s Question

The prologue is titled “Yali’s Question”, in which the author explains his reasons of writing this book. In July 1972, the author was in New Guinea to study bird evolution as a biologist, and came across Yali, a local politician. They had friendly conversations on the evolution and lifestyle of New Guineans and Europeans. During the conversation, Yali asked the author a question “why is it white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but black people had little cargo of their own?” The author attempts to answer this question and moreover, extends it to a larger set of contrast within the modern world. For example, his book covers the Eurasian power and domination, inequality in the modern world, technology and political differences at the year of 1500 as well as the developed differences from 11,000B.C. to A.D.1500. Therefore, Yali’s question can be rephrased as “why did human development proceed at such different rate on different continents?”

Yali’s question reminds me of the rise of Western Europe. As far as I know, the discovery of the new world offered Western Europe a chance to dominate in the world. Europe had access to the Atlantic Ocean, which facilitated the Triangle Trade among the Africa, America and Europe. Europeans with money and manufactured goods went to Africa to trade for slaves, who were later sold for goods such as sugar and cotton as well as raw materials such as iron and coal in America. This trade including related slavery- and colonialism- activities brought Europe abundant labors, raw materials and marketplace, which were essential for its later industrialization.