Jared Diamond wonderfully describes how societies, which initially had an advantage in food production, were able to advance beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion and ventured by sea and land to conquer and decimate the pre-literate cultures.
Favorite quotes from the book:
“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves”
“In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.”
“Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts between the haves and the have-nots.”