Disease and Native American Demise During the European Conquest of the New World

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Disease and Native American Demise During the European Conquest of the New World The European conquest of the new world was most commonly attributed to the superiority of the Europeans in all the facets of their confrontation. They had the superior weaponry, and were thought to have a superior intellect. After all, they were just bringing "civilization" to the new world, right? It sounds nice when you are learning about Columbus in grade school, but the traditional story is pretty far from the truth. The truth is that the Europeans, when they discovered this was a brand new world and not the spice islands, sought to rape the land for its gold and natural resources and enslave the Amerindians (native Americans), who were regarded to be less than human. One has to wonder why it was so easy for the Europeans to impose their will on the Amerindians. Was it solely because the Europeans were superior technologically and intellectually? Unfortunately the answer is not that simple. The Europeans were superior in those areas, but the bulk of the disaster they imposed was not what they knew, but what they brought with them, disease. Disease, on the epidemic level, is thought to be the major factor in the decline of the Amerindians during the age of discovery. Before I go any further, I feel that I should clarify the difference between the terms epidemic and endemic disease. An epidemic disease is a disease that enters into a population and completely ravages it. Epidemics are particularly destructive because they are usually diseases that have never been introduced into that specific population. A good example of an epidemic is the bubonic plague, or smallpox. Smallpox uncontrollably ravaged Europe for more than two hundred years.... ... middle of paper ... ... the disease that accompanied an average race of people that made the difference in the conquest of the Americas Bibliography Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism The Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. ---. The Columbian Exchange. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1972. McNeil, William H. Plagues and People. Garden City: Anchor Press, 1976. Verano, John, and Douglas Ubelaker. Disease and Demography in the Americas. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. Cowley, Geoffery. "The Great Disease Migration." Newsweek Fall/Winter 1991: 54-56. Snow, Dean, and Kim Lanphear. "European Contact and Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics." Ethnohistory Winter 1988: 15-33. Diamond, Jared. "The Arrow of Disease." Discover October 1992: 64-73.

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