Monday, January 10, 2022

Plagues and Pandemics (6) American Continent

The indigenous populations of America were decimated by infectious diseases brought by European conquerors and settlers, who took no responsibility for the harm they were bringing. Recent estimates suggest that the population on the eve of conquest was about one hundred million, with twenty-five to thirty millions of these in Mexican and an equal number in Andean civilisations. Within fifty years, the population of central Mexico had shrunk to a tenth of what it had been.

The first pandemics were smallpox and measles. A few decades later, typhus arrived. Unfortunately, the climate was suitable for the transmission of some of the worst African infections: malaria and yellow fever. These diseases were spread rapidly by slaves brought from Africa.

The scope of this disaster is hard to imagine. The sudden death of three-quarters of the population produced severe economic collapse and repeated human anguish, as entire societies fell apart.

The Europeans travelled to the Americas had a good understanding of quarrantine methods, but they did not bother applying them for the benefit of the people they were conquering, because they considered them to be inferior peoples.

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