Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Medicine, Health, Europe, America, United States, Population, Disease, Vaccination

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/12/13


Christopher Columbus discovered America is not just - it marked the beginning of the interpenetration of two cultures that have existed for a long time apart from each other. But if the people of the Old World are not only rich, but also received two huge continents for settlement, the Indians put these contacts on the brink of destruction. Let's try to figure out why it happened.
When the expedition of Columbus reached the Caribbean islands, the population of the Americas was a race no less numerous than the Europeans, but much more fragmented. Centers of civilization of Aztecs, Incas and Mayans were situated side by side with primitive tribal affiliations and primitive communities. At the end of the XV century North and South America was inhabited by about 2,200 ethnic groups speak different languages, have different levels of development and often fought with each other.
The Indians did not know the firearms, wheels, iron, ocean vessels and preferred to live in harmony with nature, that they are quite satisfied - cities wore them most iconic character. Europeans, on the other hand, lived in compact settlements and relied more on primitve technique of their time.
The differences in terms of use of natural resources were significant. Flora and fauna of both worlds, come into contact at the behest of Columbus, for a long time developed independently of each other, and because not only domestic, but also wild animals and plants of the Old and New Worlds were different. Consequently, the nutrition and methods of farming were different. The Indians did not use draft animals to work the land, did not know cereals, had almost no livestock-meat diet of Native Americans replenished mainly due to hunting.
At the time of Columbus' arrival the population of the Americas, there are about 112 million people. By the middle of the XVII century the ocean moved barely 100,000 Europeans. Technical superiority and horror on the type of armor-clad horsemen could not explain the military victory of the Europeans. By the way, these victories were not so much. Bows and arrows (including numerical superiority) until the XIX century were quite competitive weapon.
However, by 1520 the population of Columbus' discovery of the islands fell by 50 times. It turned out in each place wherever there were Spaniards. Of course, abuse, bullets and cannonballs could not cause such devastation. And Spaniards were not senseless brutality barbarians, exterminating potential labor force just for fun.


Tens of millions of Indians fell not from European bullets. They were killed by unwitting allies of the white man - bacteria and viruses, when Native Americans faced with a whole bunch of deadly diseases.
Of course, from smallpox, cholera, plague, and even millions of people died of influenza in Europe. But a significant number of whites still work out some immunity and had the skills of treatment. The Indians, almost one hundred percent mortality was observed even chickenpox and scarlet fever. However, the expedition of Columbus just could not bring to the islands of plague, cholera and smallpox. The incubation period of the disease is too short, and if there had been on board the caravel infected in the Caribbean came to court with the dead crew. However, the Arawaks had the flu and with scarlet fever. But the fact is that when the Europeans have mastered the way across the ocean to America were the representatives of alien fauna. With the conquistadors from the ships went horses, dogs and rats, and with them - plague fleas. Vibrio cholerae Europeans brought with water. But earlier plague and cholera in America began to spread smallpox.
Smallpox eliminated Arawaks (to 1518 on the island of Hispaniola they left about 16 thousand out of a million), and then went through the Aztec empire, got to Florida, and in the south reached the Incas. Epidemic, of course, went before the Europeans, as the Indians rather actively communicate with each other. Then it came the turn of the plague. Only during the first third of the XVI century, the Americas 20 waves swept the epidemic. Every five or six years pandemic took the lives of 50-90% of Indians. For the first 150 years of colonization of European diseases killed, presumably, from 80 to 90 million Indians - three-quarters of the local population. Exacerbates the situation is that the local population faced with a cocktail of diseases. Sometimes conquistadors, passing through densely populated country, brought with them the infection and on the way back found piles of corpses. Europeans, by the way, really do not understand what the Indians descend on the heads of such severe punishment the Lord, and tried to treat patients. But pathogens, "found" utterly devoid of human immunity material behaved differently.
But that's not all. Once came the disease remains forever in the New World. Now the Americas have their own natural foci threat of plague, cholera and smallpox. However, the Indians were awarded dubious gift intruders. Many, if not all, members of the first expedition of Columbus returned to Europe infected with syphilis. In the Old World, the disease was unknown, but because it did not immediately recognize. During this time, the mercenaries have carried syphilis throughout Europe. The first victims were fallen soldiers of Charles VIII, who because of the epidemic was forced to interrupt in 1495 invasion of Italy. Then the disease swept across Europe by storm. By 1496 died more than 5 million people, and by 1512 syphilis reached Japan. In the Renaissance, by the way, this disease has become the most common cause of death in Europe.
European settlers were immune to infectious diseases, obviously absent from the Indians. It has been suggested that all epidemic diseases Eurasia and Africa were eventually get a person away from pets - it was some kind of fee for the development of animal husbandry, received virtually no development in pre-Columbian America. According to some estimates, the death rate among the Indians with smallpox reached 80-90%. It is believed that up to 95% of the indigenous population of America was destroyed windswept Europeans diseases.
A large part of the deaths was related to the disease smallpox. Already in 1507 the first case of smallpox was seen on Hispaniola (Haiti); in 1520, together with the Spanish settlers of Hispaniola with smallpox followed to the mainland. According to Toribio de Benavente (Motolino), the Indians were helpless against smallpox, which produced them monstrous action - ill covered with terrible sores; died half the province's population of central Mexico. Mass smallpox epidemic is largely caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and Inca. It is noteworthy that smallpox reached the land of the Incas before the Spanish conquistadors - in 1526, five years before the Spanish invasion; it died from the Inca ruler Huayna Capac. According to current estimates, for the years 1524-1527 of 6 million population Inca Empire died at least 200 thousand people. A smallpox epidemic in the South American continent repeated every ten or twenty years; in 1578 they raised even inaccessible hinterlands of Brazil, where the disease is brought missionaries. In the Jesuits established settlements on the banks of the great rivers of South America - to 100,000 Indians - not later than 1660 deaths from infectious diseases 44 thousand inhabitants, and in the repeat of the epidemic in 1669 - another 20 thousand. Many of the epidemic among the Indians were caused by deliberate actions of the colonizers, such as the issuance of British Indians smallpox-infected blankets, clothes and fabrics practiced more with the 30s of the 18th century. Indians while dying tribes. The establishment of settlements on the east coast of North America in the XVII century was also accompanied by devastating epidemics of smallpox among the Indians, and later among the colonists, already born on American soil. Large Indian city at the mouth of the Mississippi, described Hernando de Soto in 1540, already existed in the second half of the XVII century, when there were the first permanent French settlement. Place to build in 1620 in Plymouth - the first English colony in the New World - was "cleared" terrible epidemic of smallpox among the Indians in the 1617-1619 years.


Contacts between the indigenous population and discoverers of new lands often led to the emergence of new diseases, which in some cases caused localized epidemics exceptionally high degree of virulence. For example, in pre-Columbian America were not such diseases as smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, and others.
Thus, the disease has destroyed all the native population of the Canary Islands in the XVI century; in 1518 from smallpox killed half the population of Haiti. Smallpox also was raging in Mexico in the 1520s, where only one Tenochtitlan died 150 thousand people, including the emperor, and Peru in the 1530s; thus the disease had some assistance to European conquerors. In the XVII century, the indigenous population of Mexico suffered from measles, which claimed the lives of two million people; In addition, in 1618-1619 years there was a smallpox epidemic among American Indians who inhabited the shores of Massachusetts Bay, and in the end there mortality reached 90%. Outbreaks of the disease have also occurred in the second half of the XVIII and XIX centuries the first half of the Indians of the Great Plains, which also led to a significant reduction in population. Some researchers believe that a total of up to 95% of the American population died from diseases which feature of the Old World. Throughout the centuries of contact with agents of these diseases the Europeans have developed them relative stability, while the US had no indigenous population against these diseases no immunity.
Scientists believe that, in turn, from the New World to Europe were also transferred some diseases - for example, syphilis. Research in this area has shown that the corresponding tropical bacteria introduced by Europeans to return home, in the new conditions could mutate into a more dangerous to life and health form.
Rubella, influenza and smallpox literally mow the local population, who do not have immunity against foreign infections. Historians cite different numbers, but most agree that 50 to 90% of Indians who have had contact with sick Europeans find themselves exposed to the disease and simply died. According to a rough estimate in 1519, on the eve of the invasion of Cortez, Central America lived 20 million Indians; to 1650 survived hardly 2-3 million. So, in a way that Europeans had a deadly weapon, which did not even know.


Jones, Gordon W., “The First Epidemic in English America”, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 71, No.1, Part one (January 1963)
Grob, Gerald. The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America (2002) online edition
Cates, Gerald L. "The Seasoning: Disease and Death among the First Colonists of Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 64 (1980): 146–158.
Becker, Ann M., "Smallpox in Washington's Army: Strategic Implications of the Disease during the American Revolutionary War," The Journal of Military History 68, no. 2 (April 2004)
Benenson, Abram S., “Immunization and Military Medicine”, Reviews of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 6 No. 1 (January–February 1984)
Bauer, J.R., "Yellow Fever”, Public Health Reports (1896-1970) Vol. 55, no. Num. 9 (March 1940)
"The Story Of Smallpox". Retrieved 2014-02-28.
"Smallpox: Eradicating the Scourge". Retrieved 2014-02-28.
Pálsson, Hermann (1965). The Vinland sagas: the Norse discovery of America. Penguin Classics. p. 28. ISBN 0-14-044154-9. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
Michael Tadman, "The Demographic Cost of Sugar: Debates on Slave Societies and Natural Increase in the Americas," The American Historical Review Dec. 2000 105
Merrens, H. Roy, and George D. Terry. "Dying in Paradise: Malaria, Mortality, and the Perceptual Environment in Colonial South Carolina," Journal of Southern History 50 (1984): 533–537
Viets, Henry R., "Some Features of the History of Medicine in Massachusetts during the Colonial Period, 1620-1770," Isis (1935), 23:389-405

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, December, 13) Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
"Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers." WePapers, 13 Dec. 2020, Accessed 29 November 2022.
WePapers. 2020. Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers., viewed November 29 2022, <>
WePapers. Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed November 29, 2022]. Available from:
"Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers." WePapers, Dec 13, 2020. Accessed November 29, 2022.
WePapers. 2020. "Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved November 29, 2022. (
"Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers," Free Essay Examples -, 13-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 29-Nov-2022].
Free Essay About Diseases Of British North American Settlers. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 13, 2020. Accessed November 29, 2022.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now