Disease and the demography of the Atlantic peoples

10 September 2012 § Leave a comment

10 September

One of my courses this semester is Caribbean history, and presently we are reading articles about the diseases that the Europeans brought, which proved more destructive than the violence of conquest.

“In the comparatively cool highlands the chief killers were the diseases that had been circulating in Europe: pustular infections, such as smallpox and measles, and respiratory infections, such as whooping cough and pneumonia.  The peoples of the lowlands were afflicted by the same diseases plus diseases from the Old World tropics, including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and amoebic dysentery.  These swept into oblivion the small number of West Indians who had survived the initial European onslaught and early epidemics of infections such as smallpox, and eliminated most of the inhabitants of the littoral of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and, in time, the occupants of lowland Brazil and the hot, humid Pacific coasts.”

(from an article by Alfred Crosby)

It makes me think of Guns, Germs, and Steel, which seems but a distant speck in the summer.  Little did I suspect I was doing background reading for the semester.

Oh the school work.  I love it, yet what is this thing called schedule?  The sunshine and trees call.  And listening to something beautiful makes me want to escape to a wood even more.

So goes the winding river . . .


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