Ecological Imperialism

 
 
 
 
One of the most important concepts in the book Ecological Imperialism by Alfred Crosby is the concept of European illnesses and germs making a tremendous impact on the people in the new lands settled. This sometimes-overlooked information is an important part of the puzzle about how and why the Europeans weakened or eradicated entire civilizations. It is well known that the European conquerors aggressively colonized various regions of the world, but it is not so well known that illness was one of the weapons, even if not on purpose. It is the purpose of this essay to discuss the importance of illness in relation to European colonization.

It is of interest that knowledge of germs is rather recent and that earlier people thought of epidemic diseases in terms of the supernatural. Because of this perspective, it is difficult to piece together the epidemiological history of the European colonies. It is known, biologically, that where isolation exists, there is the possibility of decimation when another culture moves in. This is apparently what happened with the Native Americans in North America. They did have their own diseases and germs already hepatitis, encephalitis, polio, and some varieties of tuberculosis but they were completely without defense to the Old World diseases of smallpox, measles, diphtheria, trachoma, whopping, cough, chicken pox, bubonic plague, malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, scarlet fever, and amebic dysentery.

     
 
 
 
    

 

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Category: Science - E
 
 
 
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