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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.

The European settlers apparently had developed some immunity to these diseases from generations of exposure, but the new people encountered did not have such immunity. It is interesting that the Old World settlers brought these diseases, even though they were relatively healthy people, healthy enough to make such long, arduous journeys. But still the previously isolated people were dramatically affected. Even if they were previously healthy, exposure to the new germs brought death in huge numb...

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Ecological Imperialism. (2000, January 01). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 17:46, October 22, 2014, from http://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1696959.html