Was disease the key factor in the depopulation of Native Americans in the Americas?
Was disease the key factor in the depopulation of Native Americans in the Americas? There can be no denying that disease played its role in the depopulation of the Americas. Populace tribes went from tens of thousands to hundreds in a matter of years. But the question here is was it the “key” factor or did something else cause their demise?
"European opinion ran the gamut from admiration to contempt; for example, some European poets and painters expressed admiration for the Noble Savage, while other Europeans accepted as a rationalization for military aggression the sentiment that “the only good savage is a dead one.”" (Text p. 184) It was very apparent early on that Europeans had differing opinions about the Native Americans. The Spanish were the first to set their tirade on the native masses. The Spanish severely abused the Indians, took their gold and silver, as well as altered their government, religion, and society. The French were the least invasive to the indigenous peoples. This was mostly due to the fact that the French were either trappers or wanting to convert the natives. But ultimately, it was English settlers that finally collapsed the Natives of North America. The English were merciless in their emigration and came over in droves. (Text p. 184-185) And with these people from England, came disease.
Colin G. Calloway, from New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), supports the theory that disease was the key factor in the depopulation of the Americas. "…diseases accompanied Spanish conquistadors into Central and South America… wreaking havoc among the great civilizations of Mexico, Peru, and Yucatán... It was not long before the unseen killers were at work among the Indian populations of North America." (Text p. 187) Illnesses such as smallpox, measles and typhus ran...
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