The Silent Killers of the New World

A paper which examines how disease played a major role in shaping the European conquest of the New World.

This paper details how the invasion of the European settlers into North America was aided by the diseases brought with them. It explains the nature of these diseases, why the Europeans were immune while the Native Americans were not, how they were spread so quickly and easily, why they were so deadly and how they became the deciding factor in the European invasion of North America. It also details how these microbes impacted on the African slave trade.
“The European conquest of the New World was fueled not only by weaponry, warfare, and greed but also by a secret, invisible, and lethal agent – microbes. These soldiers of infectious disease played a major role in shaping the European conquest of the New World. The Europeans through years of prior exposure and adapted immune systems successfully warded off these killers, indiscriminate by nature. Beaten back by the European invaders, these agents found a home in the New World in the bodies of the Native Americans dwelling there. On some accounts, during the first few centuries after Columbus landed in the New World in 1492, more Native Americans died each year from infectious disease than were born (Meltzer 38). However, it is clear on any account of history that the principle element responsible for the rapid demise of the Native Americans after their initial contact with Europeans was their extreme susceptibility to European microbes, the silent killers of the New World.”

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