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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Disease and Climate Drive History

For John, BLUFThe Blogger gets to the point that disease and climate are drives of big changes in history.  And it isn't just the European colonization of the Western Hemisphere.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Chicago Boyz, by the Assistant Village Idiot, 29 February 2020.

Here is the lede plus two:

This was not prompted by Coronavirus discussions in any way.  My reading and podcast listening the past month have both led to considerations of disease affecting historical events.  I have several times thought it would be fun to talk with Trent and Mike K about the subject over a beer or three.

The effect of disease on historical events has usually only been mentioned in extreme cases, when it is obvious that at least some influence must have occurred.  The effect of smallpox on the Aztecs, or the Black Death on the economics of Europe receive some mention, but even in those cases summary histories can leave them out.  Amazing, but true.  There has been some increase over the last twenty years of historians addressing the issue of disease directly, and the last five years has seen an explosive growth in that approach because of what we can learn from archaeology rather than written records.  What has then happened is that the text historians have doubled back and acknowledged “yes, this was there all along, but because we could not clearly understand symptoms nor measure extent we could not make definitive statements.”  So they mostly said nothing.

Or, as I suspect, they preferred other explanations, as we all have, due to the training in how to look at history we have all grown up with.  I may be partly guilty myself.  I have heard doctors offer up possible medical explanations they have run across in their reading, only to be greeted with blank looks and polite smiles.  No, silly.  It’s kings and battles and trade routes and technological advances.  Diseases are just there all the time and have only a marginal effect.  I have been only slightly more sympathetic until the last decade,

Then the Blogger goes on to look at New England in 1620.  It was disease that shaped the history.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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