Americapox: The Missing Plague

Americapox: The Missing Plague

Between the first Europeans arriving
in 1492 and the Victorian age, the indigenous population of the New World dropped by at
least 90%. The cause? Not the conquistadors and company — they killed
lots of people but their death count is nothing compared to what they brought with them: small
pox, typhus, tuberculosis, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, mumps, measles and more leapt
from those first explorers to the costal tribes, then onward the microscopic invaders spread
through a hemisphere of people with no defenses against them. Tens of millions died. These germs decided the fate of these battles
long before the fighting started. Now ask yourself: why didn’t the Europeans get
sick? If New-Worlders were vulnerable to old-world
diseases, then surely Old-Worlders would be vulnerable to New World diseases. Yet, there was no Americapox spreading eastward
infecting Europe and cutting the population from 90 million to 9. Had Americapox existed
it would have rather dampened European ability for transatlantic expansion. To answer why this didn’t happen: we need
first to distinguish regular diseases — like the common cold — from what we’ll call plagues. 1. Spread quickly between people. Sneezes spread plagues faster than handshakes
which are faster than closeness. Plagues use more of this than this. 2. They kill you quickly or you become immune. Catch a plague and you’re dead within seven
to thirty days; survive and you’ll never get it again. Your body has learned to fight it.
You might still carry it — the plague lives in you, you can still spread it — but it can’t
hurt you. The surface answer to this question isn’t
that Europeans had better immune systems to fight off New World plagues — it’s that the New
World didn’t have plagues for them to catch. They had regular diseases but there was no
Americapox to carry. These are history’s biggest killers, and they
all come from the Old World. But why? Let’s dig deeper, and talk cholera: a plague
that spreads if your civilization does a bad job of separating drinking water from pooping
water. London was terrible at this, making it the cholera capital of the world. Cholera
can rip through dense neighborhoods, killing swaths of the population before moving onward.
But that’s the key: it has to move on. In a small, isolated group, a plague like
cholera cannot survive — it kills all available victims, leaving only the immune and then
theres nowhere to go — it’s a fire that burns through its fuel. But a city — shining city on the hill — to
which rural migrants flock, where hundreds of babies are born a day: this is sanctuary
for the fire of plague; fresh kindling comes to it. The plague flares and smolders and
flares and smolders again — impossible to extinguish. Historically, in city borders, plagues killed
faster than people could breed. Cities grew because more people moved to them than died
inside of them. Cities only started growing from their own population in the 1900s when
medicine finally left its leaches and bloodletting phase and entered its soap and soup phase, giving humans some tools to slow death. But before that a city was an unintentional
playground for plagues and a grim machine to sort the immune from the rest. So the deeper answer is that the New World
didn’t have plagues because the New World didn’t have big, dense, terribly sanitized
deeply interconnected cities for plagues to thrive. OK, but The New World wasn’t completely barren
of cities, and tribes weren’t completely isolated. Otherwise the newly-arrived smallpox in the
1400s couldn’t have spread. Cities are only part of the puzzle: they’re
required for plagues, but cities don’t make the germs that start the plagues — those
germs come from the missing piece. Now, most germs don’t want to kill you, for
the same reason you don’t want to burn down your house; germs live in you. Chronic diseases
like leprosy are terrible because they’re very good at living in you and not killing you. Plague lethality is an accident, a misunderstanding,
because the germs that cause them don’t know they’re in humans; they think
they’re in this. Plagues come from animals. Whooping cough comes from pigs, as does flu,
as well as from birds. Our friend the cow alone is responsible for measles, tuberculosis,
and smallpox. For the cow these diseases are no big deal
— like colds for us. But when cow germs get in humans, the things they do to make a
cow a little sick to spread make humans very sick. Deadly sick. Now, germs jumping species like this is extraordinarily
rare. That’s why generations of humans can spend time around animals just fine. Being
the patient zero of a new animal-to-human plague is winning a terrible lottery. But a colonial-age city raises the odds: there
used to be animals everywhere; horses, herds of livestock in the streets, open slaughterhouses,
meat markets pre-refrigeration, and rivers of human and animal excrement running
through it all. A more perfect environment for diseases to
jump species could hardly be imagined. So the deeper answer is that plagues come
from animals, but so rarely that you have to raise the odds with many chances for infection
and even then the new-born plague needs a fertile environment to grow. The Old World had the necessary pieces
in abundance. But why was a city like London filled with
sheep and pigs and cows and Tenochtitlan wasn’t? This brings us to the final level, for this
video anyway. Some animals can be put to human use — this
is what domestication means: animals you can breed, not just hunt. Forget for a the moment the modern world: go back
to 10,000BC when tribes of humans reached just about everywhere. If you were in one
of these tribes, what local animals could you capture, alive, and successfully pen to breed? Maybe you’re in North Dakota and thinking
about catching a Buffalo: an unpredictable, violent tank on hooves, that can outrun you
across the planes, leap over your head and travels in herds thousands strong. Oh, and you have no horses to help you — because
there are no horses on the continent. Horses live here — and won’t be brought over until
too late. It’s just you, a couple buddies, and stone-based
tools. American Indians didn’t fail to domesticate buffalo because they couldn’t figure it out.
They failed because it’s a buffalo. No one could do it — buffalo would have been amazing
creatures to put to human work back in BC, but it’s not going to happen — humans have
only barely domesticated buffalo with all our modern tools. The New World didn’t have good animal candidates
for domestication. Almost everything big enough to be useful is also too dangerous,
or too agile. Meanwhile the fertile crescent to central
Europe had cows and pigs and sheep and goats: easy-peasy animals comparatively begging
to be domesticated. A wild boar is something to contend with if
you only have stone tools but it’s possible to catch and pen and breed and feed to eat
— because pigs can’t leap to the sky or crush all resistance beneath their hooves. In the New World the only native domestication
contestant was: llamas. They’re better than nothing — which is probably why the biggest
cities existed in South America — but they’re no cow. Ever try to manage a heard of llamas
in the mountains of Peru? Yeah, you can do it, but it’s not fun. Nothing but drama, these
llamas. These might seem, cherry-picked examples,
because aren’t there hundreds of thousands of species of animals? Yes, but when you’re
stuck at the bottom of the tech tree, almost none of them can be domesticated. From the
dawn of man until this fateful meeting, humans domesticated; maybe a baker’s dozen of unique
species the world over. And even to get that high a number you need to stretch it to include
honeybees and silkworms; nice to have, but you can’t build a civilization on a foundation
of honey alone. These early tribes weren’t smarter, or better
at domestication. The Old World had more valuable and easy animals. With dogs, herding sheep
and cattle is easier. Now humans have a buddy to keep an eye on the clothing factory, and
the milk and cheeseburger machine, and the plow-puller. Now farming is easier, which
means there’s more benefit to staying put, which means more domestication, which means
more food which means more people and more density and oh look where we’re going. Citiesville:
population: lots; bring your animals; plagues welcome. That is the full answer: The lack of New World
animals to domesticate limited not only exposure to germs sources but also limited food production,
which limited population growth, which limited cities, which made plagues in the New World
an almost impossibility. In the Old [World], exactly the reverse, and thus a continent full of
plague and a continent devoid of it. So when ships landed in the New World, there
was no Americapox to bring back. The game of civilization has nothing to do
with the players, and everything to do with the map. Access to domesticated animals in
numbers and diversity is the key resource to bootstrapping a complex society from nothing
— and that complexity brings with it, unintentionally, a passive biological weaponry devastating
to outsiders. Start the game again but move the domesticable
animals across the sea and history’s arrow of disease and death flows in the opposite
direction. This still does leave one last question. Just
why are some animals domesticable and others not? Why couldn’t American Indians domesticate
deer? Why can’t zebras be domesticated? They look just like horses. And what does it mean
to tame an animal? To answer that, click here for part 2. This video has been brought to you by
and was a presentation of Diamond’s theory as laid out in his book Gun, Germs and Steel.
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100 thoughts on “Americapox: The Missing Plague”

  1. Friggin cows at my father in laws 2 years ago had a viral upper respiratory cold that in 2 weeks time humans all over were displaying the exact same symptoms of. Totally opened my eyes to animals ability to spread disease.

  2. I am just going to completely ignores differences in human races average intelligence, endurance, temperament, size, etc.

  3. My question is: How are these animals able to live with diseases/plagues and not die considering they're made of the same animal cells (as opposed to plant cells) as humans?! I could understand if plants had them considering 'cell wall' and all that, but not animal cells/protein!

  4. That is why I always laugh when I heart he false narrative that the colonists stole the Indians land. They were killed off by disease and the settlers occupied freshly depopulated land.

  5. Propaganda…. they killed more old world people with syphilis than all the old world diseases combined killed new world people….. yes the old world had far more people but syphilis was the number one killer after the new world was discovered killing more old world people than even lived in the new world to begin with

  6. The Americas had developed complex agriculture quite early on separately, without animals. There were certainly cities and highly populated regions too. Yes, fewer animals, but your argument seemed to suggest that without animals there was no sedentary farming which is false.

  7. The Aliens unintentionally used a disease to wipe out the indigenous.

    Just imagined being alive back then and having a nervous break down because of my living standards in the 1600’s. I’m a germaphobe I would die from a heart attack I get real anxiety and stress when I worry about filth

    Horses and Camels originated in North America. Around the same times humans were using Land ridges to cross Eurasia into North America are the same bridges Horses and Camels used to spread to Eurasia right before Yellowstone erupted and killed off all the remaining Horses in North America. European settlers brought Horses back and they didn’t even realize the amazing thing they were doing yet.

  8. Stay away from cartoon science. . Missing all the real info. . Malnutrition from crop losses and cold climate = pestilence. . Careful where you get your info. There is History, and there is His-story. . This is the later with much missing.

  9. Yeah but native Americans were dying off well before Europeans came. Old signs from before we came show that they had a population to kick Europe right in the a**. if they were advanced that is.

  10. Didnt the natives give the European settlers syphilis? I read somewhere that the first case of syphilis in Europe happened after Columbus got back from the New World

  11. Didn't the new world have rabbits(or hares), and wolves to domesticate. I mean even if we are talking about stone tools, if they could build tents I'm sure they could build a pens. Also didn't the Incas or Peruvians demoesticate Guinea Pigs and also Alpacas???

  12. can you explain how they domesticated elephants in Africa and Asia for 20,000 years but the Natives or no one could domesticate the buffalo!!?

  13. Poorly done video imo. Doesn't make any sense. Cities are not required for plauges. Clearly, native america was a fine environment for smallpox, because it spread so incredibly far and fast. 100% of it was animal husbandry. And white people ARE more resistant to disease, genetically. Given the hundreds of years of being killed off by them.

  14. 10:27 "unintentionally"? It's a well known thing that Europeans brought with them and then gave Native Americans blankets laced with smallpox. 4:02 doesn't he mean to say 'usanitized'

  15. Have to disagree about the access of suitable animals for domestication. Now the native Americans did not have access to chickens, but they certainly had access to waterfowl, and even better, turkeys. Rabbits were domesticated in Europe and Asia, but hares and Jackrabbits were not domesticated in the Americas. There are also prairie dogs and ground hogs that would also have been suitable for domestication. These all wouldn't be helpful for agriculture, but they breed fast and would be a good source of meat, yet none of these were domesticated. The Turkey you buy at the store is a descendant of a wild north American Turkey, that Europeans domesticated. Your assertion is incorrect. Native Americans had the opportunity, but still did not domesticate animals.

  16. Cows were just as dangerous if not more when they were aurochs. Claiming that buffalo are impossible to domesticate is a little ridiculous.

    Deer are agile but horses aren't?

  17. If the spanish and french were so sick how come they survived the journey on the sea ? None should have returned back to Europe yet they did . Native americans had diseases of their own as all humans have .

  18. Weirdly missed Malaria, which if I recall migrated to the Americas partly because of the TAST, and was pretty deadly in the rainforest plantation regions. Maybe I’m mixing it up with something tho

  19. So all the sailors who died in America all died of murder or old age? OK maybe some had accidents. I smell bull doo doo! I can't believe that America had no animals for farming.

  20. Well, they had the turkey. Also capybara and tapyrs could have been domesticated instead of pigs. They had wolves and dingos to domesticate dogs, in fact I think they had dogs. And lamas are still good.

  21. Going off the fact of the Black Death killed 2/3 of Europe, and how the ones who lived are immune, that could mean if the plague ever DID come back, Europe would be rather safe


  23. The most recent research on dogs is that they are not directly descended from wolves. They shared a common ancestor about 35,000 years ago that died out.

    There does not appear to have been any dogs in the Americas to domesticate.

  24. Who told you they almost die out because of diease? The whiteman's government! Oh, yeah, i am totally believe that! 🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐

  25. You’re wrong. Native Americans didn’t domesticate the Buffalo because domesticating an animal is stupid. Better to domesticate the landscape so there’s tons of buffaloes that take care of themselves, and you just hunt them. Far less work, far more natural human life in a sustainable landscape. Old world peoples where forced to domesticate animals because of exploitation and slavery.

  26. My thoughts:
    1: Can't build a civilization on honeybees? You obviously haven't seen my old modded civilization games.
    2: Nothing to do with the players and everything to do with the map? You've obviously seen my old modded civilization games. Those honeybees were WAY overpowered.

  27. This raises an interesting question: could a plague have developed in Peru? They had the llama and alpaca, plus large cities like Cuzco. If a plague had developed out of Peru, I wonder how that might've impacted the history of colonialism

  28. And Japan planned on using the plauge on the USA
    Tgey were almost ready, like if we waited two weeks
    To use the bomb , we would have had a deliberately created plauge in the USA in the 40's

  29. Also, higiene. It's very different to have a city where people walk (sometimes barefoot) on their own poop on a daily basis and another where people bathe pretty much daily and there's no trace of filth on the streets.

  30. This is a good point but with that, if plagues were not able to spread in the new world before the Europeans arrived why did they spread after they arrived.

  31. Regarding dogs: sure but EVERY continent has them and there's actually some evidence that suggests coyotes in north America were once partially domesticated.

  32. Omitting the intended small-pox infected blankets …re-writes the intentional distribution of biological warfare

  33. Me watching this on other monitor while playing Rimworld. "Oh that's cute, the map graphic looks like Rimworld's hexagons. 'Beep boop. The following colonists have flu.' FML. I blame this video.

  34. the question left unanswered for me was not how/why domestication and husbandry came about. Mine is about blankets. The dissemination of smallpox infected blankets. It's often spoken of in a way that would imply and is often inferred as being intentionally infected. But no one ever seems to stop pussyfooting and affirm or deny that claim Prima Facie. By the age of discovery, germ warfare existed. Like using corpses of plague victims to introduce Yersinia Pestis on a city/garrison under siege. Were blankets ever weaponized through deliberate infection with smallpox? Or is it hyperbole that's meant to convey the notion smallpox spread with such speed & ferocity it was as though this was a coordinated and intentional attack…

  35. The Europeans did contract a plague from the Americas, it’s still infecting people globally today. It’s called Syphilis and it killed tens of millions of people in Europe in Asia during the centuries after Columbian contact.

  36. Now that I see that there is a completely random reason for the way that Humanity has developed, it’s as if all of the touchy politics that surround this issue have been suddenly dispelled, at least for the moment.

  37. "'Between the first European arriving in 1492-" shows a picture of the first European arriving in 1492
    "-And the Victorian ages" proceeds to show a picture of the Dutch Golden age which happened 100-200 years before the Victorian age

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