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American History 9/8/16

by: Max Skidelsky

American History 9/8/16 HIST 1310

Max Skidelsky

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About this Document

These notes cover what was discussed in the lecture, and could be used to supplant potential papers.
Intro to American History
Class Notes
american, history
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Max Skidelsky on Saturday September 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 1310 at George Washington University taught by Silverman in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see Intro to American History in American History at George Washington University.


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Date Created: 09/24/16
9/8/16 Celebrations such as thanksgiving were an effort to display colonization as justified and in a sense that Native Americans found acceptable. In 1619, Squanto and Thomas Dermer returned to America (Squanto had spent five years as a prisoner in England), only to find that most of the New England region—from Maine to Chesapeake—had been decimated by diseases (though Europeans describe the overall affliction as ‘the plague,’ it should be noted that this is not the Bubonic Plague that ravaged Medieval Europe, but rather a series of other deadly diseases includith Smallpox, Malaria, and so on). 90% of the population died rapidly during the early- to mid-17 century. Smallpox was among the worst of the diseases that caused Native Americans such as the Wampanoags to suffer horrendously. Missionaries were convinced that the diseases were a reflection of God’s attitude toward sin, and since only the Native Americans were being afflicted, they concluded God was punishing them for sin, and sparing the colonists—who had been spared most of the diseases. As a result of mass infections of such deadly diseases, scores of Native Americans died rapidly during short periods of time. As a result, tribes became depleted in terms of how many people it had, particularly important not just in tribal affairs but with respects to the colonists. Such tribes became targets of other Native Americans who hoped to conquer or incorporate additional peoples and acquire greater tributes. This same attitude was reflected with the colonists who then on colonized based on diseased locations—in areas where diseases had wiped out most of the indigenous population, leaving behind a less protected still fertile land, the Europeans flourished. Arguably, the Columbian exchange, which brought about this influx of diseases, was the worst disaster in human history, as it was responsible for death on an unforeseen scale, and since unparalleled (by roughly any estimate). Although steady contact with Native Americans on the whole would not be achieved until the early 1800s, the impact still hit deep into Native American territory even without direct contact through trade and disease. The devastation wrecked on Native Americans ravaged across the American continents, and decimated the populations nearly completely. In the northeast, the southwest, across South America —populations plummeted and fell by substantial figures in just a few decades. Despite vastly outnumbering European settlers during their early arrival, Native Americans (who then represented approximately 1/7 th of the world’s population) were quickly outnumbered themselves by the early 20 thcentury. The term ‘virgin land,’ applied by Europeans, is in fact inaccurate compared to ‘widowed land.’ Europeans had experienced these diseases in their youth and on the whole survived, and thusly maintained an immunity to it. Native American virgin soil was unprepared for a string of diseases that attacked all at once. European colonialism created the conditions for diseases through a variety of means, such as the slave trade, wherein imported Africans intended to supplant lost labor due to Native American resistance or demise, brought with them African diseases such as Malaria. Additional factors include raids on Native American tribes, which introduced diseases directly. Native Americans coped with this massive death poorly—some committed suicide themselves or lost their minds entirely, unable to comprehend the enormous amount of grief. Others, however, managed to cope with their tremendous losses through revived and new religious traditions related to honoring or burying the dead in new ways. Some believed that if they converted to Christianity, there would be spiritual benefits, considering the colonists’ health (There is a case where some survived for 40 something years), though when the ‘protection’ failed, they would blame the Jesuits. Other important religious implications include the rise of religious prophets who spoke to spirits about diseases, and maintained a religious responsibility to replace the dead (Mourning Wars). There are extremely few cases of Europeans purposefully infecting the dead (one instance wherein the British attempted to infect the American patriots during the Revolutionary War). On the whole, despite the devastating impact the diseases brought, Europeans attempted to remedy them and did not revel in this level of destruction they unknowingly left in their wake. However, disease should not explain away the cruelty the colonists inflicted on Native Americans otherwise through land seizures, raids, murder, defiance, and a myriad of other activities justified by their sense of superiority and procured through their advanced technology and resistance to disease. There were several other factors that pushed the colonists’ thinking. As time went on, the Trans- Atlantic Middle Passage became more efficient and thus slaves could be imported cheaply, whereas Native Americans had amassed a quick and powerful reputation for dying easily. This is seen as undesirable in the slave trade, considering those involved seek those able to work and toil for years. Additionally, Europeans did not want to antagonize Native Americans by enslaving the population. Nevertheless, the racial thinking behind slavery fostered the European concept of superiority.


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