Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Essays Rappraising the Guns and Germs Theories

Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Essays Rappraising the Guns and Germs Theories

Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Essays Rappraising the Guns and Germs Theories

Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Essays Rappraising the Guns and Germs Theories

Synopsis

How did Europeans prevail in conquering the so-called New World and beyond? For several years scholars have seen an answer to that question in the Guns, Germs, and Steel theories of experts like Jared Diamond; namely, that because of superior technology and the introduction of catastrophic disease into the Americas, Europeans succeeded in conquering and colonizing the indigenous peoples. But other historians, including the experts in this volume, think the Guns and Germs theories too facile and oversimplified. Noted military historian George Raudzens assembles an international team of scholars in Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries to look at the other side of the coin. The conquered may actually have had superior technology, including better communication and transportation; and the effects of disease were equally devastating upon the invaders and the invaded. Myriad factors not explained by the Guns and Germs theories contributed to the success of European colonization. This volume keeps an open mind to those. This publication has also been published in hardback, please click here for details."

Excerpt

George Raudzens

The European colonial conquests in the period between Columbus and industrialization were until the 1960s popularly explained as having been enabled by racial and ethnic superiorities. The expansionists were superior and the native people of the other continents were inferior. Thus it was considered that advanced cultures and improved human beings had replaced backward cultures and undesirable primitive folk. By the 1990s these main explanations had been replaced by much improved alternative scenarios. History students and “general readers” now mostly consider that this “Expansion of Europe”, the linking together of all the continents and peoples of the planet which we at the present time call “globalization”—and which is arguably the most important change in the condition of humanity after the introduction of agriculture in pre-history and before industrialization—was caused mainly by two powerful fortuitous factors: Western European combat advantage based on guns; and the impact of epidemic disease on New World populations lacking Eurasian immunities. So it is thought that the colonial conquerors did have two superiorities: the arquebuses, muskets and cannons which gave them unmatched firepower; and the capability of carrying without harm to themselves Old World epidemic diseases, like smallpox, which killed off millions of susceptible potential resistance fighters in the New World.

The historians most responsible for converting this generation to the “guns and germs” theories were led by William H. McNeill, who argued for both things; Carlo Cipolla, who stressed the guns and also added ships; Geoffrey Parker, who popularized the “Military Revolution” theory of superior European combat powers; Alfred Crosby, who best argued the case for epidemic devastations among “virgin soil” populations lacking immunities; and Jared Diamond, the most recent and possibly most widely read synthesisers of the “guns and germs” combination. These “great interpreters” have

William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York: Doubleday, 1977), and The . . .

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