WI instead of disease wiping out Native Americans...

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by King Thomas, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. King Thomas Has Learned His Lesson

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    it caused a plague in Western Europe instead? Historicly, most of the Native Americans died of disease instead of bullets or sword cuts.What happens if the disease goes the other way or both ways?
     
  2. HueyLong Banned

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    You need a vastly different history of North America.

    The inhabitants of North America had no easily communicable diseases because they lacked effective domesticable animals. There were very few diseases to make the hop into humanity, because they had little contact with domesticated animals.

    Then, you have to deal with the lack of urban populations (in a steady band, and preferably permanently stetled- no nomad cities) and the lack of intensive trade routes.

    If you are interested in this type of POD, I would recommend Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. But, its not really possible without huge changes in hsitory prior to contact between the continents.
     
  3. Tom Veil Nowhere Man

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    There's not much to add to what HueyLong said. Domestic animals living with humans cause much higher rates of communicable disease. The Native Americans simply never had opportunity to use their immune systems, so they were unprepared for mature diseases.
     
  4. Umbral Member

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    Additionally, the Native Indians immune systems, off the top of my head, had less genetic variety than those of any other people. Leaving them with a genetic vulnerability to pestillence.

    Futher, the old world retained contacts with Africa, where humanity is generally thought to have evolved. Meaning contact with microorganisms that was specialized in infecting humans.

    After discussing the issue here, I have in fact wondered why the Native Americans did not become extinct upon regular contact with the old world, as one would expect.

    I have three potential explanations, which I may post when I have time.
     
  5. Tocomocho My other car is a steam tank.

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    If I'm not wrong the syphilis (or at least one of the worst forms of it) is of American origin. It was carried to Europe after 1492 and caused the first great epidemic in 1495, when a great part of the army of Charles VIII of France was infected during the invasion of Naples. The soldiers returned to home via Italy, went to brothels... etc.
     
  6. HelloLegend Banned

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    A stronger venereal disease from the New World could have wiped out the returning Spanish correct. Much evidence would support such a hypothesis.
     
  7. Burton K Wheeler Moderator Moderator

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    What evidence? Do you have a link? Are you referring to the theory that syphilis originated in the New World?
    The simple problem with V.D. epidemics is that VDs don't spread nearly as well as something like smallpox, which can be spread by, say, using the same blanket an infected person used.
     
  8. HelloLegend Banned

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    Come on, it's common knowledge that syphillis came from the New World.
     
  9. Burton K Wheeler Moderator Moderator

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    Not so much. I have never heard the New World origin theory stated without some kind of disclaimer. I'm not saying it didn't, I'm just saying the jury is out. Anyway, what kind of pandemic potential does a venereal disease have, anyway?
     
  10. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    Ever hear of something called A.I.D.S.? :rolleyes: I think there are several tens of millions of Africans (and others) who would care to dispute your claim here.

    Actually, a venereal disease...provided it is a "stealthy" disease, like A.I.D.S...has a HUGE pandemic potential, human sexuality being what it is. The problem with Syphillis and other "pre-A.I.D.S." venereal diseases is that they give themselves away with obvious sores, rashes, and other outward marks, which warn people to avoid contact with the infected person and limits the spread of the disease.

    If the hypothesis that A.I.D.S. originated in Old World monkeys is true, then something like that could have arisen in New World monkeys, many of which were hunted for food by native Americans. By the time the Europeans arrive, the natives have evolved defenses against it, but Europeans are hideously vulnerable. It spreads over most of the Old World in a little over a century, and medical science being unable to even detect the disease, much less treat it, it kills millions in the Old World, outstripping even the Black Death. Indeed, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we will see, given time, death rates exceeding those caused by European diseases in the New World.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2006
  11. Tyr air in space

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    Whether its true or not it is pretty common folk knowledge.


    AIDS is my thought on this too: Have Syphillus somehow get nastier but you would need really (un)lucky timing with some Europeans coming in and raping and pillaging a particular area where the disease has just arose before it kills everyone off.

    This could make for a good ASB TL actually....Some time traveller goes to study pre-contact native Americans and accidenetly passes on a nasty disease. He hastily vaccinates them however they are still carriers.
     
  12. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    The more I think about it, the more that my idea of an A.I.D.S.-like disease arising in New World monkeys, and being spread to humans by contact with bood and infected meat as a result of hunting these animals, seems a good candidate for your proposed scenario.

    Here is a proposed timeline of how this could work.

    c. 9,000 BC...Native Americans hunting in the Central American jungles encounter New World Monkeys. They begin hunting these for food. These monkeys carry a virus that causes a form of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, which we will call the New World Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (N.W.A.I.D.S.) for the purposes of this timeline. The consumption of their flesh and exposure to their blood passes this disease to the human population in short order. The disease is, in it's initial form, not very virulent, and there are not many other communicable diseases around so the reduction in immune response is not that big an issue, and few die from the disease.

    c. 9000 BC-1492 AD...The N.W.A.I.D.S. virus gradually spreads via trade routes until nearly all populations in the Americas are infected. Like the modern A.I.D.S. virus, the N.W.A.I.D.S. virus mutates over time (albeit at a much slower rate than the modern virus), growing more virulent. But the immune systems of the natives, because of the slow mutation rate, have time to evolve with it, creating defenses against it, so mortality in the native population doesn't increase significantly over OTL. As a result, the OTL civilizations and cultures of the Americas develop without disruption. As it happens, the Skraelings encountered by the Norse around 1,000 A.D. are one of the few populations which do not have the disease, so it is not transmitted to Europe at that time.

    1492 A.D. onward...Several sailors on the first expedition of Christopher Columbus have sex with native girls on the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba, and are the first Europeans to contract the disease. The disease has a long incubation period, as does modern A.I.D.S., and for the next five to ten years, these sailors (and, as European exploration of the Americas continues, many others returning from subsequent voyages) spread the virus without any obvious symptoms before they finally die from common colds, flu, or other maladies which normally don't kill people, even in those days. It takes off from there. By 1600 A.D., millions are dead, and large areas are virtually depopulated. Medical science has no inkling of what is happening, as there is no obvious cause for the huge increase in death from common, ordinary diseases. They can't even trace it to a venereal disease, as the disease leaves no marks on the sex organs, and can be passed in other ways, such as contact with blood and other bodily fluids, and transmitted from infected mothers to their unborn children. Indeed, by 1600, transmission from mother to child will become one of the most common means of transmission, and the most devastating way the disease works...because it dramatically increases child mortality rates. In many areas, as much as 80% of the children do not survive into adulthood to reproduce. The population of the Old World plummets. By 1700, the population of Europe is about 1/10 of what it was in 1492. The populations of Asia and Africa are higher, but the disease has had less time to work on them. Within a few years, they will be as bad off as Europe.

    With the huge die-off in the Old World, organized government collapses in most places, cities are abandoned, and civilization itself is almost lost. People who have some natural immunity to the disease are the only ones who survive, and fortunately, that means that over time, the disease will be come less lethal as the population gains a more general immunity from it. Most of the survivors live in small farming villages, widely separated from their nearest neighbors. If not for the fact that knowledge of ironworking, writing, and other technologies has been maintained in various places, we would be seeing almost a Neolithic level of culture. Europe and the rest of the Old World will be centuries, perhaps even millenia, in recovering.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2006
  13. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member

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    @robert: Interesting thoughts about NWAIDS. A few ideas:

    "As it happens, the Skraelings encountered by the Norse around 1,000 A.D. are one of the few populations which do not have the disease, so it is not transmitted to Europe at that time."

    Since the contact between Vikings and Skraelings mostly consisted of fights, even if they had NWAIDS already, there's not much danger that the disease spreads. Weren't the Viking colonies in Vinland all destroyed?

    Even with medieval / Renaissance tech: Wouldn't people be able to see that people living in celibacy (monks, priests - OK, admittedly, not everyone of 'em did keep the vow) can't get the disease?

    "Indeed, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we will see, given time, death rates exceeding those caused by European diseases in the New World."

    Do you mean "in absolute numbers" (quite probable) or "in percentages of the population"?
     
  14. Burton K Wheeler Moderator Moderator

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    Something similar was proposed here, without such extreme effects in the old world. The diseases were a more virulent form of the Machupa virus and pneumonic Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
     
  15. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    Actually, the colonies in Vinland (i.e. Newfoundland) were abandoned relatively quickly after some conflicts with the local Skraelings. But the Norse had contact with the Inuit (who they also called Skraelings), probably including some intermarriage, for the entire time that they lived on Greenland. The Inuit traveled back and forth between Greenland and the mainland, so they could have been a possible conduit for the disease back to Europe, which is why I included that passage.

    That could be. However, relatively few monks and priests actually went directly into the Church without having "sown some wild oats" first. And even if they didn't catch it that way, they could catch it other ways (born with the disease from an infected mother, or exposure to blood, saliva, or other bodily fluids from an infected person). So the incidence of the disease in the church might not be noticeably different than the general population. And of course, even if it were noticeable, the difference might not be attributed to celibacy...it might be attributed to God's protection of "His" own.

    Given time, BOTH. Imagine what AIDS would be like in our society if there were no means to detect it and no treatments? The thought is truly horrifying.
     
  16. HueyLong Banned

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    AIDs and other STDs only spread so well in the modern world because sexual attitudes are far different than they were- there simply wouldn't be as much infectious potential as with a normal disease.

    AIDs does not spread as well as the flu, for example. It doesn't even always spread with intercourse, because of prophylactics and coitus interruptus.

    There was never a major VD epidemic killing off millions in medieval Europe, and they had all sorts of nasty STDs floating around.
     
  17. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    While the proposed New World A.I.D.S. would certainly not spread as well as a disease that can be spread by touch or by air, it nevertheless could spread rapidly, given the right conditions. Take a look at the disaster in Africa today, if you don't believe it.

    Your comment about it spreading more rapidly today than it could have in the 16th and 17th centuries due to different sexual attitudes is not true, either. Sexual mores were not as different back then as we like to think. These are not prudish Victorians we are talking about here (although even they had their secret, raunchy side)...it was a much more sexually open society than is generally realized these days. Indeed, there is reason to think that they may have been MORE sexually promiscuous back then than today. Pre-marital sex was relatively common, and people frequently engaged in extra-marital affairs...probably on a much greater scale than today. Prostitution was openly practiced with little in the way of attempts by governmental or religious authorities to suppress it. Think of the adventures of Don Juan or the Three Musketeers...that gives you an idea of what it was like in this period. And that is not to mention the wholesale rapes committed by every passing army.

    No, it would spread rapidly, given the sexual climate of the era.

    Granted. But it doesn't have to in order to become a devastating pandemic.

    Coitus interruptus is not a protection against AIDS, because the AIDS virus also infects the other fluids involved in sex (not just semen). How do you think men get it from women? :rolleyes: As for prophylactics, they weren't generally available during the time period in question. And in any case, unless people were aware that there was a killer disease being spread by sexual contact...which they almost certainly would not be...they would not take the extra precaution of wearing them.

    Other than AIDS, there are no other venereal diseases which have proved nearly uniformly fatal without treatment. And, as I pointed out earlier, most of these diseases give themselves away by causing sores, rashes, and other visible signs on the genitalia, or by causing a discoloration of the natural fluids which ooze from the genitalia during sex, causing healthy people to avoid contact with infected people and limiting the spread of the disease. AIDS does not do this, nor would the New World variant I am proposing. It would be a "stealth disease" with a massive potential to spread before anyone even became aware that there was something going on. Really the only reason that medical science in OTL clued into what was happening was that when AIDS first made it's appearance in the West, it was virtually exclusively confined to homosexual males. This is what alerted doctors that it was caused by sexual contact. Given the fact that the disease can take 5 to 10 years to incubate enough to manifest symptoms...during which time people may be carriers...without that clue we might STILL not know what was happening, even today.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2006
  18. NapoleonXIV Banned

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    Actually, there's never been a major VD epidemic killing off millions even now, or rather the only reason we now have one that is killing off millions is we have so many millions to kill off. AIDS may kill millions, yes, but as a percentage of the population it is still fairly miniscule. I have yet to hear tales of cities depopulated, refugees fleeing or thousands of corpses unburied, even from Africa.

    As you point out, AIDS doesn't always spread even with intercourse, nor does any STD. That is why they are STD in the first place, they require a fairly specialized environment to live.

    My understanding is that sexual practices, particulary sexual license, was far more widespread in Medieval and Renaissance time than now. We are simply more open about it. The Church's prohibitions in this area were only slightly more stringent than they are now, but her ability to enforce them, as was the case with any morals that society had, was far less than we have today.

    Frex, laws against prostitution may have been on the books, but nobody would really think of trying to enforce them, though the Church and society condemned the practice widely.
     
  19. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    Comparing the AIDS epidemic of today with what could have happened if a similar virus had been introduced into Europe in the late 15th century is really not a valid response. There are several factors which makes the former situation less serious by many orders of magnitude than the latter situation would have been.

    1) We actually know that it is a venereal disease we are dealing with, and we have the ability to detect the disease. People in the 15th-18th centuries would not have had any idea what was going on and no way to find out.

    2) We have relatively good treatments for AIDS now. There would have been no possibility of that during the 15th-18th centuries.

    3) We have a relatively effective means of prevention (latex condoms) that are widely available. People in the 15th-18th centuries did not.

    As for your statement that "I have yet to hear tales of cities depopulated, refugees fleeing or thousands of corpses unburied, even from Africa," you are not considering some important things.

    1) OTL's AIDS has only been around for maybe 50-60 years, and has been the subject of massive medical research and treatment for half of that time. The scenario I posited regarding New World A.I.D.S. plays out over a period of over 200 years, and the disease would have been free to rampage without check from medical science during this time. Even in my scenario, you probably won't have thousands of bodies lying around unburied, because the disease takes so long to incubate. The major population reduction would come about because of the massive increase in the child mortality rate, which would reduce the "breeding population" to the point that the population is no longer self-sustaining. That has happened in some villages in Africa in OTL. I know it hasn't happened elsewhere, but that is because education, prevention, and treatment...which wouldn't exist in the ATL...have been applied to the problem.

    2) You might read more of what has been going on in Africa. It is true that there have not yet been cities depopulated, but quite a few villages have been wiped out. AIDS is a major crisis in several African countries, a disaster that is still in the process of unfolding. And that is in the face of everything medical science has been able to do.

    Introduce a disease like that into Europe in 1492, and by 1700 you will have a disaster of simply unprecedented proportions. There is simply no way that won't be the case.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2006
  20. HueyLong Banned

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    @RobertP: AIDs in various parts of Africa goes untreated, and undiagnosed- and still, it simply doesn't wipe out entire communities. And most certainly not on the level of say, the Bubonic Plague in Europe. A sexually transmitted disease is not anywhere near as deadly or virulent as other types of disease, thats a simple fact.

    Europe had STDs at the time- and they never hit epidemic levels. AIDs isn't as easy to spread as HPV, or the other more common STDs.

    @Napoleon: Although I've consistently heard the "sexual mores haven't changed" argument, I simply don't think it holds much weight. Society was hostile to most courting, and promiscuity was hampered by the diseases out there and the ineffective birth control devices. Not to mention the range of people was significantly lower (the serf has a much lower amount of maidens to deflower in the 1600s than he does um, now)