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Medicine in a ‘new’ world: the Columbian Exchange HI 31 L Lecture 2
Medicine in a New World I. The Columbian Exchange A. Pre-Columbian Medicine B. Contact: Conquerors, Settlers and Slaves 1. America the Inferior: Virgin Soil and “weak” races 2. Triangle Trade/ South Atlantic System II. Responses and interventions in Colonial Medicine A. Humoral Medicine B. Innovation and resistance
Pre-Columbian Medicine “There was then no sickness: they had no aching bones; they had then no high fever; they had then no small pox; they had then no burning chest; they had then no abdominal pain; they had then no consumption; they had then no headache. At that time the course of humanity was orderly. The foreigners made it otherwise when they arrived here. ” Chilam Balam (a Yucatan Indian), of Chumayel, after Conquest.
Indigenous Medical Institutions South America (Mixed settlement pattern, urban + rural) Botanical gardens/zoos Isolation compounds for the contagious sick State granary network Distant water supplies for cities Collection of refuse and night-soil Medical facilities for soldiers Deliberate ‘bioprospecting’ in conquered areas Trade in medicinals
Indigenous Medical Institutions North America (Settlement pattern at contact rural/nomadic) Sweat lodges Distinct class of medical practitioners Trade in medicinals
Conquest of Mexico
The ‘Columbian exchange’ To Americas From Americas Smallpox, measles, malaria (falciparum), plague, tuberculosis Syphilis (probably), yellow fever, yaws Cattle, horses, wheat, Potatoes, tomatoes. bananas, coffee, sugar maize, squashes, cane peppers, tobacco African slaves, Precious metals European conquistadors, settlers
Eating the New World, Building the Old North America Europe Cals/Hectare Crops Rice 7. 3 Maize 7. 3 Wheat 4. 2 Potato 7. 5 Barley 5. 1 Yams 7. 1 Oats 5. 5 Cassava 9. 9
Contact: Brave New World or America the Inferior
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies Bartolome de las Casas, 1542 This coastline, too, was swarming with people and it would seem, if we are to judge by those areas so far explored, that the Almighty selected this part of the world as home to the greater part of the human race. God made all the peoples of this area, many and varied as they are, as open and as innocent as can be imagined … utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves. … At the same time, they are among the least robust of human beings: their delicate constitutions make them unable to withstand hard work or suffering and render them liable to succumb to almost any illness, no matter how mild. Even the common people are no tougher than princes or than other Europeans born with a silver spoon in their mouths and who spend their lives shielded from the rigours of the outside world.
Aztec Smallpox (Codex Mendoza)
Contact: Conquerors, Settlers and Slaves America the ‘inferior’ “There was no Indian town where hostility was shown [to the settlers] ‘but that within a few days after our departure from every such town, that the people began to die very fast and many in a short space…the disease was also so strange that they neither knew what it was nor how to cure it; the like, by report of the oldest men in the country never happened before time out of mind. ’” Settler account, 1587, Roanoak Island.
Contact: Conquerors, Settlers and Slaves America the ‘inferior’ “The Indians died on heapes, as they lay in their houses, and the living that were able to shift for themselves would run away and let them dye, and let their carcases ly above the ground without burial … and the bones and skulls upon the several places of their habitations made such a spectacle after my coming into those partes that as I traveled in the forest near the Massachusetts, it seemed to me a new-found Golgatha. ’ Traveller’s account, 1622, Massachusetts
Contact: Conquerors, Settlers and Slaves America the ‘inferior’ “The Indians die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the Ghost” – 1699
Contact: Conquerors, Settlers and Slaves America the ‘inferior’ “We have no discoveries in the materia medica to hope for from the Indians in North-America. It would be a reproach to our schools of physic, if modern physicians were not more successful than the Indians, even in the treatment of their own diseases. ” Dr. Benjamin Rush 1798
Triangle Trade/ South Atlantic System “At the same time, they are among the least robust of human beings: their delicate constitutions make them unable to withstand hard work or suffering and render them liable to succumb to almost any illness, no matter how mild. ” Bartolome de las Casas, 1542
The Triangle Trade • Trade goods, weapons, later rum, from Europe and North America to Africa (to buy slaves) • Slaves from Africa to North and South America (to labour on plantations) • Raw materials produced with slave labour to North America, Europe (to feed industrial growth and production and pay for more slaves)
Responses and interventions in Colonial Medicine • Humoural Medicine Systemic in concept and approach Based on 4 humours: blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile Each (and thus entire body) dynamically related to environment, body intakes and excreta, emotions, seasons, stars Thus treatment highly individualized… at least in theory
Innovation and resistance • Use of indigenous materia medica and techniques • Inoculation for smallpox
Useful Websites • http: //en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Codex_M endoza • http: //www. medscape. com/viewarticle/ 475030 • http: //www. nlm. nih. gov/exhibition/if_ you_knew_01. html