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 audible.com
and was a presentation of Diamond’s theory as laid out in his book Gun, Germs and Steel.
If you found this video interesting you should go right now to audible.com/grey and get a
copy of the book. There is so much more in this than could ever been explained in a short
video — Guns, Germs and Steel is the history book to rule all history books. Audible has over 180,000 things for you to
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100 thoughts on “Americapox: The Missing Plague”

  1. Native Americans talk about living the natural way everywhere in religion. It's not just cause they didn't have animals, it's also that they were clean with what they had.

  2. We are going to remind people that the Aztecs hunted fowl and chicken like creatures, sometimes wildcats for the fur, and they also kept dogs that were occasionally eaten. maybe the only true risk of infection would have been a dog.

  3. Sure Buddy 👍😎👍. So, the Spaniards didn't have the same diseases as the English? The Spanish were more into raping and the English were more into killing. That is why you have millions of Mestizos from Mexico and below. If the diseases were that devastating, South and Central America would look like the North in terms of the Mestizo population.

  4. Americapox really. Because your hypothetical illness does not exist, this is the whole proof of your theory. This is a very nice summary of an incomplete theory. So your saying all Europeans are carriers of disease, is that it; and everyone else is a victim. In the old world of Europe wasn't poor sanitation in populated areas found to be a primary cause of sickness. It is typical of all "intellectuals." to relieve all undeveloped cultures of all responsibility for the circumstances of their lives. So before the Europeans arrived it was a Garden of Eden with no sickness no death no good or bad and no poop, but Europeans brought it all with them. Clearly sanitation was not an issue, because after a tribe pooped on the bare ground and in the rivers 400, 000 times they just moved everyone over to the next valley. I mean where does that ritual fit into your theory. No doubt Europeans are also some how responsible for the Mayans disappearing off the face of Earth before Europeans even got here.

  5. This was really informative and eye opening. This showed a perspective never taught in school and the clarity of it was amazing. Good job man, I subbed.

  6. The lama at 8:37 looked like a real A-hole!! Just by looking at that thing, U can tell it has attitude. It had this look on it's face like "i wish you would mfer", only thing missing was a head roll😂🤣😂

  7. This patch is really unbalanced. Europe is playing on easy mode yet they can interfere with those playing on hard mode? Terrible design, I expect a hot-fix immediately.

  8. Actually, Horses did originate in the Americas, but some of them migrated to Asia when humans came over. Any left in the Americas were hunted out by the natives or died from the Younger-Dryas Event

  9. Syphilis was the one large “plague” that briefly ravaged its way across the Old World. It was first documented in Europe in the late 1490s, and was one of the largest public health crises in the West from the 16th to 19th centuries. When it first got here, it’s effects were far more damaging than they are today. Major facial deformities were common, and death usually came within 5-15 years of catching it. Despite it’s prevalence, reports of the disease from this time are slim, as STDs were and still are heavily stigmatized.

    You mention how methods of transmission like sneezing or contact with feces is far more efficient than sex, this makes the spread of syphilis make more understandable. Obviously the much denser, less sanitary and livestock-ridden cities of Europe allow for the indirect spread of pathogens to be more common, however it’s safe to say that New and Old Worlders had about the same amount of coitus. This means that sexual transmission would be the comparatively more viral than other methods of transmission in the New World, allowing for STDs to develop to be more deadly than others.

  10. 8:48 On the last frame(s) under "post singularity" for a very short time there is a text showing. I think it ends with "all" word. Anyone has any idea on what it is? Just curious…

  11. Imagine there is dimensions where million and million human death from plague and desease forcing human to invents medicine to prevent the desease and some random fool think it cause autism. Oh wait.. we are live there….

  12. At the time mentioned, the Colombian Exchange, this is true, however, in isn’t if you look waaaaaay past the Colombian Exchange, you’ll see one of the exceptions. But It is theorized that the Spanish Flu pandemic originated in Kansas. Nearly 500 years later, in 1918.
    So then why was it called Spanish flu if it originated in Kansas
    At the time, the US, UK and other countries involved in World War 1 didn’t have a free press in order to preserve war morale. Spain did have a free press sense they had nothing to do with WW1. And it of course hit headlines when the King was effected. I don’t intend to sound Egotistical so sorry if I do. But yes, if a ton of domesticated animals exist in a small area, it makes sense that the odds of a giant plague hitting that area would be more likely, and the Americas at the time lacked such domesticated animals. But in the future, it would have such animals, especially in the Midwestern US.

  13. I mean wolves don't sounds particularly easy to domesticate, fairly strong, incredibly fast and deadly creatures that can rip your throat out, hunt, eat sleep in packs. just saying.

  14. You forgot to mention the biggest killer of South/North America culture. Larger than all the other factors you mentioned, combined. Breeding.

  15. I feel like you should look at the cows/sheep’s/horses/etc actual wild ancestor to compare domesticate-ability. You’re comparing undomesticated wildlife to “here’s one I domesticated earlier” examples. Compare the buffalo to the auroch, smh! Sheep were mouflon, horses were likely smaller, very fast and not exactly steed material- and didn’t North America have wolves, too? I don’t claim to know the answer, but you simply can’t compare already-domesticated animals with wildlife and be like “look that ones much easier to deal with, duh!”

  16. Why couldnt deer be domesticated? At least for food. They can jump yes but you can build a high fence

    Also didnt native americans rely on dogs before horses?

  17. I heavily disagree on the argument that the Americas had terrible animals to domesticate.
    Bisons aren't that hard to domesticate since people in the old world managed to domesticate the wild Orox (the ancestor of cattle) which was even bigger. Lamas aren't worse than sheep before they were selectively bred for generations, and there could also have been a different breed selected specifically to transport more and more over time, Turkeys yield less eggs than chicken but they yield more meat …….. sure the lack of pigs and horses is bad but it doesn't mean that much, especially when Lamas have already some form of similar role that could be filled and they could have been selectively bred to enhance that (remember that wild horses would be considered terrible by today's standards)
    The only difference is the choice that the people living alongside these animals made, the people of the old world really went all out on this domestication thing and this is what allowed it to gain a clear edge over the rest

  18. 7:57 This is a bit misleading. The animals shown here have already been domesticated. Their ancestors were more wild.

  19. The best thing that could happen to the planet is a rapidly evolving and spreading deadly pandemic which wipes out the human race.

  20. So, the hypothesis here isn't wrong, but I'm curious about the point made at 8:56 . Why count yaks and cows differently but not Llamas and Alpacas? Why include bees and silkworms….but not Guinea Pigs and Muscovy Ducks, both domestication in the Americas…?

  21. Im just going to say, perspective is something to look at. How abundant is the plant life? Is the vegetation lacking so bad the people have to turn to other means? If so what period, would that bend those people's habits to not adapt to fertile lands once they reached them? The energy from out the caves near Turkey still pulses today, its alot of factors… The line of (tool / friend / lover) got blurry for western asain people… When dealing with animals… I like the germ-fire perspective… Really lets you know what hell on earth was like, n how it mutated through the ages…

  22. llamas, guanacos and alpacas were domesticated in the Americas (and used as draught animals and for food). regarding animals herded for food, there were guinea pigs, wild pigs, ducks and turkeys. you can argue there was not as much domestic stock as in Europe, but there sure was (and both relevant in the Incan and Aztec empires)

  23. So basically this video is saying that Europeans where able to spread diseases to the New World and avoid getting diseases themselves was because they came from an horrible environment where they had to live in very close proximity to other people in very unsanitary conditions had such environments where practically perfect breeding grounds for diseases. And because the New World wasn't such a hellhole as Europe, the immune systems of people in New World where not ready to deal with the consequences for when they came in contact with such people.

    I guess that might be something to think about the next time your using one of those hand sanitizers.

  24. There were much larger cities in the Americas than in Europe, Africa, and Asia yet all that concentration of people did not breed a devastating disease which this (disproven) model implies would necessarily come from densely settled cities.

  25. Plagues weren't the only reason. Europeans eradicated their food sources (i.e. bisons) and killed them in the masses (putting up a bounty for every Native scalp, women and children included). Your video makes it look like Native Americans died because of an accident, not because of intentional genocide.

  26. When JTube kept recommending this to me, I assumed it was some kind of creepypasta shit. Turns out it's just shitty liberal propaganda. Thanks a ton, JTube.

  27. Damn man, this video was very interesting. I got chills when you explained the drastic difference in candidates for livestock between the new and old world.

  28. The majority of Native American tribes were also nomadic. The only ones who set up shop were ones in basins next to a major river or ocean, or the woodland tribes where the temperatures didn't fluctuate as much. Also adobe tribes that could make settlements in clay hills and mountains. Bison ruled the plains. There weren't as much density of stationary civilizations willing to take the time to domesticated animals. Most of the big civilizations in the America's were either around the Yucatan, in central America, or in south america. If you could grow corn was also a factor. If you don't have a steady source of food for your own people, why use it on a difficult animal that's a long shot to tame? Another thing to consider is that the tribes around the bison travelled with the bison as bison were nomadic as well. The plains were not a cushy biome and it was part of the natural cycle for it to catch fire every dry season. Civilization was separated by different climates and biomes. Europe had the advantage (even Asia really) of having a continent that stretched laterally and not vertically, giving it more even distribution of similar forests without having to travel to an entirely different type of biome in order to connect with other more major tribes.

  29. The smallpox outbreak was unfortunate but we did south America a solid, the Aztecs were dicks and NO ONE missed them when they were gone. Now sure there wasn't a lot of people left alive TO miss them but that besides the point.

  30. How could you forget the Turkeys and a wide selection of fresh and salt water fish? Come to think of it the new world had quite the selection of potential crops. Could it be that you're intentionally missing out information just to jump on the Guns, germs and steel bandwagon?

  31. The crowding was because of feudalism forbidding people from freely using the land, forcing them into factory work in order to make a living. The Native Americans shared the land among the community, so everyone had equal economic opportunity and wasn't forced into wage labor. And furthermore, the profit motive of feudal lords who owned the land discouraged them from building good infrastructure because they could get tenants who had no other option.

  32. Did I miss the part where he discussed syphalis? I just learned it originated in America. It fucked up tons of Europeans, though obviously not on the same scale.

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