Explain how the global transfer of disease in the pre-modern world helped in the colonisation of the Americas.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the conquest and colonization of the Americas was underway by the Spanish and the Portuguese. Americas is used to refer to the Caribbean, South America and North America.

Spread of Disease – Main Reason Behind Conquest of Americas by Europeans

  • Superior firepower alone was not the reason behind the conquest of the Americas by the Europeans.
  • A conventional military weapon was not the powerful weapon of Spanish conquerors.
  • The most powerful weapon carried on a person was the gems such as those of smallpox. Smallpox was especially a dangerous killer. 

Lack of Immunity to Diseases – Original Inhabitants of Americas

  • There was no immunity for America’s original inhabitants to the diseases carried by Europeans, the reason behind this lack of immunity was the long isolation of the original inhabitants of Americas.
  • Once the gems were introduced to the Americas, it spread rapidly far, wide, and deep into the continent, even before the Europeans could physically reach those locations.
  • The whole community was killed and decimated by the disease, thereby paving the way for conquest of the Americas by the Europeans.

Increase in European Wealth – Trade with Americas

  • After European sailors found a sea route to Asia and also successfully crossed the western ocean to America, the pre-modern world shrank greatly in the sixteenth century.
  • America had been cut off from regular contact, for millions of years, with the rest of the world, before its discovery by the Europeans.
  • From the sixteenth century, vast resources of minerals, crops, and land of the Americas began to transform lives and trade everywhere.
  • Europe’s wealth was increased by precious metals like silver from the mines located in Mexico and Peru. This wealth accumulated by Europe helped them to expand trade with Asia.

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