Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Thanks to Columbus –
       Amerindian Antecedents to COVID-19

W. George Lovell

Fall 2020 - Thanks to Columbus

Turkeys, corn, squash, and a host of other domesticates form part of what Alfred W. Crosby famously coined the “Columbian Exchange” – transfers between the New World and the Old of plants and animals neither had known before. One exchange not so providential was epidemic disease, especially the impact of Old World maladies (smallpox was perhaps the worst scourge of many) on New World populations never before exposed to them, and so immunologically vulnerable. Because of this novelty of contact between autochthonous peoples and alien pathogens, a key determinant in the global scheme of empire, the arrival of Europeans on American shores may well have triggered the greatest destruction of human lives in history.



W. George Lovell, FRSC, is Professor of Geography at Queen’s University and Visiting Professor in Latin American History at Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain. He is most recently the author, with Christopher H. Lutz and Wendy Kramer, of Strike Fear in the Land: Pedro de Alvarado and the Conquest of Guatemala, 1520–1541, published by the University of Oklahoma Press as Volume 279 of its Civilization of the American Indian Series.