Colonialism caused AIDS

Ho hum.

Before this, such outbreaks would have remained localised, argues a provocative new book. But by then the \”scramble for Africa\” was under way and thousands of porters were crossing through the area. So it was, the authors claim, that colonisation by the European powers a century ago is responsible for unleashing HIV on the world.

And Spanish colonialism in the New World caused the syphilis/smallpox exchange, Mongol colonialism caused the Black Death and homo sapiens coming out of Africa killed the Neanderthals.

There\’s nothing strange about population movements causing epidemics. To blame \”colonialism\” is just to attatch at trendy tag to it all: any substantial amount of economic development is going to mean an increase in population movement and thus the spread, unfortunately, of hitherto unremarked diseases.

22 comments on “Colonialism caused AIDS

  1. Bearing in mind the efforts of Bill Gates and others, and the ease of vaccinating children in cities rather than in the forest, perhaps colonialism was good for the health of Africans.

  2. I have to admit, that article was passed round by one of our lecturers and I thought the same as you.

    Urbanisation and migration are always kinda inevitable so blaming colonialism seems wrong. Although the timing of the outbreak seems fair to pin on colonialism.

  3. What a shame they couldn’t shoe-horn the word ‘deliberately’ into that theses. It would be the Guardian’s wet-dream headline.

  4. Wasn’t the Scramble for Africa predicated on the advance of medicine to a point where Europeans didn’t automatically die from the many tropical diseases that Africans had grown relatively immune.

    Thus I claim that the West is simultaneously wicked for developing medicine (eg quinine et al) and for preventing the development of medicine (ie AIDS, and Malaria).

  5. Whoa, there! This whole thing is predicated on the faddish post-modern science that postulates a theory, assumes its true and leaves someone else to do the research to falsify it, by which time every body has lost interest and it becomes the consensus. What proof is offered of the Rider Haggard type shooting bush game and becoming infected some 100 years ago? What chance a fast footed evolving virus did not evolve either before or after this fictitious event?
    Here’s my unique theory; ‘Spanish Flu’ was a result of the defeat of the Germans in the WW1.
    There, that is now main stream science, I can’t be bothered to prove it, I’ll leave that to some clever clogs, but my name is made.

  6. Whereas immigration spreads TB, increases windscreen cleanliness, introduces muti and honour killings, causes a rise in the incidence of utterly crap music (immigration from Scotland especially, yes Proclaimers, I’m looking at you) and elevates the incidence of gun and knife crime.

  7. Notice what they are not doing – blaming the UN and all those nice aid workers.

    The rise of AIDS does not come with colonisation but with WHO workers who went around Africa innoculating people against diseases like smallpox.

    I know someone who expresses extreme regret over his involvement in Kenya and Uganda in vaccinating some 15,000 people with a dozen or so needles.

    But hey, they meant well, right?

  8. I doubt that a smallpox vaccination could transmit AIDS. It’s more of a skin scraper than a needle.

  9. All this chat comes from spreading book learning. Before that you just were born , lived and died.
    Oddly, enough lived to spread around the world which is both epidemic and colonisation.

  10. Epidemic diseases need dense populations for their propagation. Humanity being a young species, most diseases are mutations of diseases affecting animals the humans live with or feed on. The spread of diseases around the world needs people to travel.

    It follows that civilization is responsible for most of the pathogenic diseases which afflict us. That’s not to say that civilization is on balance a bad thing.

    It’s not as widely recognized as it should be that Europeans found it easy to conquer the New World and Australasia because of the diseases they took there (principally measles and smallpox). There is no symmetry in the smallpox/syphilis exchange Tim mentions.

  11. PaulB
    And sometimes it’s just dumb luck. Smallpox appears to have evolved to infect humans around 10,000 years ago with no smoking gun connection to domestication, population density etc.
    Evolution occurs through random genetic mutation. Note the random in that sentence.

  12. blokeinfrance: there’s a seminal book about evolution “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection…” The mutations are random, but the selection of which ones survive often isn’t.

    Obviously we know little about how the oldest human pathogens first spread. So what?

  13. Plagues and Peoples is good.

    Can I also recommend Six Legged Soldiers by J A Lockwood. Infecting the enemy is really really hard. (deliberately, without harming your own troops of course.)

    PaulB wrote: The mutations are random, but the selection of which ones survive often isn’t.
    No, the mutations are random but the selection is ruthlessly about fitness. Not “often”. Always.

  14. Odd; in your previous post you wanted to emphasize randomness, now you say it’s all about ruthless selection for fitness.

    I chose my words advisedly. Look up “neutral theory”. It’s well established that not all surviving changes are adaptive.

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