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Social Contagion: How China's rapid development created the conditions for an epidemic

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  1. no_exit
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    Went to post this just now and saw it already had been, so here's a bump. This is a fantastic piece, the discussion of the historical conditions around past viral outbreaks was fascinating and...

    Went to post this just now and saw it already had been, so here's a bump. This is a fantastic piece, the discussion of the historical conditions around past viral outbreaks was fascinating and something I was completely ignorant of.

    While the cattle pandemics of early capitalist England were contained, the results elsewhere were far more devastating. The example with the largest historical impact is probably that of the rinderpest outbreak in Africa that took place in the 1890s. The date itself is no coincidence: rinderpest had plagued Europe with an intensity that closely followed the growth of large-scale agriculture, only held in check by the advance of modern science. But the late 19th century saw the height of European imperialism, epitomized by the colonization of Africa. Rinderpest was brought from Europe into East Africa with the Italians, who were seeking to catch up with other imperial powers by colonizing the Horn of Africa through a series of military campaigns. These campaigns mostly ended in failure, but the disease then spread through the indigenous cattle population and ultimately found its way into South Africa, where it devastated the early capitalist agricultural economy of the colony, even killing the herd on the estate of the infamous self-professed white supremacist Cecil Rhodes. The larger historical effect was undeniable: killing as many as 80-90% of all cattle, the plague resulted in an unprecedented famine across the predominantly pastoralist societies of Sub-Saharan Africa. This depopulation was then followed by the invasive colonization of the savannah by thornbush, which created a habitat for the tsetse fly which both carries sleeping sickness and prevents the grazing of livestock. This ensured that the repopulation of the region after the famine would be limited, and enabled the further spread of European colonial powers across the continent.

    I will definitely be reading the book they cite and pull heavily from in the article, Big Farms Make Big Flu.

    3 votes