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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Few developments in human history match the demographic consequences of European arrival in the Americas. Between 1500 and 1800, European powers extended their influence throughout much of the globe, but while the indigenous populations of Asia and Africa largely remain, the population of the Americas was transformed. The most popular explanations for this transformation emphasize epidemics caused by Eurasian pathogens. These familiar narratives, however, oversimplify the history. Uncertainty persists about, for example, the size of precontact populations, the timing of the mortality, its causes, and its consequences. It is important to appreciate the demographic history of American Indians in its full complexity, but not just for the historical record. Native American populations continue to suffer dire health inequalities. The stories that historians tell about demographic history influence how we thing about inequalities today, and this can have profound consequences for population health and health policy.

Keywords: epidemics, disease, depopulation, virgin soil epidemics, demography, mortality, malnutrition, health policy, genetics

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