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Was Native Defeat Inevitable?

Another response to Was Native Defeat Inevitable?—actually, a series of responses from Usenet, including one from me:

>> Granted, it was costly (600 dead out of an English population of 50,000), but even if the native population had been larger, they couldn't have to stood up to a European army; even if the English were driven out, *someone* from Europe would have come in and taken the land. <<

Someone likely would have *tried.

>> Also, superior farming methods enabled colonists to support a much higher population density than the natives. Their numbers would still inevitably overwhelm the natives. <<

This is *not a proven fact. The biggest point to remember and the one most ofter overlooked is the fact that the great epidemics began in North America in the early 1500's, brought by DeSoto and his army. No one really knows the original aboriginal population density nor has any really trustworthy estimates of the numbers overall. Do remember re agriculture that the Europeans came in and were planting such things as wheat and rye, and even to this day in most of NA east of the Mississippi corn gives greater yields per acre than either of the other two. Added to this is the commonplace use of interplanting the corn with beans and squash, each of which feeds and strengthens the others, was a *normal element of native agriculture and is still alien to most Euro style farming.

So far as I can see the principle advantage of the Europeans was simply the knowledge and skill to manufacture firearms—they're easy to use, but a chore to make. Even this is a point that can be overstressed in any times before around 1880 or so—many of the peoples of Africa had guns and fought the Europeans to a standstill pretty routinely until the advent of modern repeating weapons, note that the first permanent Portuguese settlements in Angola were founded in the 1470's and the Portuguese didn't control much of the territory of Angola beyond about 50 miles from the coast until the late 19th century, when they had better weaponry. Until that time, especially in the north, the Bakongo routinely pounded them into the ground whenever they strayed out of their part of the country.

The other advantage was a lesser degree of vulnerability to airborne epidemic diseases. The peoples of Africa had no particular vulnerability to European diseases and maintained large populations all throughout the colonial period, it was the Euro's that died of African diseases, not the reverse as in the New World.



You've got to land an army before it can fight, clear roads for it to march.. It wouldn't have lasted long.. (eg Vikings at L'Anse aux Meadows).. Ditto the "superior" farmimg methods.. Kind of hard to pull that plow when your mule (not to metion your own backside) has more arrows stuck in it than a porcupine has quills.. Nope, if it wasn't for disease, Europeans would still be where they belong.. Ah well, the population pendulum is swinging.. 2-3 generations to go.



Dear Justanoldman,

Perhaps more to the point, their "superior farming methods", weren't. European crops of the time produced far less than did Native crops, European farming methods using Native crops did not increase yields appreciably in the long run. (Euro-settler agricultural techniques resulted in greatly increased soil erosion, as well as in rapid depletion of soil fertility since the idiot settlers managed to forget most of what Europeans knew about manuring/composting fields. Labor savings due to mules/etc were somewhat countered by the need to fence in fields against assorted livestock). No, the closest thing to an "improvement" brought in by Whites (since strip mining the soil doesn't really count as an improvement) was the use of forced labor of the whip-them-to-death variety...and even that was counterproductive in the long run (and hence was also not an improvement), as well as tainting their honor almost as badly as their little attempt at genocide.

The "higher population density of Whites" was largely due to the use of a massive labor force (much of which was imported one way or another, not locally produced) to farm every available acre...including marginal lands better suited to raising wildlife.


Wade Wofford.


Reading through this thread sequentially, I was wondering how long it would take someone to make this point. I'm glad it wasn't long. <g>

Whew. You'd think the fact that Native people were superior in agriculture, at least, would have begun filtering into the public consciousness. But I guess not. Hello, people? The first European colonists would've been dead, with their "superior farming methods," if the local Indians hadn't fed them. They were babes in the woods, literally and figuratively.

I think the other posters had it right when they summarized the Europeans advantages as:

1) Resistance to disease.

2) Steel and firearms (but this advantage would've faded quickly).

3) Raw numbers (but without illness, Indians could've prevented raw numbers from becoming decisive).

It all boils down to resistance to disease, which was my original point, of course. <g>



Rob Schmidt,

Steel was an advantage, but not as much as you'd think. As the Aztec proved, even cotton armor worked fairly well against swords (but not lances, dang it!). The biggest advantage regarding steel (or IRON) was with respect to cooking pots, knives, and axes... such things were big labor saving devices.

Firearms were NOT that big an advantage initially, big firecrackers would have done as much (startlement effect). Conquistador and Pilgrim era firearms were clumsy smoothbore matchlocks... slow to load and not very accurate. I used to use a bow a fair bit, and I can tell you that I'd cheerfully use one to to face off somebody with a matchlock anyday! (better rate of fire, more accurate, more range, and works better in the rain....)

It might also be worth adding horses as #4, for their military and load carrying advantage... but this was of course strongly dependent on terrain, and said advantage would have (also) "faded quickly" as Indians got hold of horses.


Wade Wofford.

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