Germs and Guns

European imperialism gave rise to a culture of colonial expansion in the 15th Century. The Blocking of the ‘silk road’, with a increasing Ottoman empire, lead to an alternative trade route needed for European Asian relations. Columbus with the backing of Spanish colonists led to the discovery and the eventual building of a European empire on the Canary Islands and the Americas. This modern imperialism was subject to unsuccessful opposition by the natives. The reasons for imperial dominance are subject to much scrutiny, however two key factors emerge - that of germs and guns. Though advanced military equipment played a key role, initially creating a sense of Christian justice, their effect was limited. However European pathogens, created from a domestication of livestock and agriculture, had a demonized effect on the indigenous people, leading to the regrouping of a declined Indian population. Germs caused the success of colonization in the “New World” due to the weakening of states, but despite this, preconditions of colonization were also responsible for dominance. They played a significant part in the expansion of the European Empire and without them germs or guns effect would be hindered.

The use of advanced weaponry played a large role in European dominance. Most notably, the Spanish colonial activity in the West Indies showed the destruction caused by guns on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Referred to as the ‘Black Legend’, “the Spaniards had used violence against them [Indians], killing, robbing, torturing“[1] to dominant. Their widespread killings amounted to around twelve million[2] – “killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls”[3] had demonized the European Colonists and it is this use of weaponry that aided the declining population of the natives. The domination of such a vast population only furthers the significance of arms- this is best demonstrated in 1519 by Hernán Cortés’ war on the Aztecs. Cortés was a conquistador and his...
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