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Smallpox and Native American mortality: The 1780s epidemic in the Hudson Bay region

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  • Carlos, Ann M.
  • Lewis, Frank D.

Abstract

The smallpox epidemic of 1781–82 in the Hudson Bay region is said to have devastated the native population, causing mortality of at least 50%. We reassess this claim using a four-pronged approach. First, we total smallpox deaths reported by two fur trading posts that were in the midst of the epidemic. Second, we review case fatality rates in other smallpox outbreaks, and discuss the likely incidence of the disease among Native Americans. Third, we analyse trade during the period of the epidemic. Fourth, we estimate the native population prior to the epidemic based on the carrying capacity of the region. All four approaches lead to a similar conclusion. Mortality from smallpox was likely under 20%, which is much less than previously asserted.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 49 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 277-290

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:49:y:2012:i:3:p:277-290

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

Related research

Keywords: Smallpox; Native Americans; Fur trade; Population; Health;

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  1. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 1993. "Indians, the Beaver, and the Bay: The Economics of Depletion in the Lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1700–1763," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 465-494, September.
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