Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914



This Book Explores The Links Among Ecology, Disease, And International Politics In The Context Of The Greater Caribbean The Landscapes Lying Between Surinam And The Chesapeake In The Seventeenth Through Early Twentieth Centuries Ecological Changes Made These Landscapes Especially Suitable For The Vector Mosquitoes Of Yellow Fever And Malaria, And These Diseases Wrought Systematic Havoc Among Armies And Would Be Settlers Because Yellow Fever Confers Immunity On Survivors Of The Disease, And Because Malaria Confers Resistance, These Diseases Played Partisan Roles In The Struggles For Empire And Revolution, Attacking Some Populations Severely Than Others In Particular, Yellow Fever And Malaria Attacked Newcomers To The Region, Which Helped Keep The Spanish Empire Spanish In The Face Of Predatory Rivals In The Seventeenth And Early Eighteenth Centuries In The Late Eighteenth And Through The Nineteenth Century, These Diseases Helped Revolutions To Succeed By Decimating Forces Sent Out From Europe To Prevent ThemMosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914

Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 book, this is one of the most wanted John Robert McNeill author readers around the world.

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  • Hardcover
  • 371 pages
  • Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914
  • John Robert McNeill
  • English
  • 07 May 2017
  • 0521452864

10 thoughts on “Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914

  1. says:

    I read this book around a year ago, but decided to pick it up again after reading the author s father s book, Plagues and People I remembered this work being a particularly good example of why the history of disease is both desirable and necessary In short, McNeill argues that mosquitoes through Yellow Fever and Malaria were crucial to the history of the Greater Caribbean between the introduction of these diseases from West Africa in the 1640s to the outbreak of World War I Essentially, he I read this book around a year ago, but decided to pick it up again after reading the author s father s book, Plagues and People I remembered this work being a particularly good example of why the history of disease is both desirable and necessary In short, McNeill argues that mosquitoes through Yellow Fever and Malaria were crucial to the history of the Greater Caribbean between the introduction of these diseases from West Africa in the 1640s to the outbreak of World War I Essentially, he finds that those who lived in the Caribbean often had an immunity to these diseases as a result of facing them in their childhood As a result, territory in the Caribbean rarely changed hands between empires, as outsiders would frequently fall ill to these diseases and perish More than anything else, mosquitoes permitted a conserving of the political status quo However, by the late 18th early 19th century, those fighting against the Spanish empire in aparticular case were generally no longer outsiders, but imperial subjects To quash these rebellions, Spain was forced to dispatch soldiers from Iberia who did not have the same resistance as imperial subjects, leading Spanish might to crumble.I have not read enough history of disease to evaluate how this work stands compared to that of other scholars, but it seems to me that this is a monumental work of environmental history It really is crucial to understanding why the Spanish empire managed to last so long, as well as making sense of the environmental aspects of the American and Haitian revolutions

  2. says:

    J.R McNeill s environmental history examines the role of disease bearing mosquitoes as a determining factor in imperial ambitions in the Greater Caribbean, which he defines as the islands and the Atlantic coastal regions of the Americas, from 1620 to 1914 Through careful examination of travel and medical accounts he reconstructs how environmental factors such as weather, sugar cane manufacturing processes, bovine and monkey populations, and population demographic and density would align and cr J.R McNeill s environmental history examines the role of disease bearing mosquitoes as a determining factor in imperial ambitions in the Greater Caribbean, which he defines as the islands and the Atlantic coastal regions of the Americas, from 1620 to 1914 Through careful examination of travel and medical accounts he reconstructs how environmental factors such as weather, sugar cane manufacturing processes, bovine and monkey populations, and population demographic and density would align and create ideal breeding grounds for the mosquito genii Aedes aegypti and Anopheles quadrimaculatus, carriers of malaria and yellow fever Once the mosquitoes began their reproductive cycle, which for the females requires a blood meal, imperial ambitions could be thwarted or bolstered as the carriers of yellow fever and malaria transmitted disease to armies that were often already weakened by scurvy and dysentery McNeill s examination is broken down into three sections In the first section he outlines his argument that, quests for wealth and power changed ecologies in the Greater Caribbean, and how ecological changes in turn shaped the fortunes of empire, war, and revolution in the years between 1620 and 1914 2 He admits the difficulties in classifying his work as, it is not quite an essay in mosquito determinism, or even environmental determinism 6 In the second section McNeill does an amazing job at breaking down the ecological factors that created the optimum conditions for the vectors of yellow fever and malaria He initiates the novice masterfully into the scientific and vernacular realm of the biologic variables he will be discussing Readership with no exposure to this world is admitted into the Caribbean with an easily gained understanding of the elements of McNeill s argument and how the variables must align in order to produce the conditions under which imperial ambition is being influenced He examines the obvious factors such as heat and rain, but also how the human impact made in the manufacturing of sugar cane contributed to creating ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes by producing both a sugary food and receptacles for standing water, be it in pieces of broken clay pottery or the process of planting, hauling and building that accompanied population redistribution in the region Immunities within the population of African slaves and others born in tropical climes, as well as European survivors of yellow fever and malaria, also impacted the successful transmission of the viruses When the majority of the population is immune, the transmission cycle is interrupted and abates until a significant population of individual without immunity is introduced McNeill calls this differential immunity, and the concept is explored in great detail in the third section of the book.In addition to the environmental factors, McNeill examines the medical practices of the era that exacerbated the infectedoften than they cured them Galenic practices that originated in the second century were still the prevailing medical theories some fourteen hundred years later, and with little advancement beyond the humoral theory that promoted exsanguinations as cure, further weakening those afflicted with fever and helping to assure they did not survive The chapter entitled Deadly Fevers, Deadly Doctors is, by McNeill s own admission, rife with modern criticism and judgment that, are not up to the standards of the historical profession 63 That being said, the humor he injects in this chapter keeps the reader from setting aside what could easily devolve into a depressing clinical narrative of the brutish death that accompanied yellow fever The tone may not be up to academic standards, but the research is, at least for the European contribution His commentary on local medical treatment is a bit thin This is understandable for a population that had immunities to yellow fever, but malaria, once contracted, exhibited itself throughout the lifetime of the infected The greater take away from this chapter is that confusion how the diseases were transmitted works to explain why imperial armies were sent over and over again in spite of the infectious doom that repeatedly cut through the ranks, at great expense both in men and resources.The third section explores the importance of differential immunity in times of revolution and how yellow fever, and to a lesser extent, malaria, became dependable defenses, if given enough time to infiltrate non immune invaders He uses examples from the American Revolution and several Central and South American rebellions His analysis of the military maneuvers and strategies feel a bit underemphasized, but given the focus of the book, this is not surprising.Overall the structure of the book works well to bolster McNeill s thesis He starts each chapter with an introductory statement of purpose and ends each with a tidy conclusion Given the repetitive nature of the work, and this is, to an extent, unavoidable as the vectors and environmental conditions need to be established for each case study and the conditions for outbreak are fairly specific, with little room for variable, make for useful check ins to pull the reader back on point However, chapter eight, Conclusion Vector and Virus Vanquished 1880 1914, feels a bit tacked on He covers Gorgas abatement efforts in Cuba and Panama in few pages and then tries to extrapolate the process of disease control and power into a modern setting in which health, scientific research capacity and power are interconnected He does not really develop this idea it just lies there in the last few paragraphs of the book, as a possible thesis for another work, tenuously connected to Mosquito Empires.McNeill s contribution to colonial and environmental studies is significant Disease is often glossed over when it ravages European powers and highlighted when it decimates indigenous populations It is an important contribution to our understanding of just how important these colonies were to world power and how countries were willing to send waves of citizenry to their death in an effort to obtain territory

  3. says:

    I knew in principle that the Caribbean in colonial times was a really unhealthy area but the details are staggering Armies would arrive from Europe and 60% or evenwould die within months Disease was alwaysdangerous than enemy gunfire at the time but this was ten times the rate in Europe Colonies in the area had deaths outstripping births deep into the 18th century These wealthy islands and adjacent mainland areas ended up being inhabited mostly by slaves because few sane humans w I knew in principle that the Caribbean in colonial times was a really unhealthy area but the details are staggering Armies would arrive from Europe and 60% or evenwould die within months Disease was alwaysdangerous than enemy gunfire at the time but this was ten times the rate in Europe Colonies in the area had deaths outstripping births deep into the 18th century These wealthy islands and adjacent mainland areas ended up being inhabited mostly by slaves because few sane humans would voluntarily move there, and certainly not just for the promise of hard labor Any fantasies I had from reading Horatio Hornblower stories as a kid now seem twice as ridiculous neither valor, intelligence nor even modern ideas of hygiene would have been much of a protection to anyone visiting the area.What makes this bookthan just good is the amount of detail given to ecology, epidemiology and entomology, and the thesis The detailed description of A aegypti the yellow fever mosquito and how human settlers created an environment ideal for it is fascinating the Caribbean was a relatively healthy place before the forests were cleared and ports and ships created a super city with clean fresh water for their eggs and enticing, non immune humans Herd immunity could help the random immigrant but fresh arrival of a mass of new victims like an army of European veterans pretty much guaranteed an epidemic.The thesis itself also strikes me as perceptive and novel McNeill argues convincingly that differences in disease susceptibility made a big difference Survivors of yellow fever are immune, and if you got it as a child because you were born in the area you had a good chance of surviving your first bout This meant that after 1650 or so established colonies mostly Spanish had a strong advantage because, even if their forces were small and relatively undisciplined, they weren t wiped out in the weeks following the first rains By the 18th century the pattern of Europeans will die soon after they arrive was well established and taken into account in the plans of defense for cities and colonies.It s also a very well skillfully book with covering a huge number of fields with great clarity The subject matter is too grim to call it entertaining but it was educational

  4. says:

    Fascinating book I am really starting to like environmental history it is such a great way to forget about national borders and think about bigger picture history This book is about mosquitoes, and how they know no borders McNeill argues that in the 17th century the powers of Europe changed the ecology of the Greater Caribbean everything from Virginia to the north coast of Brazil and made it the perfect environment for mosquitoes to thrive Lots of sugarcane, rice, crowded port cities, c Fascinating book I am really starting to like environmental history it is such a great way to forget about national borders and think about bigger picture history This book is about mosquitoes, and how they know no borders McNeill argues that in the 17th century the powers of Europe changed the ecology of the Greater Caribbean everything from Virginia to the north coast of Brazil and made it the perfect environment for mosquitoes to thrive Lots of sugarcane, rice, crowded port cities, cattleit was buggy as hell Then, because mosquitoes carry yellow fever and malaria, those diseases became endemic This had huge historical consequences People who were born and raised in this places became resistant to the diseases, but outsiders died in huge numbers, so sending an army to conquer anyplace proved practically impossible Thus, even though the Spanish were weak, it was very hard for the English to conquer any parts of New Spain The poor Scots tried to carve out a new colony in Panama and died in droves During the Haitian revolution, Toussaint L Overture knew that he could outlast his enemies because any army sent to defeat him would start dying of yellow fever In America, the British trying to defeat the Americans in the revolution had a terrible time with malaria It just goes on and on Mosquitoes were so important Why didn t I know this already Plus, McNeill is witty In this part, he is writing about the King of England getting sick The King faded As a final measure doctors administered bezoars, crushed stones from the intestines of a Persian goat The King prudently, one is tempted to add diedIn the West Indies, European doctors followed similar practices when they could Bezoars were no doubt scarce Ha Bezoars

  5. says:

    McNeill, J.R., Mosquito Empires Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean 1620 1914, New York Cambridge University Press, 2010Topic J.R McNeil s work Mosquito Empires gives seat to ecology as an actor on the geopolitical stage and observes how climate change and other environmental factors create an action reaction observing how it can promote or hamper desirability, personal interest, or State prestige Nature, and its species, is given voice to explain how disease, plants, animals, and ins McNeill, J.R., Mosquito Empires Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean 1620 1914, New York Cambridge University Press, 2010Topic J.R McNeil s work Mosquito Empires gives seat to ecology as an actor on the geopolitical stage and observes how climate change and other environmental factors create an action reaction observing how it can promote or hamper desirability, personal interest, or State prestige Nature, and its species, is given voice to explain how disease, plants, animals, and insects mold humankind This rectifies its being overlooked for centuries due to its inability to represent itself in chronicles written by thesentient creatures of the earth Human motives within the political theatre maybe contradictory and complicated, but those of the biosphere are observed to be simple, relating to the soul instincts of survival and reproduction.Scope McNeil focuses broadly on North and Central America during the period of 1620 1914, emphasizing the role of the Caribbean and West Indies This emphasis gives the environmental, economic, and political actors in these locations agency that illustrates how they each affected the geopolitical theatre It outlines how the Atlantic powers acted as rational actors, motivated by statecraft and old constructionist theory, to pursue realist interests of wealth and power The Spanish Empire and Great Britain are observed as primary characters, vying for control of the Caribbean and the West Indies to spread their influence and tilt the balance of power toward their respective favors This creates conflict due to Britain s interests in usurping Spain s control on its colonies and gaining access to the trade and resources of Central America Mosquitoes, animals, and weather also acted on the geopolitical theatre, carrying the power of disease through the twin killers, yellow fever and malaria These diseases created aspects like differential immunity and resistance, causing widespread death to whoever did not possess these qualities, which allowed Spain to keep control of areas like Havana and Cartagena, until debt and socioeconomic stressors primed colonial revolution Historical Question s Mosquito Empires observed humanity s interaction with the environment through colonialism, statecraft, conflict, medicine, and survival It poses the following historical questions how do the linkages between ecology and politics influence geopolitics, what powers do ecology and disease have on framing pursuits of empire and wealth, what are the political and military implications of immunity, and what impact can something as small as the mosquito have on molding world politics The voices discounted from history, such as those of indigenous peoples or disease, are also considered to observe the potential for new historical contexts for societal development and human progression.Thesis es McNeil maintains several arguments that propose that nature has agency and maintains an action reaction relationship with human processes These arguments also assert that power politics was a motivation of conflict between the Atlantic powers They also affirmed that disease did not necessarily determine the outcomes of political standoffs, but it did heavily influence the probability for success or failure The power politics, pursuit of wealth, and settlements of humankind are all argued to have shaped the ecology of the Caribbean with an equally reciprocated effect of ecology shaping humanity Immunity is observed to have tremendous political and militaristic consequences Sources Mosquito Empires relies on numerous primary, secondary, and reference sources to detail the geopolitical decisions that were taking place around the world Primary and secondary sources are utilized to illustrate the logic imperial actors and native inhabitants used to describe their situations, trade, fortify, and seek medicine Reference sources are utilized to describe the stressors that disease caused through detailing deaths, and the effects that climate change had on imperial prestige through profitability of trade and resources

  6. says:

    First, reading this book will make you very grateful that we have a vaccine for yellow fever McNeill carefully traces the influences of mosquito borne viruses, primarily malaria and yellow fever, in the history of colonization on the American continents and in the Caribbean Closely tied to plantation agriculture and slave labor, millions were killed by malaria and yellow fever introduced from the old world and quickly spread by mosquitoes and to a lesser degree monkeys in the region Those who First, reading this book will make you very grateful that we have a vaccine for yellow fever McNeill carefully traces the influences of mosquito borne viruses, primarily malaria and yellow fever, in the history of colonization on the American continents and in the Caribbean Closely tied to plantation agriculture and slave labor, millions were killed by malaria and yellow fever introduced from the old world and quickly spread by mosquitoes and to a lesser degree monkeys in the region Those who were exposed to the viruses in childhood in the Caribbean or Central America and survived had differing levels of immunity from newly arrived Europeans and from Africans who either developed immunity in Africa as children or may have had some genetic immunity The differing effects of these diseases on the long established Spanish colonists versus the newly arrived British, for example, determined the outcome of many key conflicts McNeill s style of writing is scholarly but carefully organized and illustrated with concrete examples so that it is easy for the general reader to follow The level of detail may bethan some readers want I found it fascinating McNeill s book provided much of the material about the effects of mosquito borne illnesses used by the popular historian Charles Mann in his book 1493

  7. says:

    Fascinating, but repetitiveThe premise of this book is very interesting I loved learning about how disease shaped the world of the Caribbean However, there is far too much information about battles that could be summed up in the sentence Most of them died McNeill obviously put an incredible amount of work and effort into this book, but it isn t the most enjoyable read because of all of this sometimes superfluous information He also tends to repeat his thoughts, which can get annoying De Fascinating, but repetitiveThe premise of this book is very interesting I loved learning about how disease shaped the world of the Caribbean However, there is far too much information about battles that could be summed up in the sentence Most of them died McNeill obviously put an incredible amount of work and effort into this book, but it isn t the most enjoyable read because of all of this sometimes superfluous information He also tends to repeat his thoughts, which can get annoying Despite all this, I am very glad I read through it I would recommend to anyone interested in environmental history or military history of the greater Caribbean

  8. says:

    J R McNeill gained my confidence immediately with a first chapter displaying a proper balance of confidence and humility about his thesis roughly, that ecological changes created by Europeans in the Atlantic coastal regions of the New World increased the prevalence of malaria and yellow fever which in turn helped to determine the outcome of later military conflicts in the region McNeill is the master of his extensive research, yet he writes simply and clearly Few books these days are both a J R McNeill gained my confidence immediately with a first chapter displaying a proper balance of confidence and humility about his thesis roughly, that ecological changes created by Europeans in the Atlantic coastal regions of the New World increased the prevalence of malaria and yellow fever which in turn helped to determine the outcome of later military conflicts in the region McNeill is the master of his extensive research, yet he writes simply and clearly Few books these days are both academically sound and easily approachable by the general reader Bravo May McNeill s tribe increase

  9. says:

    id say 4 4.5 stars The author is well read and has gathered an incredible collection of sources to organize his ideas around the agency of yellow fever i the greater caribbean It is a great leap of imagination to make the connections he does across different times and empires and to have perceived patterns of infection in the way that he has Im not entirely sure the structure the chapters work for me, but the overall thesis and incredible research certainly provide much to think about in ter id say 4 4.5 stars The author is well read and has gathered an incredible collection of sources to organize his ideas around the agency of yellow fever i the greater caribbean It is a great leap of imagination to make the connections he does across different times and empires and to have perceived patterns of infection in the way that he has Im not entirely sure the structure the chapters work for me, but the overall thesis and incredible research certainly provide much to think about in terms of scope and focus for historical works

  10. says:

    Actually started reading this when it first came out and was intrigued by the introduction and then got a little overwhelmed with the different mosquitoes and diseases.It is a really interesting examination into the effects of mosquitoes on many wars and really a must read for students and teachers of history.

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