21 December 2007

Depopulation and Demography: A Patriot’s History Bibliography

My reading this morning has been limited to a few pages in Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005). He recounts the history of the Inka (Inca), their conquest by Francisco Pizarro, and how a young scholar’s career took a new direction during field work in Peru in the early 1960s. The young scholar in question was Henry F. Dobyns, who “was the first to put [90% mortality rate estimates] together,” Mann asserts, “with the fact that smallpox visited before anyone in South America had even seen Europeans” (102).

Mann continues:
Then Dobyns went further. When microbes arrived in the Western Hemisphere, he argued, they must have swept from the coastlines first visited by Europeans to inland areas populated by Indians who had never seen a white person. Colonial writers knew that disease tilled the virgin soil of the Americas countless times in the sixteenth century. But what they did not, could not, know is that the epidemics shot out like ghastly arrows from the limited areas they saw to every corner of the hemisphere, wreaking destruction in places that never appeared in the European historical record. The first whites to explore many parts of the Americas therefore would have encountered places that were already depopulated.
Mann, 1491, 103.

Dobyns repeated and argued a depopulation figure of 90-95% that had been put forth by others, such as Borah and Cook.

A Patriot's History

For their part, Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen mention Dobyns’s 1966 article in Current Anthropology, but omit it from their sources list. They note that his work is “admittedly controversial,” and emphasize the conclusion of some of his critics that “smallpox … did not seem to spread as a pandemic” (8).

I have previously noted my skepticism regarding the research underlying these contentions in A Patriot’s History (2004). It may take me several months or even years to wade through all the texts they cite, as well as those they should have cited, but I am struck by the observation that their source list appears terribly thin in its presentation of the scholarly views they dispute. They list two articles by journalists, and one by scholar Alfred Crosby “among those that cite higher numbers” (9). Their references to Henry Dobyns, on the other hand, might leave readers confused regarding the progression of his ideas from 1966 to 1976 to 1983, let alone what he thinks today. On the other side, they cite historians, but only one journalist. Of those seminal works that probably should be in any bibliography regarding aboriginal depopulation and demography in the Americas, but are missing from their list of sources, I can identify one that appears to support their contentions, David Henige, Numbers From Nowhere (1998).

It appears that the sidebar and footnote regarding the population of Native American Indians in 1492 either represents shoddy scholarship, or reflects a carefully constructed deception. This observation, then, becomes my working hypothesis as I work through the bibliography constructed below (and other such texts as come into my view along the way, such as those referenced in Kevin's comment).

Larry Schweikart trumpets his work on these matters in A Patriot’s History:
The "Columbian Exchange." We review extensive recent scholarship that disputes the numbers of "Native Americans" here when Europeans arrived, and note that considerable new research in the hard sciences and medicine shows that some diseases thought to be "transmitted" from Europe likely were already here. Moreover, we dispute throughout the book the "Noble Savage" interpretation of most texts, wherein Indians are portrayed as dedicated environmentalists who lived in peace with nature and each other prior to whites arriving.
Schweikart, “Why It's Time for ‘A Patriot's History of the United States’”

Sources Listed in A Patriot’s History

Black, Francis L. “Why Did They Die?” Science (December 11, 1992): 139-140.

“among those who cite higher numbers”

Cook, Noble David. Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520-1660. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

“reveals [that] weaknesses in the data remain”

Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

“among those who cite higher numbers”

Daniels, John D. “The Indian Population of North America in 1492.” William and Mary Quarterly (April 1999): 298-320.

“The best single review of all the literature on Indian population numbers”
See my assessment

Dobyns, Henry F. American Historical Demography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976.

“calculated the number somewhere in the middle . . .”

Dobyns, Henry F., with William R. Swagerty. Their Number Become Thinned: Native American Population Dynamics in Eastern North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983.

“. . . then subsequently revisited the argument”

Haines, Michael R., and Richard H. Steckel. A Population History of North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

“a recent synthesis of several studies”

MacLeish, William H. The Day Before America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

“Lower estimates come from”

Meggers, Betty. “Prehistoric Population Density in the Amazon Basin.” In John W. Verano, and Douglas H. Ubelaker, eds., 197-206. Disease and Demography in the Americas. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

“offers a lower-bound 3 million estimate for Amazonia (far lower than the higher-bound 10 million estimates)”

Meltzer, David. “How Columbus Sickened the New World.” The New Scientist (October 10, 1992): 38-41.

“among those who cite higher numbers”

Reff, Daniel T. Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1991.

“an excellent historiography of the debate”
“He argues for a reconsideration of disease as the primary source of depopulation (instead of European cruelty or slavery), but does not support inflated numbers.”

Steckel, Richard H., and Jerome C. Rose, eds. The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

“also see” after Haines and Steckel
I discuss this text in "Footnote to Larry Schweikart's Claim" and "Origins of Malaria"

Ubelaker, Douglas. “North American Indian Population Size, A.D. 1500-1985.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 77 (1988): 289-294.

“Lower estimates come from”
See my assessment

Wilford, John. “Don’t Blame Columbus for All the Indians’ Ills.” New York Times (October 29, 2002).

Seminal Works Absent from A Patriot’s History

Borah, Woodrow W., and Sherburne F. Cook. The Aboriginal Population of Central Mexico on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.

Chaplin, Joyce E. Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. "Virgin Soil Epidemics as a Factor in the Aboriginal Depopulation in America," William and Mary Quarterly 33 (April 1976): 289-299.

Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 1972.

Denevan, William, M., ed. The Native Population of the Americas in 1492. 2nd ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

Dobyns, Henry F. “Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques with a New Hemispheric Estimate.” Current Anthropology 7 (1966): 395-416.

Henige, David. Numbers from Nowhere: The American Indian Contact Population Debate. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Jacobs, Wilbur R. “The Tip of an Iceburg: Pre-Columbian Indian Demography and Some Implications for Revisionism.” William and Mary Quarterly 31 (1974): 123-132.

Kroeber, Alfred L. Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America. Berkeley: University of Californa Press, 1939.

McNeill, William H. Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press, 1976.

Mooney, James. The Aboriginal Population of America North of Mexico. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1928.

Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

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