Century Marks

Plague on their house: People tend to think of strangers as the spreaders of contagion. The Mongols were accused of spreading the Black Death in Europe and the Dutch were held responsible for the Great Plague in London of 1665. Tanzanians blame the high rate of AIDS on the Ugandan troops who invaded their country in the late 1970s. Foreigners sometimes do transmit disease, unwittingly or not. Cortez was able to conquer Mexico because the natives had no immunity to smallpox. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the anthrax postal scare of 2001 was instigated by a foreigner, as was first thought. A fraction of the expenditure on bioterrorism preparedness in the U.S. could save a half million lives in India each year (American Scholar, Spring).


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