Were infected blankets given to Native Americans?

Oct 2015
948
Norway
I have heard blankets infected with smallpox deliberately given to Native Americans to kill them. Is this true? I've even heard on the usually exellent TV program QI both versions, it did and did not happen.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,488
Dispargum
There is one well documented case, at Ft Pitt in 1763. There have been claims of other deliberate infections but the supporting documentation is thin. Most later cases rarely go beyond a curious coincidence. For instance, there is documentation of a disease affecting a white settlement, then of Indians visiting the white settlement, and then the disease breaks out among nearby Indian settlements, but there is no direct smoking gun of deliberate infection. The infection could easily have spread without deliberate intention. I read of one incident where sick white people were quarantined aboard a boat in the middle of a river. Some Indians paddled out in a canoe to see what was going on. The whites on board told the Indians by hand signals to keep away, but the Indians just got more curious. Language differences prevented effective communication. The Indians went aboard the boat to see what the whites were hiding, got infected, then went home and infected all of their Indian friends and families. In most cases of disease passing from whites to Indians, the disease spread without intention.
 
Oct 2015
948
Norway
Thank you. The time Stephen Fry (who I have the greatest respect for ) said on QI that it didn't happen, he mentioned a Britsh officer mentioned the posibility of spreading disease this way, but there is no proof he did it. It looks like it's the 1763 incident you mention Fry was refering to. I'm not an expert on medicine by far, but it seems to me that Native Americans would have died by the millions from the foreign and dangerous viruses and bacterias that came over from the densly populated Europe anyway. If it really happened, the distrubution of blankets with smallpox would have been a cruel act, but in the big picture it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,259
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Thank you. The time Stephen Fry (who I have the greatest respect for ) said on QI that it didn't happen, he mentioned a Britsh officer mentioned the posibility of spreading disease this way, but there is no proof he did it. It looks like it's the 1763 incident you mention Fry was refering to. I'm not an expert on medicine by far, but it seems to me that Native Americans would have died by the millions from the foreign and dangerous viruses and bacterias that came over from the densly populated Europe anyway. If it really happened, the distrubution of blankets with smallpox would have been a cruel act, but in the big picture it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
Be careful of taking the "facts" on QI as gospel. They're interesting, but not necessarily true (such as suggesting Cruithne is a moon),
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,912
Portugal
Thank you. The time Stephen Fry (who I have the greatest respect for ) said on QI that it didn't happen, he mentioned a Britsh officer mentioned the posibility of spreading disease this way, but there is no proof he did it. It looks like it's the 1763 incident you mention Fry was refering to. I'm not an expert on medicine by far, but it seems to me that Native Americans would have died by the millions from the foreign and dangerous viruses and bacterias that came over from the densly populated Europe anyway. If it really happened, the distrubution of blankets with smallpox would have been a cruel act, but in the big picture it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
Native Americans died by the millions, even if the historians don’t fully agree how many millions. The statistics range from around 10% to around 90% of population decline, mostly to diseases, since 1492. But the major population fall was in the 16th century, after that the Native Americans also begun to develop the same immunities that the Europeans had.

But you are talking about this Stephen Fry (Stephen Fry - Wikipedia)? Reading the entry, he doesn’t seem to be a historian.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,386
Australia
No, Fry is often wrong and his smugness in his own self knowledge doesnt hide it ... to me anyway .

It happened here, but full extent is hard to find in the historical record, why ?

The problem with finding a record of this sort of event is, the perpetrators are loathe to record it .

" "It wasn't legal to kill Aboriginal people so that happened covertly," Professor McGrath said. "

‘Shoot as many males as possible’
 
Aug 2018
532
Southern Indiana
One interesting fact is that the diseases often spread hundreds of miles inland before the whites physically traveled there.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,521
regardlsss of wtheater blankets were given on a few ioslated instances, the general uninteneded spread of European diseases by simple contact for which the Americans had no resistance cetrinbal killed huge numbers.

The Effects on Europeans on Americans and Afifcans could be massive and spread well ahead and deep into the interorir ahead of European settlement.

Germs, Guns and Steel I recommned, it covers a massive amount of ground, though it's rare for a book that doies so to be right on all aspects but it provies a good framework for looking at why the Europeans had more reeources biological, animals etc. And a look at how impacts can spread well beyond the piont of ocnatct.

Trade with Europeans provided great wealth and advantages for various groups , European demand fofr vaious products and there rade for them radically chnage the ecnomics of societies in America and Africa , which chagned the societies radically. And there is the desease.

 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,259
T'Republic of Yorkshire
But you are talking about this Stephen Fry (Stephen Fry - Wikipedia)? Reading the entry, he doesn’t seem to be a historian.
Fry is not a professional historian, but he presented a comedy quiz programme called QI, where the facts were researched by the research team (also referred to as the "elves").
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,912
Portugal
Fry is not a professional historian, but he presented a comedy quiz programme called QI, where the facts were researched by the research team (also referred to as the "elves").
Got it! Thanks. Now I understood what you wrote here:

Be careful of taking the "facts" on QI as gospel. They're interesting, but not necessarily true (such as suggesting Cruithne is a moon),