Rinderpest, or the Cattle Plague
From time to time we have seen advertisements.
One of the most frequent advertisements is about awareness against certain diseases.
Some of these are diseases like swine flu, malaria, dengue etc.
These are diseases that spread very fast and harm a lot.
In a similar way there was a disease that was spreading rapidly amongst cattles in 19th century.
It was Rinderpest, or the Cattle Plague
During the 1890s, this Rinderpest was rapidly spreading in Africa.
This was an example of how colonialism affected the colonised societies.
It shows how even in such an era when modernisation had started, disease affected the lives of so many.
Lives of thousands of people were affected and their relations with the rest of the world suffered too.
Historically, Africa had lots of land and only few people to live upon those lands.
For centuries, Africans survived on land and animal husbandry.
They rarely worked as wage labourers. Most of them had plenty of land and animals.
In late 19th century Europeans were attracted to Africa due to its vast lands and animals.
Europeans came here hoping to set up plantations and mines.
The crops and minerals would earn them a lot of money.
But very few people wanted to work for a wage in Africa.
Europeans started using new methods to recruit labour.
Heavy taxes started to be put on Africans.The tax could only be paid by working for Europeans.
The inheritance laws were changed. Now only one family member could inherit the land.
Lots of farmers were displaced. They were now pushed into the labour market.
Mineworkers had to stay within the compound and were not allowed to go out.
Then came the Rinderpest.
When infected cattle were carried from British Asia (British colonies in Asia) they spread it in Africa.
They were bringing cattle to feed the Italian soldiers invading Eritrea in East Africa.
When the cattle entered East Africa, the disease spread like forest fire.
It spread upto Africa’s Atlantic coast in 1892. By 1897 it reached Cape.
This killed about 90% of the cattle in Africa.
African livelihood was totally destroyed. Planters, mine owners and colonial officials had all the power now.
They manipulated whatever resources remained and ruled the Africans.
Europeans now had total control over the African population.
Although this is only one example, there are lots of such examples throughout History.