1789 Sydney smallpox outbreak

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1789 Sydney Smallpox Outbreak

The 1789 Sydney smallpox outbreak was a significant event in the history of Sydney, Australia. The outbreak occurred in the early days of the British settlement in Sydney Cove, New South Wales, and had devastating consequences for the local Indigenous Australians.

Background[edit | edit source]

In 1788, the British established a settlement at Sydney Cove, which later became known as Sydney. The arrival of the British colonists had a profound impact on the Indigenous population, introducing new diseases to which they had little immunity.

Outbreak[edit | edit source]

The smallpox outbreak in 1789 was believed to have been introduced by a British ship that arrived in Port Jackson. The disease quickly spread among the Indigenous population, who had no prior exposure to smallpox and therefore no immunity. The outbreak resulted in a high mortality rate among the Indigenous Australians, leading to a significant decline in their population.

Impact[edit | edit source]

The 1789 smallpox outbreak had long-lasting effects on the Indigenous communities in the Sydney region. It decimated their population, disrupted their social structures, and caused immense suffering. The outbreak also contributed to the ongoing conflict between the British colonists and the Indigenous peoples.

Response[edit | edit source]

The British authorities in Sydney took various measures to contain the outbreak, including isolating the infected individuals and implementing quarantine measures. However, their efforts were largely ineffective in preventing the spread of the disease among the Indigenous population.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

The 1789 Sydney smallpox outbreak remains a tragic chapter in the history of Sydney and the impact of European colonization on the Indigenous peoples of Australia. The event serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of introduced diseases on vulnerable populations.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD