Smallpox epidemics, Codex Florentinus
As we have studied today, the contact between the Europeans and the peoples of the Americas was catastrophic for the last ones. Although there was a number of natives who died fighting against the conquerors, most of them died from diseases transmitted by the Europeans. The Indies were "virgin soil" for many European diseases, which became lethal for the native Americans. Estimates calculate a demographic loss from 70 to 90 % of the total population of the continent. The population of the Americas didn´t recover until 1800, three centuries after the beginning of the conquest, but including the Europeans who had migrated to the Indies and the slaves forced to leave Africa. The impact was such that the natives were not the majority of the American population any more.
Advertisement of a slave auction in Virginia, British colony in North America, in 1769
When the natives started dying, the Europeans replaced them by black slaves brought from Africa forcedly. Around 12 million slaves crossed the Atlantic Ocean to work in the plantations and mines owned by the Europeans and their descendants.Many of them died during the voyage (25%). Slavery started in the Castilian and Portuguese colonies in 1502, became an important part of triangular trade and it didn´t finish until the end of the 19th century: in the USA slavery was abolished after the Civil War (1861-1865). Spain definitively abolished slavery in its colonies of the Caribbean Sea between 1873 (Puerto Rico) and 1880 (Cuba).
Figures have been extracted from the book LIVI BACCI, Massimo, Los estragos de la conquista. Quebranto y declive de los indios de América, Editorial Crítica, Barcelona, 2006. (English version: Conquest: the destruction of the American Indios, Polity, 2008).
More information about the Columbian exchange and demographic catastrophe for the native Americans:
Some important figures in the abolition campaign in the United Kingdom:
Interactive map about slavery: