As we continue to come to terms with Covid, reflection on the effects of past pandemics might help at least give sense of context.
The Spanish flu (aka the 1918 influenza pandemic, a virus of avian origin), the much more recent Avian Influenza (bird flu), Bubonic Plague, septicemic plague… polio, smallpox, malaria… these have affected human history more than war. They have even affected the human genotype.
A genotype, an organism’s complete set of genetic material, is adaptive, as recent studies in epigenetics have shown. So are human choices (at least sometimes).
Written records from outside the eastern Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent of Iraq areas from over 1000 years ago being rather rare, remnant stone carvings afford great value to investigations of social roots; those of far southeast SE Asia often depict quite Negroid heads which we can assume were meant to depict or at least represent rulers. (see https://www.pinterest.com/pin/475692779372835771/ and https://www.pinterest.com/pin/677017756471798663/).
But as happened elsewhere, rulers got replaced by new ones of a bit different genotype. Changes happened in the lower classes too. Kinky hair remains, but has clearly become less common.
In about 1000 CE the continental coast of SE Asia was largely malarial mangrove swamp. We know there were inhabitants because we know there was shipping trade, but we still know very little about who they were. It was thought that south Burma was Mon Dvaravati, but that’s been shown incorrect. It’s also clear that more northern, mountain peoples on occasion found necessity of refuge from invaders in said mangrove swamps.
Draught followed by heavy rains and flooding surely aggravated disease, as also did warfare, malnutrition from other factors, unintentional results of foreign trade, and man’s inhumanity to man, especially in terms of class conflict. War was much more about taking captive slaves than land, and removal and resettlement was surely unsettling and undermining of health. Attractive slaves were taken for use by the elite, and many of the less fortunate surely found it difficult to successfully breed. Seizing slaves from elsewhere may well have been seen as more efficient that “breeding”…
At any rate, over time the overall appearance of general populations changed, be it more from natural selection, coercion, or migrations. Genocidal activity hardly seems to have been rare, but also the health of the elite ALWAYS had advantages over that of the ruled. Local understandings among the ruled surely were often of help to them, but forced relocations put limits to that!
Surely our newly homeless will prove more susceptible to Covid than those less stressed and more protected.