Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including ‘Do Not Be a Fool’

But When Cortés’s Soldiers Arrived Carrying a Novel Virus, the Empire First Succumbed to Smallpox and Then Fell to Spain

Every civilization eventually faces a crisis that forces it to adapt or be destroyed. Few adapt.

On July 10, 1520, Aztec forces vanquished the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men, driving them from Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire. The Spanish soldiers were wounded and killed as they fled, trying in vain to drag stolen gold and jewels with them.

The Spanish more than deserved the routing they got, and the conflict should have ended then. But a fateful surprise made those losses insignificant. By September, an unexpected ally of …

How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life

Past Public Health Crises Inspired Innovations in Infrastructure, Education, Fundraising and Civic Debate—and Cleaned up Rotting Animal Carcasses From the Streets

At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in …

The World War II “Wonder Drug” That Never Left Japan | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The World War II “Wonder Drug” That Never Left Japan

For Workers and Soldiers, Taking Methamphetamine Was a Patriotic Duty That Hooked a Generation

Amphetamines, the quintessential drug of the modern industrial age, arrived relatively late in the history of mind-altering substances—commercialized just in time for mass consumption during World War II. In fact, …

The Painful Truth About America’s Opioid Addiction

Our Craving for Comfort and Our Broken Health Care System Are Fueling a Deadly Epidemic

Lisa Girion, a Reuters top news editor for the Americas and the moderator of a Zócalo/UCLA panel on America’s opioid addiction problem, opened the discussion with some startling statistics. “Over …