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I was working on an alternate history world where the Americas are not heavily colonized and I became aware of how some people in the Yucatan were vulcanizing rubber long before Goodyear. Assuming that, while shaken, local industry is not completely destroyed by European contact; some explorers come back with some really nice sandals and interest in importing more of these products. Would having this technology radically alter the course of history?

I guess better roofing and insulation could be a big one, but I doubt we could see something like refrigeration for awhile; maybe I'm wrong. Bicycles also seem to require a lot of technological knowledge besides rubber. My main thought is that soldiers with better footwear could maybe have a huge advantage over their enemies, but would vulcanized rubber soles really be a big upgrade over the leather boots of the time?

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  • $\begingroup$ Even in the 21st century the only advantage of rubber boots over leather boots is that they are cheap. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 13 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, I wasn't thinking about the whole boot being rubber, but the soles could be an improvement maybe? $\endgroup$
    – Coquí
    Apr 13 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Rubber soles have big problems with cold and hot days. Leather soles don't. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 13 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ Rubber does handle wet better though. $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @SoronelHaetir Oh! I hadn't even considered raincoats! I suppose that's bound to have an impact! $\endgroup$
    – Coquí
    Apr 13 at 22:41

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I was initially going to say 'not really' - as most applications where it is really useful are things like Tyres, Conveyor belts and vibration absorption/shock absorption - none of which are particularly useful if you don't have the industrial equipment or processes that make these useful.

But...

One application jumped out at me:

Rubber Hoses

With this, our Yucatan protagonists could have advanced farming and horticulture from their ability to store and transport water in hoses and irrigate fields from hoses with holes in

This is more significant than you might think - This can help turn your society from Hunter Gatherer, to Subsistence farming all the way to form of Intensive Farming.

Having an excess of Food means that the Yucatan people can worry less about where they are going to get their next meal and focus more on other intellectual pursuits

This is one of the reasons believed to be why Europeans did so well historically - we had great conditions for Farming, which meant we could do other things.

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    $\begingroup$ This is great. The post classical Maya already had pretty complex agricultural and urban societies (not sure what qualifies as "intensive farming"), but if this could increase productivity, even if only by replacing animal skin hoses, modernization can happen way sooner $\endgroup$
    – Coquí
    Apr 13 at 23:46

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