September 12, 2018
The Columbian Exchange: A History that drastically changed both the Old and New World
The Old World which encompassed the Eastern Hemisphere including countries such as Italy, Greece, India, Korea, Hungary, Malaysia, and Thailand and the New World which encompassed Europe, Africa, and North and South America was introduced to disease, food, animals, and plants by the voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The voyage connecting the two worlds is what became known as the Columbian Exchange.
Many peoples/ nations were affected by the Columbian Exchange. Europeans traveled with plants, animals and diseases to the Americas and Africa which also affected Native Americans, Spanish, French, and Dutch. CITATION Nun10 l 1033 (Nunn and Qian 2010) Ships from the Americas brought plants such as tomatoes, squash, pineapples, tobacco, and cacao beans (for chocolate) and potatoes to the Old World. Animals including turkey, horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs were also transported to the New World. The two-way traffic across the Atlantic provided both worlds with new resources resulting in both boosting of population and decrease of population.
The Native Americans were primarily affected negatively by diseases indirectly introduced. Europeans brought smallpox, measles, typhus, and cholera which at the time there was no remedy for. These diseases caused devastation to the Native Americans believed to far exceed the Black Death in the fourteenth-century. CITATION Nun10 l 1033 (Nunn and Qian 2010) Animals introduced to the Native American culture also impacted the land. Livestock devoured indigenous plants, enabling hardier weeds to take over resulting in wild animals stayed away depriving Indians of critical food sources. CITATION Boy17 l 1033 (Boyer 2017) The “mixing of peoples” also created negative impact on the Atlantic world. During the sixteenth century, approximately three hundred thousand Spaniards immigrated to the Atlantic, 90% being male. Racially blended people emerged, giving rise to mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian) population. CITATION Boy17 l 1033 (Boyer 2017) Europe was also introduced to a blended culture. European men forced themselves on African women resulting in what is known as mulatto children. The English banned unions with Native Americans and the Spanish and French participated in what is known as “country marriages” meaning wed but without sanction of the church. CITATION Boy17 l 1033 (Boyer 2017)
The positive impacts the Columbian Exchange brought significantly outweigh the negative impacts. The introduction of potatoes to the Old World sparked an increase in population in Ireland, coffee and sugar increased welfare by 8 percent by 1850. CITATION Nun10 l 1033 (Nunn and Qian 2010) Many of the foods transported to the Old and New Worlds resulted in nutritional improvements and increased vitamin intake. Foods that are indigenous to the New World are an important staple of the world’s diet and some of the most popular foods today. Tobacco is one of the most widely adopted plants across the Old and New worlds. Not only was it in high demand but at one time it was also accepted as currency. An important medical antidote brought from the New World to the Old, was an effective treatment for malaria. With the introduction of the medicine to the Old World, Europe is believed to have been able to colonize tropical regions of the globe.
The textbook answer of who benefit the most from the Columbian Exchange is Spain. With the trade of so many items and so many different cultures, a limitless supply of wealth was provided to Spain. Silver was transported across the Atlantic from mines in Mexico and Peru to Spain who utilized it to fuel wars. CITATION Boy17 l 1033 (Boyer 2017) I believe that the true benefactors of the Columbian Exchange were all parties involved. If not for the exchange, cultures today would not have the staples of life such as food, animals, medicinal necessities. Christopher Columbus’ voyage not only discovered new countries, people, and land, he provided an open avenue for cultural growth and diversity. Without items such as “chili peppers” countries such as India and Korea would not have their well known “spicy food” staple, and Ireland wouldn’t be known for their expertise in growing potatoes. Main avenues of travel and trade were created from this voyage and created the Columbian Exchange. I believe we are as cultures now because of the exchange.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Boyer, Clark, Halttunen, Kett, Salisbury, Sitkoff, Woloch, Rieser. The Enduring Vision A History of the American People Ninth Addition. 2017
Nunn, Nathan, and Nancy Qian. 2010. “The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 24 (2): 163-188. Accessed 9 12, 2018. https://aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.24.2.163.