November 28, 2012
THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE
The Columbian Exchange was a very significant event in the history of world ecology, agriculture, and culture.
The term is used to describe the immense widespread exchange of agricultural goods, livestock, slave labor, infectious diseases, and ideas between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres that occurred after 1492. That year, Christopher Columbus' first voyage established a period of significant contact between the Old and the New World that resulted in this ecological revolution.
The effects of the Columbian Exchange not only impacted parts of the world that were directly involved in the exchange such as, Europe and the Americas but it also had a great, although less direct, impact on Africa and Asia. European exploration and establishment of the vast tropical regions of these continents were supported by the New World discovery of the first effective treatment for malaria. Additionally, the cultivation of financially profitable crops in the Americas, along with the destruction of native populations from disease, resulted in a demand for labor that was met with the abduction and forced movement of Africans during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.
The exchange not only brought gains, but also losses. European interaction enabled the transmission of diseases to previously secluded communities, which brought deadly viruses and bacteria, such as smallpox and measles, making it very unlikely for Native Americans to survive because they had little to no immunity. On their return home, European sailors brought syphilis to Europe, although less deadly, the disease was known to have caused great disruption throughout the Old World. (Dougherty)
When the Europeans explored the Americas, they were introduced to new plants, foods, and animals, as well as riches and land. Foods such as corn, white and sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes, cacao, fruits, peppers, peanuts, sugar cane, and tobacco were many of the new foods enjoyed by Europeans. Some animals such as wild turkeys, llamas, and alpacas, were brought back to Europe. Native American Indians traded furs with the Europeans, which were luxury items throughout Europe. (Nunn) The discovery of lands rich in gold, silver, and other treasures provoked the conquistadors to set off on expeditions to the Americas, while reports of newly discovered lands rich in resources, lured many other Europeans to the Americas in search of a new and better life.
The Native American Indians had no plows, no wagons, no means of transportation, and no way to move heavy objects other than by their own power. The Europeans brought over horses, oxen, donkeys, and camels and horses became very valuable to the Native Americans. For those who gathered by hunting, the effects were beneficial because the horses enabled them to cover great distances, and hunters could locate and kill the bison more easily. Horses, oxen, donkeys, and camels became American Indians beasts of burden, instead of relying on their own manpower. Europeans also brought a number of domesticated animals to the New World, including cattle, pigs, sheep, and fowl, which served as valuable sources of food and clothing. Horses were extremely abundant in Europe, when the explorers were massacring the natives, the horses took a large part in these battles, not only for speed but also because they still terrified the natives. The horse was an important carrier of information for the explorers as well. Cattle were one of the biggest assets of the new world because of the exports and the meat. Their meat supplied the explorers with the nourishment they needed. Sheep were more vulnerable to predators so they had a hard time multiplying. They had trouble protecting themselves and it was very rare for them to run wild. They also carried diseases that helped kill llamas and alpacas but sheep and their wool were the basis of America’s first factories.
While the Native Americans