The Columbian Exchange

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The Columbian Exchange is one of the most significant results of the Age of Exploration and the First Global Age. Food products, livestock and diseases are but three elements of the Columbian Exchange. As Columbus "discovered America" and Western Europe discovered the various economic opportunities available in the New World, agricultural exchanges between the two regions led to exchanges of other items. Within decades of Columbus' voyages, the trans Atlantic slave trade had begun and hundreds of thousands of native Americans died of diseases brought to America by Europeans and Africans. The early Spanish conquistadors brought gunpowder and the horse to America as well as the Catholic Christian Church. Indeed, the conquistadors brought priests with them and established missions such as St. Augustine, San Diego and San Antonio. The Spanish also brought African slaves to work on sugar plantations. New foods for both Europe and the Americas was a major part of the Columbian Exchange. The Americas provided such new foods as corn, the potato, the tomato, peppers, pumpkins, squash, pineapples, cacao beans (for chocolate) and the sweet potato. Also, such animals as turkeys, provided a new food source for Europeans. Tobacco, an American product, was also carried to Europe. From Europe, the Americas were introduced to such livestock as cattle, pig and sheep as well as grains such as wheat. African products introduced to the Americas included items originally from Asia were brought to the west by European traders and African slaves. These items included the onion, citrus fruits, bananas, coffee beans, olives, grapes, rice and sugar cane. The "Columbian Exchange"—a phrase coined by historian Alfred Crosby—describes the interchange of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old World and the Americas following Columbus's arrival in the Caribbean in 1492. For reasons beyond human control, rooted deep in the divergent evolutionary histories of the continents, the Columbian Exchange massively benefited the people of Europe and its colonies while bringing catastrophe to Native Americans. Psst... Check Out These Resources

The Columbian Exchange Statistics The Columbian Exchange Quotes The Columbian Exchange Photos The Columbian Exchange Trivia The Columbian Exchange Primary Sources Why Should I Care?

The Columbian Exchange: It's a relatively obscure concept, developed by a relatively obscure historian. Most people have never even heard of it. Its definition—the transmission of non-native plants, animals, and diseases from Europe to the Americas, and vice versa, after 1492—doesn't sound very sexy. And yet the Columbian Exchange just may be the single most important event in the modern history of the world.

The Columbian Exchange explains why Indian nations collapsed and European colonies thrived after Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492.

The Columbian Exchange explains why European nations quickly became the wealthiest and most powerful in the world.

The Columbian Exchange explains why Africans were sold into slavery on the far side of the ocean to toil in fields of tobacco, sugar, and cotton.

The Columbian Exchange even explains why pasta marinara has tomato sauce.

If you don't understand the Columbian Exchange, you cannot truly understand the forces that shape the world we live in today. You cannot understand why you speak the language you speak, why you live in the nation you live in, or even why you eat the food you eat.

If you don't understand the Columbian Exchange, much of what you think you know about the history of the Americas may be wrong. Spanish soldiers did less to defeat the Incas and Aztecs than smallpox did. Divine Providence did less to bless the Puritan settlers of the Mayflower with good health and fortune than the Pilgrims' own immune systems did.

In the Columbian Exchange, ecology became destiny. Powerful...
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