The Columbian Exchange

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The Columbian Exchange is the exchange of plants, animals, food, and diseases between Europe and the Americas. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus came to America, he saw plants and animals he had never seen before so he took them back with him to Europe. Columbus began the trade routes which had never been established between Europe and the Americas so his voyages initiated the interchange of plants between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, which doubled the food crop resources available to people on both sides of the Atlantic. 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.

It should no longer come as any great surprise that Columbus was not the first to discover the Americas--Carthaginians, Vikings, and even St. Brendan may have set foot on the Western Hemisphere long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic. But none of these incidental contacts made the impact that Columbus did. Columbus and company were bound to bring more than the benefits of Christianity and double entry bookkeeping to America. His voyages started the Columbian Exchange, a hemispherical swap of peoples, plants, animals and diseases that transformed not only the world he had discovered but also the one he had left. The Old and New Worlds had been separated for millions of years before this voyage (except for periodic reconnections in the far north during the Ice Ages). This period of separation resulted in great species divergence and evolvement. There were still many similar species, such as deer and elm, but Europe had nothing like hummingbirds, rattlesnakes, and...
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