Columbian Exchange Effects

Topics: Population history of American indigenous peoples, Christopher Columbus, Smallpox Pages: 2 (421 words) Published: September 29, 2010
Maria Sweeney
Columbian Exchange Essay

When Christopher Columbus set out in search for a passage to Asia, he and his men brought more than just themselves. Columbus and his men instigated a period of large scale contact between the Europeans and the Native Americans. This close interaction and contact lead to a widespread exchange of different things such as plants, livestock, and most importantly, disease. This outbreak of plagues was like a bio-terrorist attack. The Columbian Exchange in itself was it’s own bio-terrorist attack.

At first, the Native Americans enjoyed, or at least tolerated the Europeans. After all, they were now introduced to new foods and new animals, such as rice, oranges, coffee, wheat, sheep and cattle. The Europeans didn’t know foods like corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turkey. Crops began to thrive. Foods like rice, corn, wheat and potatoes became a staple in the diets of the Native Americans as well as the Europeans. These foods provided substantial nutritional value and increased both societies’ life expectancies.

Beasts of burden were also exchanged which greatly aided heavy laborers as well as quickened transportation. The Native Americans only had llamas for domestic purposes until the Europeans introduced horses and goats as well as other animals like rats, mice and rabbits.

This exchange between the two societies of Europe and the Americas was beneficial for both, however, later on their initial meeting would be greatly regretted. “Europeans also brought over Old World diseases, such as measles and smallpox, that killed off about eighty percent of the native populations.” Disease spread quickly and mercilessly, destroying all life in it’s path and leaving turmoil and despair in it’s wake.

The Native Americans had no natural resistance to the European diseases. Illnesses like malaria, small pox, influenza, measles, and cholera plagued relentlessly. Usually the very first epidemics...
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