The Columbian Exchange

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The Columbian Exchange:
A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas

By: Daniela Espana



The Columbian exchange refers to the exchange of diseases, ideas, food crops, and populations between The Old World and The New World, following the voyage to The Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1942. The Old World by which I mean not just Europe, but the entire Eastern Hemisphere gained from the Columbian Exchange in a number of ways. Discoveries of new supplies of metals are perhaps the best known, but the Old World also gained new crops such as potatoes, maize, and cassava; Also foods such as tomatoes, chili peppers, cocoa, peanuts, and pineapples were introduced, and are now culinary centerpieces in many Old World countries, mainly in Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Tobacco, another New World crop, was so popular that it came to be used as a substitute for currency in many parts of the world. The exchange also drastically increased the availability of many Old World crops, such as sugar and coffee, which were particularly well-suited for the soils of the New World. The exchange not only brought gains but also loses. European contact enabled transmission of diseases to previously isolated communities, which caused devastation far exceeding that of the Black Death in fourteenth century Europe. Europeans brought deadly virus and bacteria, such as smallpox, measles, typhus, and cholera for which Native Americans had no immunity. On their return home, European sailors brought syphilis to Europe. Although less deadly, the disease was known to cause great social disruption throughout the Old World. The effects of the Columbian Exchange were not isolated to the parts of the world most directly participating in the exchange: Europe and the Americas. It also had large, although less direct, impacts on Africa and Asia. European exploration and colonization of the vast tropical regions of these continents was aided by the New World

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