The Columbian Exchange changed the economy in both


The Columbian Exchange

            Before 1492, the
peoples of Old World did not know that New World existed. The Columbian
Exchange is the term used to describe the exchange of plants, animals, and
diseases between Afro-Eurasia (Africa, Europe, and Asia) and the Americas 1. After
Columbus’ discovery in 1492, the Columbian Exchange had a great impacted on
both sides of the Atlantic. The American historian Alfred Crosby introduced the
term Columbian Exchange, as well as the concept of the exchange, in the early
1970’s 1. These exchanges transformed the way of life between Europeans and
Native Americans. The Columbian Exchange brought gains between both worlds but
also many losses.

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            The discovery of the
New World provided the Old World with land suited for the cultivation that was
in high demand in Old World. Historian Alfred Crosby describes the significance
of the transfer of food crops between the continents, writing: “The coming
together of the continents was a prerequisite for the population explosion of
the past two centuries, and certainly played an important role in the Industrial
Revolution. The transfer across the ocean of the staple food crops of the Old
and New Worlds made possible the former” 2. The plants that took place in the
Columbian Exchange changed the economy in both worlds. There were new plants
discovered some of them were including beans, squash, chili peppers,
sunflowers, chenopods, peanuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, manioc, avocado,
pineapple, and cacao 2. In addition, many plants were brought from the Old
World to the New World to cultivate. The sugarcane was the plant most common in
Europe, but in the old world, sugarcane was difficult to cultivate due to
European climates. 

             Animals made a big impact on the New
World.  Some of the impacts were the
revolution of labor and the commerce. In the New World, the natives only had
some animals. On Columbus’s second voyage, he transported sugar plants, cattle,
pigs, and sheep to the island of Hispaniola 3. With these new animals to the
new world, it was created a whole new means of transportation and a new food
source. The meat of pigs served to feed for the explorers. The cattle were
killed and their skins were returned to Europe to be marketed.  The exchange was between both worlds.
However, the explorers brought some animals to Europe but these animals did not
have as much impact in the Old World.

             The Columbian Exchange is often recognized for
the positive things that it led between the Old World and the New World 2. However,
not all of the exchanges were positive to the New World. The most terrible consequences during the Columbian Exchange
appear from the exchange of disease between both worlds and their spread.  The major illnesses were smallpox, measles,
whooping cough, chicken pox, bubonic plague, typhus, and malaria. Because
native populations had no previous contact with Old World diseases, they were
immunologically defenseless 2. The most affected natives lost their total of
its population. Diseases were transferred from both worlds. Europeans and
Native Americans suffered immensely from the disease that was foreign to them.