The Columbian Exchange Before 1492, thepeoples of Old World did not know that New World existed.
The ColumbianExchange is the term used to describe the exchange of plants, animals, anddiseases between Afro-Eurasia (Africa, Europe, and Asia) and the Americas 1. AfterColumbus’ discovery in 1492, the Columbian Exchange had a great impacted onboth sides of the Atlantic. The American historian Alfred Crosby introduced theterm Columbian Exchange, as well as the concept of the exchange, in the early1970’s 1. These exchanges transformed the way of life between Europeans andNative Americans. The Columbian Exchange brought gains between both worlds butalso many losses.
The discovery of theNew World provided the Old World with land suited for the cultivation that wasin high demand in Old World. Historian Alfred Crosby describes the significanceof the transfer of food crops between the continents, writing: “The comingtogether of the continents was a prerequisite for the population explosion ofthe past two centuries, and certainly played an important role in the IndustrialRevolution. The transfer across the ocean of the staple food crops of the Oldand New Worlds made possible the former” 2.
The plants that took place in theColumbian Exchange changed the economy in both worlds. There were new plantsdiscovered 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 OldWorld to the New World to cultivate. The sugarcane was the plant most common inEurope, but in the old world, sugarcane was difficult to cultivate due toEuropean climates. Animals made a big impact on the NewWorld.
Some of the impacts were therevolution of labor and the commerce. In the New World, the natives only hadsome 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 thenew world, it was created a whole new means of transportation and a new foodsource. The meat of pigs served to feed for the explorers. The cattle werekilled 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 nothave as much impact in the Old World.
The Columbian Exchange is often recognized forthe 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 Exchangeappear 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. Becausenative populations had no previous contact with Old World diseases, they wereimmunologically defenseless 2.
The most affected natives lost their total ofits population. Diseases were transferred from both worlds. Europeans andNative Americans suffered immensely from the disease that was foreign to them.