The columbian exchange refers to the movements between Afro-Eurasia and the newly discovered Americas of previously unknown, plants, animals, people and products that followed Columbus’s voyages. The exchange was one of the most prominent features of global expansion and exploration.
It impacted cultural and social factors on both sides of the atlantic. The Americas did become a New World, but also changed the Old one. As the Europeans came to the Americas they brought forward the economic and technological advantages they held with them.
This included firearms, advancements in farming, and new architectural ingenuity. Farming equipment such as the plow along with the agricultural knowledge the Native Americans promoted advancements in the cultivation of large areas of lands. The development of farming led to extensive crop fields that resulted in the establishment of towns since as new lands could now be used to sustain a society. As the land in the Americas was richer than the land in Europe, the Europeans saw a greater crop output which contributed to the growth of the economy of the New World. Agriculture and the discovery of new crops changed the culture and economy of the world. There were a myriad of crops discovered such as tomatoes, avocados, beans, squash, sweet potatoes, etc, however, the most important were, the potato and maize (American corn).
The cultivable flexibility of Maize allowed it be exported to the Old World influencing the global economy and contributed to the massive population growth of the era. Potatoes became a vital prop in Europe due to its natural resistance to cold and ability to grow in thin soil, eventually becoming a dietary staple.Advancements in weapons, firearms in particular contributed to the Native American’s lives since as hunter gatherers, the power of a firearm could now allow them to hunt larger animals that would sustain their society longer. While the natives had an advantage in agricultural skills, the manufacturing advantage held by the europeans allowed for a mutually beneficial trade for goods between the Natives and the Europeans. The architectural inventiveness of the Europeans established the first towns of the colonies. With inventions such as the wheel, larger construction materials and tools could be transported promptly allowing for the quick expansion of the new settlers. However a consequence of this ingenuity and the development of European civilization in the Americas was the relocation of the Native Americans. As the Europeans needed more land, the Native Americans were forced to give up theirs.
While the technological advancements of the Europeans benefited both parties, the Native Americans tended pay the larger cost.People were not the only ones that made the passage to the New World; animals became involved in the exchange as well. The animals that the new explorers brought across the Pacific contributed to a new form of labor, transportation, as well as new food sources.
Cattle provided meat, and were also killed for their hide which could be traded and exported back to the Old World. However, cattle also negatively impacted the Native Americans, due to the trampling and grazing of crops. The most crucial of the animals, however, was the horse. They allowed for rapid transportation and played a fundamental role in the conquest of Native American lands.
The Native Americans, never having seen horses before, feared them and were slaughtered as the Europeans rode them unleashing their firearms. While animals played many positive roles in the columbian exchange, it was also the reason for massive devastation. Rats are speculated to have been brought as stowaways on ships, bringing with them destructive diseases such as typhus and bubonic plague. Disease was primarily the greatest consequence of the Columbian Exchange. The destructive effect of disease was not immediately visible. The secluded populations of the Americas had been cut off from Afro-Eurasia’s microbe transfers.
Asians, Europeans, and Africans had interacted for a long periods of time, sharing diseases and acquiring immunities. The Native Americans, however, had acquired no such advantage and were completely unprepared for the devastation the Afro-Eurasians would unknowingly bring upon them. The deadliest of which happened to be small pox, however no sooner had the destruction of smallpox occurred when other pandemics broke out. Measles, Pneumonic plague, and influenza came in waves each time leaving the population more attenuated than before.
Consequently the decline of the Native Americas led to a huge demand in labor that was fulfilled by the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Disease did not just plague the New World. Syphilis made its way to Europe, becoming an epidemic and eventually spread across Afro-Eurasia.
Th The spread of infectious diseases was the price paid for world’s first major globalization attempt. The Columbian Exchange represented the beginning of the era of globalization. Oceans were no longer the barriers separating civilizations. People, goods, animals, plants and microbes were interchanged contributing for better and worse of the world.
Trade allowed cultures to spread bringing the global community together and contributed to a population growth but. Although contact actuated progress, it also produced suffering and profiteering, as felt by the Native Americans. The effects of the Columbian Exchange shaped the world as we know it today by driving the progress of civilization, truly making it a pivotal point in history.