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The columbian exchange

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Kristen Robertson

on 9 June 2013

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Transcript of The columbian exchange

The Success and Prosperity of the European Nations The Colombian Exchange: What is the Colombian Exchange? What Downfalls Did the Europeans Face? The Colombian exchange is a phrase that was developed by Alfred Crosby, an American historian. The Colombian Exchange is the term for the interchange of various plants, animals, culture, human populations, ideas and lethal diseases between the Old World (European nations) and the New World (the America's). The events of the Colombian Exchange took place after the arrival of Christopher Columbus's expedition to the Caribbean in 1492. The Colombian Exchange tremendously benefited the European Nations while bringing catastrophic consequences to the Native Americans. The Colombian Exchange may be one of the single most important events as to why our lives are the way we are. It explains how and why the European nations rapidly became the wealthiest and the most powerful nations following the events of the Colombian Exchange. Despite common belief the European nations didn't thrive amongst the Native Americans due to power in numbers or advanced technology. The Europeans didn't need to rely on their weapons in order to over power the Native Americans. The over powering of the Native Americans was almost solely based on powerful environmental forces beyond the control of either nations. Lethal diseases did more for the over powering of the Natives then any army could wish to accomplish. The key factor in the prosperity of the European nations was the lethal smallpox virus. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the New World it tended to be quite a healthy place. Very few devastating diseases had hit the population of the Native Americans compared to the continuous devastating diseases that effected the populations of Europe. Over time the Europeans gained immunity to these deadly diseases but the Native Americans did not. They had never been exposed the viscous diseases as the Europeans had therefore the Native Americans lacked the immunities in order to fight off the disease. When the Native Americans had come in contact with these diseases they began dying at astronomical rates. Following the exchange of smallpox to the Natives it was estimated that between 80-95% of the Native population had been killed off within the first 100 years. Some regions through the America's lost 100% of their populations due to the deadly disease. This was known as the Indians "Great Dying" which was thought to have decimated as much as 1/5th of the entire worlds population at that point in time. It wasn't though the Natives just allowed the Europeans to claim their territory as their own it was that the minimal number of traumatized survivors were simply incapable at creating any sort of effective resistance against the European colonists, allowing European colonist to simply claim what they believed was theirs. The Downfall of the Native Americans The prosperity the European nations saw due to the Colombian Exchange proved to be even more unbalanced with the integration of New World crops into the Old World. The three most effective crops the Europeans had gained due to the Colombian Exchange were potatoes, corn and cassava. The introduction of these crops helped push Europe and Africa out of the famine the Old World had previously seen. As Native American populations decimated the European and African populations soared to new levels. Previously the Europeans relied on wheat for their source of carbohydrates but with these new crops being integrated into their lives they could yield almost double what they previously could with wheat. Not to mention these crops were a much better source of nutrients for the Europeans. With the case of Ireland alone populations boomed from barely one million to eight million over the course of a century and a half with the integration of potatoes into the Irish diet. The potato had become a indispensable sustenance to the Irish people. Cassava was originally grown in Brazil, it is a tropical root plant. Africa had the prime climate in order to support the growth of the cassava. With the new and nutritious plant being included in African society the population would boom specifically in the Congo. The new and booming population in Africa would help create the slave trade in the America's. Many of the African population were involuntarily taken to the New World and sold as slaves. By 1888 more then 9.5 million African slaves were being enslaved in the America's The population boom in Europe help generate more people to be brought over to the New World to reinforce the European colonization of the America's. Many people whether they were African slaves or Europeans were brought over in attempts to repopulate a disease ridden continent. European Success Due to the Colombian Exchange Besides the introduction of corn and potatoes , tobacco and quinine were probably the most important introductions into the Old World. The integration of tobacco into the European lifestyle dates back to 1560. The popularity of tobacco quickly spread all over Europe. At first tobacco was primarily used for medicinal purposes. By the 17th century popularity of tobacco had already spread all throughout Europe. The evolution of tobacco quickly escalated, besides the initial purpose of being consumer tobacco was also used as a form of currency for different culture through out time. In Virginia high quality tobacco was legally recognized as an official tender in 1642. In Maryland almost every transaction for almost any product or service were all conducted with tobacco as the form of currency. Some of these things paid for in tobacco ranged from debts, fines and even marriage licenses. Due to the integration of tobacco in European culture from the Colombian Exchange tobacco has become a huge factor in our modern day lives. Tobacco is widely popular around the entire world due to the Europeans introducing it into their culture. Even though tobacco has many negative side effects it was and still is an extremely beneficial attribute to the past and modern economies. Quinine was known as the "gift" from New World to the Old World's colonies. Quinine was originally found on the bark of a cinchona tree in Peru and Bolivia. This was extremely important to the European nations of the Old World because it was the first effective treatment for malaria. Quinine was a very important discovery to the Europeans, it aided the colonization of the tropical regions. It was known to have facilitated the European colonists survival during the colonization of malaria-ridden locations. It was said that without the use of quinine that the colonization of Africa would have been practically impossible to do without the benefits associated with quinine. Introduction of Tobacco and Quinine With the thought of the Colombian there is generally one thought that comes to mind; European prosperity and Native American failure. The Europeans gained so much from the Colombian Exchange but what exactly were the repercussions the Europeans faced? Out of all the important things they gained from the Colombian Exchange they really only gained one significantly negative disease. The one major negative consequence the Europeans faced was syphilis. Although the origin of syphilis has been constantly disputed whether this disease originated in the New or Old World. There are two different theories as to how syphilis originated. One theory is that it did in fact originate in the New World and was spread to Europe after Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World. The disease was presumably spread through the sexual contact Christopher Columbus and his crew had with the Native Americans and slowly but surely spread throughout Europe creating a syphilis pandemic. The second theory of the origins of syphilis is that it did originated in the Old World just went unnoticed compared to the many other lethal diseases that Europe had been faced with during and prior to this time period. It could have been that no one had differentiated syphilis compared to the other lethal diseases that share similar symptoms as syphilis. The Colombian Exchange To get a clear picture on how drastic the loses the Native Americans faced. An army of only several hundred Spanish soldiers led by Hernan Cortes were capable of conquering and capturing the glorious Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Conclusion The Colombian Exchange is absolutely one of the most significant events in the history of colonization of the America's. Without understanding the concepts of the Colombian Exchange you can not truly understand why you live where you do, why you eat what you do and why you speak the language you do. The Colombian Exchange explains why the European nations prospered and their ideology and culture spread rapidly throughout the entire world. The key factors in the Colombian exchange are disease, potatoes and corn. Disease was the single most important factor to the European prosperity. With the introduction of disease to the fragile immunity of the Native Americans the Europeans practically had the America's handed to them on a silver platter without barely lifting a finger. The Europeans gained so much from the Colombian Exchange, from new land, population growth, new and valuable information, colonization, slaves and a new and improved diet to help sustain and increase the life expectancy of the Europeans. The Native Americans on the other hand seemed to have not gained anything by the Colombian Exchange. They had their land involuntarily taken away from them by the European colonists, the Native American societies were considered lucky in they lost only 80% of their entire population to the smallpox disease and those who managed to overcome the smallpox disease were stuck to a life of slavery or a life constantly being interfered in by the Europeans. The Colombian Exchange was a one way beneficial event only seeming to benefit the Europeans and their colonist. All in all once the Europeans landed on the shores of Southern and Northern America's life for the Native Americans would never be the same. They America's would be changed and reformed in the time period of only a few centuries to create the modern and dominant societies we know today. If it weren't for the Colombian Exchange our lives may be completely different from what we know today. It is hard to determine how life would have been without the factors effecting the Colombian Exchange. All that can be said is that without the powerful forces of nature that subsequently led to the colonization of the United States and Canada our lives would have been completely different then what we live in today.
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