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Columbian exchange

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New World native plants. Clockwise, from top left: 1. Maize (Zea mays) 2. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) 3. Potato (Solanum tuberosum) 4. Vanilla (Vanilla) 5. Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) 6. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) 7. Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica)
New World native plants. Clockwise, from top left: 1. Maize (Zea mays) 2. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) 3. Potato (Solanum tuberosum) 4. Vanilla (Vanilla) 5. Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) 6. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) 7. Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica)
Old World native plants. Clockwise, from top left: 1. Citrus (Rutaceae); 2. Apple (Malus domestica); 3. Banana (Musa); 4. Mango (Mangifera); 5. Onion (Allium); 6. Coffee (Coffea); 7. Wheat (Triticum spp.); 8. Rice (Oryza sativa)
Old World native plants. Clockwise, from top left: 1. Citrus (Rutaceae); 2. Apple (Malus domestica); 3. Banana (Musa); 4. Mango (Mangifera); 5. Onion (Allium); 6. Coffee (Coffea); 7. Wheat (Triticum spp.); 8. Rice (Oryza sativa)

The Columbian exchange, also known as the Columbian interchange, named for Christopher Columbus, was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Americas, West Africa, and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries. It also relates to European colonization and trade following Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage.[1] Invasive species, including communicable diseases, were a byproduct of the Exchange. The changes in agriculture significantly altered and changed global populations. The most significant immediate impact of the Columbian exchange was the cultural exchanges and the transfer of people (both free and enslaved) between continents.

The new contact between the global population circulated a wide variety of crops and livestock, which supported increases in population in both hemispheres, although diseases initially caused precipitous declines in the numbers of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Traders returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe by the 18th century.

The term was first used in 1972 by American historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange.[2] It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known.

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  • ✪ The Columbian Exchange: Crash Course World History #23
  • ✪ The Columbian Exchange: Crash Course History of Science #16
  • ✪ Griot B - Columbian Exchange
  • ✪ The Columbian Exchange - description for kids
  • ✪ The Columbian Exchange


Hi. I'm John Green, This is Crash Course: World History and today's video is kind of a response to one of the most riveting history books you'll ever read, "The Columbian Exchange," by David Crosby. He had a good year in 1969. Published "The Columbian Exchange," played Woodstock, he was still on his first liver. What? It was Albert Crosby? Gah! History. Never being as interesting as I want it to be. Right, so, it was Alfred Crosby Jr. And in that book, he wrote: "The big questions are really the only ones worth considering, and colossal nerve has always been a prerequisite for such consideration." I love it! Before 1492, we couldn't really talk about a world history at all. We could only talk about the different histories of separate regions. But, Columbus changed all of that, and everything else. The Columbian Exchange irrevocably homogenized the world's biological landscape. Since Columbus, the number of plant and animal species has continually diminished. And the variation in species from place to place has diminished dramatically. I mean the first European visitors to the Americas had never seen a tomato or a catfish. Native Americans had never seen a horse. And by making our planet biologically singular, the Columbian Exchange completely remade the populations of animals, particularly humans. And vitally, this cross-pollination also made possible such wonders as contemporary pizza. [Intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] So we're going to break Columbian exchange down into four categories: diseases (boy, you're looking good, smallpox, I'm glad you've been eliminated), animals, plants, and people. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. People are animals. Yeah, that's true, Me from the Past, but just for the sake of simplicity-- Also, if you think about it, microbes are kind of animals and plants are too, I mean— OH MY GOD SHUT UP BEFORE I KILL YOU AND CREATE A TIME TRAVEL PARADOX. Microbes, like those hairy blokes back there, were a definite negative in terms of the Columbian Exchange. Terminology is hard here, but the majority of Caribbean Islanders or Native Americans or Amerindians had exactly one response to the arrival of Europeans: death. We can't be sure how many natives died as a result of European arrival, but it was definitely more than 50%, and some estimates place it as high as 90%. Historians used to blame European brutality, which was definitely was a factor, but the main culprit was disease. Smallpox is usually seen as the villain of this story, but it's more likely that a series of diseases in combination did the damage. Along with smallpox, Americans were killed by measles, and mumps, typhus, chicken pox, none of which they had been previous exposed to. This astonishing decrease of population was definitely the worst effect of these diseases, both psychologically and demographically, but the secondary effects were almost as bad. For one thing, the deaths of Aztec and Incan rulers touched off wars, which in turn made it easier to spread disease, because, you know, the number one way to catch smallpox is via hand-to-hand combat. Plus, leaders kept dying. Huayna Capac, the leader of the Inca Empire succumbed to smallpox before Pizarro even arrived. His death led to a violent succession struggle between his sons, which was won by Atahualpa who, in turn, was captured and killed by Pizarro. And, without that war, the Inca would have had a much better chance against the Spaniards, whose numbers were comparatively tiny. A similar thing happened to the Aztecs. The Moctezuma who eventually lost to Cortes was the nephew of a much more powerful king who died of smallpox. And, the death of that great king encouraged some of the smaller states in the Aztec empire to rebel and some of them even fought for the Spaniards. And, another side effect of disease was starvation because there simply weren't enough people left to grow crops to feed the living. And then malnutrition made survivors that much more susceptible to disease. In short, it sucked. The transmission of disease largely went one way, from the Old World to the New, but the Americans did have one gift for Europe: venreal syphilis. It showed up in Europe around 1493. And even though Europeans are very fond of ascribing syphilis to each other— Italians called it the French Disease; the French called it the disease of Naples; Poles called it the German disease; Russians called it the Polish Disease— The truth is, venereal syphilis was spread by sailors who'd returned from the Americas. In fact, in his book "The Columbian Exchange," Crosby tells it like this: "Sailors, by the nature of their profession, are men without women and therefore men of many women. we can imagine no group ... more perfectly suited for guaranteeing that venereal syphilis would have worldwide distribution." Who says history books are boring? Syphilis would go on to infect a veritable who's who of Europe, from Baudelaire to Gauguin to Nietzsche, not to mention numerous family members of the famously infertile Tudor and Valois families, meaning that Syphilis may be responsible for many of those miserably boring dynastic power struggles of post-Columbus Europe. Anyway, nothing against syphilis, but it pales in comparison to the devastation wrought by Old World diseases arriving in the New World. But the New World did have one gift for the Old World that was pretty destructive: Tobacco. Oh, it's time for the Open Letter? And there's been a costume change? That doesn't bode well. An Open Letter to Tobacco. But first, let's see what in the secret compartment. Don't be cinnamon, don't be cinnamon, don't be--dang it! I guess that I'm going to do the cinnamon challenge. Oh...I'm not happy about this, Stan. For the record. Alright. I'm going to do the cinnamon challenge, one tablespoon of cinnamon in my mouth, no water. Ah, boy. That sucked. I regret doing that, to be honest with you. Dear Tobacco, I just did something really stupid. But at least it was cheap. I'm going to tell you two stories about smoking. The first comes from my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, who also writes Crash Course. When I was a senior in high school, he walked up to me and he said, "I want you to keep smoking. I want you to smoke until the day after your 65th birthday, and then I want you to die so that I collect all of your social security." That inspired me, Mr. Meyer, to quit smoking just eight short years later. Here is an amazing statistic, cigarettes were handed out to American service men during World War II. And more soldiers, who started smoking during the war, died from smoking than died from the war. So if the New World was looking to extract some measure of revenge for smallpox and measles and chicken pox, mission accomplished. Best wishes, John Green. Now, onto animals. American animals like llamas and guinea pigs never really caught on in Eurasia. But, imports to the Americas—like pigs, cows, and horses—were revolutionary. Let's go to the Thought Bubble. First of all, these animals, especially pigs, completely remade the food supply. Pigs breed really quickly, they eat anything, and they turn into bacon—which made them heroes to the New World just as they are today heroes to the Internet. Here's how quickly pigs breed: When Hernando de Soto arrived in Florida in 1539, he brought 13 pigs. By the time of his death, there were 700. That was three years later. The abundance of meat and plentiful land for agriculture and grazing meant that Europeans in the Americas very rarely experienced famine, and despite what you may have learned about religious and political freedom, the main reason Europeans came to America was to eat. Large European animals also changed the nature of work in the Americas. Before Europeans, the largest beast of burden was the llama and at best it could carry, like, 100 pounds. This meant that for the long distance travel that the Inca engaged in, the primary transportation animal was...Incas. Oxen, when combined with their plows made it possible to bring more land under cultivation, and also made transportation easier and more efficient. And plus, European animals remade culture. The grossly stereotypical American Indian, like from the movies, riding the Great Plains with an eagle feather headdress and war paint. Well, he didn't exist before the Columbian Exchange because there were no horses for him to ride. And the introduction of horses allowed many native Americans to abandon agriculture in favor of a nomadic lifestyle, because riding around hunting buffalo made them far richer than farming ever had. Thanks, Thought Bubble. While animals and diseases completely reshaped the New World, it was New World plants that had the biggest effect on Eurasia. Sure, Europeans brought over some crops that we now grow here in the Americas, like wheat and grapes, both of which are necessary for Catholic mass. But New World plants radically changed the lives of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Africans, Asians, and Europeans. Specifically, by making pizza possible. I mean, until 500 years ago, Italians lived without tomatoes—without modern pizza or marinara sauce or pizza or ketchup or pizza or even pizza. Indians lived without curry, which contains chilies, a New World food. Persians lived without corn, which is a New World food. As are beans and potatoes and avocados and peanuts and blueberries. The list goes on and on. And these New World crops led to probably the greatest population increase in history. To quote Crosby: "It is crudely true that if man's caloric intake is sufficient, he will somehow stagger to maturity, and he will reproduce." And New World food was far more caloric than Old Word food, which is the central reason that the world population doubled between 1650 and 1850. Plants like corn and potatoes could grow in soils that were useless for Old World crops. Potatoes were actually introduced to Europe as an aphrodisiac, but it turns out that you have to distill those potatoes into vodka before they have the desired effect. Anyway, if potatoes are an aphrodisiac, the Irish quickly became the hottest people on Earth. An acre and a half of potato cultivation could feed an Irish family for a year, and the average Irish worker often ate 10 POUNDS of potatoes EVERY DAY. Surviving primarily on potatoes, the Irish more than doubled their population between 1754 and 1845, when the potato famine showed up and ruined everything. And it wasn't just Europe. Manioc, or cassava, is a New World plant with roots that provide more calories than any other plant on earth, provided they are properly processed, otherwise they're poisonous. Manioc is so prevalent in Africa that many Africans swear the plant is native to the continent. But it isn't. Nor are sweet potatoes, and while New World grains never replaced rice in South East or East Asia, the sweet potato is so common that it is known as the poor person's staple in China. Even in Japan the tomb of the farmer who is reputed to have first brought them to the islands is known as the Temple of the Sweet Potato. And it's also worth noting that corn, while it may not feature prominently in European diets, has been the central source of food for animals in Europe for centuries. And, in fact, that's still the case. In 2005, 58% of the corn grown in America went to animal feed, is the kind of thing you learn when you live in Indiana. Alright, so last but not least, the Columbian Exchange involved the transfer of lots of people. Again, in the early stages, this movement was mostly one way, with Europeans and Africans, the Africans usually against their will, making their way to the Americas. So, the Columbian Exchange led to the re-population of the New World following the disease devastation of the initial encounter. And better nutrition allowed the population of the Old World to grow, which in turn placed population pressure on Eurasia, which led to to more people coming to the Americas. In the process, the world's human inhabitants became more genetically and ethnically interconnected. But it also led to the horrors of Atlantic slavery, which we'll be discussing next week. What are we to make of the Columbian Exchange? It devastated the population of the Americas, it led to the widespread slavery of Africans. But, it also allowed for a worldwide population increase, and the lives of some natives, including Plains tribes like the Lakota, became better and more secure—at least for a while. Fewer people have starved since the Columbian Exchange began, but the diversity of life on earth has diminished dramatically. And planting crops where they don't belong has hurt the environment. So on the whole, should we be grateful for the Columbian Exchange? And should we work to continue and deepen its legacy of globalism and monoculture? Crosby didn't think we were better off: "The Columbian exchange has included man, and he has changed the Old and New Worlds sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally, often brutally. It is possible that he and the plants and animals he brings with him have caused the extinction of more species of life forms in the last four hundred years than the usual processes of evolution might kill off in a million.... The Columbian exchange has left us with not a richer but a more impoverished genetic pool. We, all of the life on the planet, are the less for Columbus, and the impoverishment will increase." But let's give you the last word today. Do you agree with Crosby? Are longer, healthier lives for more humans worth the sacrifice of an impoverished biosphere? And, most importantly, how will your conclusions about those questions shape the way you live your life? Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.


Origin of the term

In 1972 Alfred W. Crosby, an American historian at the University of Texas at Austin, published The Columbian Exchange.[2] He published subsequent volumes within the same decade. His primary focus was mapping the biological and cultural transfers that occurred between the Old and New World. He studied the effects of Columbus' voyages between the two. Specifically, the global diffusion of crops, seeds, and plants from the New World back into the Old. His research made a lasting contribution to the way scholars understand the variety of contemporary ecosystems that arose due to these transfers.[3]

The term has become popular among historians and journalists, and since been enhanced with Crosby's later book in 3 editions, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900, which Charles C. Mann, in his book 1493 further expands and updates Crosby's original research.[4]


Inca-era terraces on Taquile are used to grow traditional Andean staples such as quinoa and potatoes, alongside wheat, a European introduction.
Inca-era terraces on Taquile are used to grow traditional Andean staples such as quinoa and potatoes, alongside wheat, a European introduction.


Portuguese trading animals in Japan; detail of Nanban panel (1570–1616)
Portuguese trading animals in Japan; detail of Nanban panel (1570–1616)

Several plants native to the Americas have spread around the world, including potato, maize, tomato, and tobacco.[5] Before 1500, potatoes were not grown outside of South America. By the 19th century they were found in nearly every cookpot in Europe and had conquered India and North America. Potatoes eventually became an important staple of the diet in much of Europe, contributing to about 25% of the population growth in Afro-Eurasia between 1700 and 1900.[6] Many European rulers, including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia, encouraged the cultivation of the potato.[7]

Maize and cassava, introduced by the Portuguese from South America in the 16th century,[8] have replaced sorghum and millet as Africa's most important food crops.[9] 16th-century Spanish colonizers introduced new staple crops to Asia from the Americas, including maize and sweet potatoes, and thereby contributed to population growth in Asia.[10] On a larger scale, the coming of potatoes and maize to the old world "resulted in caloric and nutritional improvements over previously existing staples" throughout the Eurasian landmass[11] as they created more varied and abundant food production.[12]

Tomatoes, which came to Europe from the New World via Spain, were initially prized in Italy mainly for their ornamental value (see below). From the 19th century tomato sauces became typical of Neapolitan cuisine and, ultimately, Italian cuisine in general.[13] Coffee (introduced in the Americas circa 1720) from Africa and the Middle East and sugarcane (introduced from South Asia) from the Spanish West Indies became the main export commodity crops of extensive Latin American plantations. Introduced to India by the Portuguese, chili and potatoes from South America have become an integral part of Indian cuisine.[14]


Rice was another crop that became widely cultivated during the Columbian exchange. As the demand in the New World grew, so did the knowledge on how to cultivate it. The two primary species used were oryza glaberrima and oryza sativa, originating from West Africa and Southeast Asia respectively. Slave holders in the New World relied upon the skills of enslaved Africans to further cultivate both species.[15]. North and South Carolina were key places where rice was grown during the slave trade, and islands of the Caribbean like Puerto Rico and Cuba were equally great centers of production. Enslaved Africans brought their knowledge of water control, milling, winnowing, and other general agrarian practices to the fields. This widespread knowledge amongst enslaved Africans eventually led to rice becoming a staple dietary item in the New World.[16]


Citrus fruits and grapes were brought to the Americas from the Mediterranean. At first these crops struggled to adapt to the climate in the new world but by the late 19th century they were growing more consistently.[17]

The guava plant (Diospyros mespiliformis) originated in West Africa and is now grown in Hawaii, Florida and areas of California.[18]

Bananas were introduced to the Americas by Portuguese sailors who brought the fruits from West Africa during their enslavement of Africans in the 16th century. Bananas were still only consumed in minimal amounts around the 1880's. The U.S. didn't see major rises in banana consumption until banana plantations in the Caribbean grew.[19] The History of modern banana plantations in the Americas details the spread of this crop within the Americas.


It took three centuries after their introduction in Europe for tomatoes to become widely accepted. Tobacco, potatoes, chili peppers, tomatillos, and tomatoes are all members of the nightshade family and all of these plants bear some resemblance to the European nightshade that even an amateur could deduce just by simple observation of the flowers and berries; tomatoes and potatoes can be quite lethal if the wrong part of the plant is consumed at the wrong quantity or at least cause a person to experience copious amounts of vomiting and diarrhea. Of all the New World plants introduced to Italy, only the potato took as long as the tomato to gain acceptance. 16th-century physicians, thus, had good reason to be wary that this native Mexican fruit was poisonous and the generator of "melancholic humours". In 1544, Pietro Andrea Mattioli, a Tuscan physician and botanist, suggested that tomatoes might be edible, but no record exists of anyone consuming them at this time. On October 31, 1548, the tomato was given its first name anywhere in Europe when a house steward of Cosimo I de' Medici, Duke of Florence, wrote to the De' Medici's private secretary that the basket of pomi d'oro "had arrived safely". At this time, the label pomi d'oro was also used to refer to figs, melons, and citrus fruits in treatises by scientists.[20]

In the early years, tomatoes were mainly grown as ornamentals in Italy. For example, the Florentine aristocrat Giovan Vettorio Soderini wrote how they "were to be sought only for their beauty" and were grown only in gardens or flower beds. Tomatoes were grown in elite town and country gardens in the fifty years or so following their arrival in Europe and were only occasionally depicted in works of art. However, in 1592 the head gardener at the botanical garden of Aranjuez near Madrid, under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, wrote, "it is said [tomatoes] are good for sauces". Besides this account, tomatoes remained exotic plants grown for ornamental purposes, but rarely for culinary use. The combination of pasta with tomato sauce was developed only in the late nineteenth century. Today around 32,000 acres (12,950 ha) of tomatoes are cultivated in Italy, although there are still areas where relatively few tomatoes are grown and consumed.[20]


Initially at least, the Columbian exchange of animals largely went in one direction, from Europe to the New World, as the Eurasian regions had domesticated many more animals. Horses, donkeys, mules, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, large dogs, cats and bees were rapidly adopted by native peoples for transport, food, and other uses.[21] One of the first European exports to the Americas, the horse, changed the lives of many Native American tribes. The mountain tribes shifted to a nomadic lifestyle, as opposed to agriculture, based on hunting bison on horseback and moved down to the Great Plains. The existing Plains tribes expanded their territories with horses, and the animals were considered so valuable that horse herds became a measure of wealth.[22]

The effects of the introduction of European livestock on the environments and peoples of the New World were not always positive. In the Caribbean, the proliferation of European animals had large effects on native fauna and undergrowth and damaged conucos, plots managed by indigenous peoples for subsistence.[23]


European exploration of tropical areas was aided by the New World discovery of quinine, the first effective treatment for malaria. Europeans suffered from this disease, but some indigenous populations had developed at least partial resistance to it. In Africa, resistance to malaria has been associated with other genetic changes among sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants, which can cause sickle-cell disease.[1]:164 In fact, the resistance of sub-Saharan Africans to malaria in the Southern United States contributed to the development of slavery in those regions.[24]

Before regular communication had been established between the two hemispheres, the varieties of domesticated animals and infectious diseases that jumped to humans, such as smallpox, were substantially more numerous in the Old World than in the New due to more extensive long-distance trade networks. Many had migrated west across Eurasia with animals or people, or were brought by traders from Asia, so diseases of two continents were suffered by all occupants. While Europeans and Asians were affected by the Eurasian diseases, their endemic status in those continents over centuries resulted in many people gaining acquired immunity.

By contrast, "Old World" diseases had a devastating effect when introduced to Native American populations via European carriers, as the people in the Americas had no natural immunity to the new diseases. Measles caused many deaths. The smallpox epidemics are believed to have caused the largest death tolls among Native Americans, surpassing any wars[25] and far exceeding the comparative loss of life in Europe due to the Black Death.[1]:164 It is estimated that upwards of 80–95 percent of the Native American population died in these epidemics within the first 100–150 years following 1492. Many regions in the Americas lost 100%.[1]:165 The beginning of demographic collapse on the North American continent has typically been attributed to the spread of a well-documented smallpox epidemic from Hispaniola in December 1518.[23] At that point in time, approximately only 10,000 indigenous people were still alive in Hispaniola.[23]

Similarly, yellow fever is thought to have been brought to the Americas from Africa via the Atlantic slave trade. Because it was endemic in Africa, many people there had acquired immunity. Europeans suffered higher rates of death than did African-descended persons when exposed to yellow fever in Africa and the Americas, where numerous epidemics swept the colonies beginning in the 17th century and continuing into the late 19th century. The disease caused widespread fatalities in the Caribbean during the heyday of slave-based sugar plantation.[23] The replacement of native forests by sugar plantations and factories facilitated its spread in the tropical area by reducing the number of potential natural mosquito predators.[23] The means of yellow fever transmission was unknown until 1881, when Carlos Finlay suggested that the disease was transmitted through mosquitoes, now known to be female mosquitoes of the species Aedes aegypti.[23]

The history of syphilis has been well-studied, but the exact origin of the disease is unknown and remains a subject of debate.[26] There are two primary hypotheses: one proposes that syphilis was carried to Europe from the Americas by the crew of Christopher Columbus in the early 1490s, while the other proposes that syphilis previously existed in Europe but went unrecognized.[27] These are referred to as the "Columbian" and "pre-Columbian" hypotheses.[27] The first written descriptions of the disease in the Old World came in 1493.[28] The first large outbreak of syphilis in Europe occurred in 1494/1495 in Naples, Italy, among the army of Charles VIII, during their invasion of Naples.[27][29][30][31] Many of the crew members who had served on the voyage joined this army. After the victory, Charles's largely mercenary army returned to their respective homes, thereby spreading "the Great Pox" across Europe and triggering the deaths of more than five million people.[32][33]

Cultural exchanges

One of the influences related to the migration of people were cultural exchanges. For example, in the article "The Myth of Early Globalization: The Atlantic Economy, 1500–1800" Pieter Emmer makes the point that "from 1500 onward, a 'clash of cultures' had begun in the Atlantic".[34] This clash of culture transferred European values to indigenous cultures. For example, the emergence of private property in regions where there were little to no rights to lands, the concepts of monogamy and the nuclear family, the role of women and children in the family system, and the "superiority of free labor".[35] An example of this type of cultural exchange occurred during the 1500s in North America. When these early European colonizers first entered North America, they encountered fence-less lands which indicated to them that this land was unimproved. For these Europeans, they were seeking economic opportunities, therefore, land and resources were important for the success of the mission. When these colonizers entered North America they encountered a fully established culture of people called the Powhatan. The Powhatan farmers in Virginia scattered their farm plots within larger cleared areas. These larger cleared areas were a communal place for naturally growing and useful plants. As the Europeans viewed fences as "hallmarks of civilization" they set about transforming "the land into something more suitable for themselves".[36] In implementing their practices, the Europeans enslaved, murdered, and exploited indigenous populations. Furthermore, in cases of enslaved peoples (and in particular, enslaved Africans) the Europeans simultaneously implemented their value system while at the same time justifying enslaving people through a philosophy which reduced the enslaved people to property. Thus, the slave traders and some of the plantation owners used the concept of family to exploit and control the enslaved people. In other subtle ways, which had a large impact the cultural exchanges involved sharing practices and traditions. An example of this can be found in the tobacco industry.

Tobacco was one of the luxury goods which was spread as a direct result of the Columbian exchange. As is discussed in regard to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the tobacco trade increased demand for free labor and spread tobacco worldwide. In discussing the widespread uses of tobacco, the Spanish physician Nicolas Monardes (1493–1588) noted that "The black people that have gone from these parts to the Indies, have taken up the same manner and use of tobacco that the Indians have".[37] As the European colonizers and enslaved Africans traveled the globe and came into contact with indigenous peoples, they took with them the cultural practices related to tobacco, and spread them to additional regions. Therefore, demand for tobacco grew in the course of the cultural exchanges and increased contacts among peoples.

Atlantic slave trade

Enslaved Africans were chained and bound before taken on ships to the New World
Enslaved Africans were chained and bound before taken on ships to the New World

The Atlantic slave trade was the transfer of Africans from primarily West Africa to parts of the Americas between the 16th and 19th century.[38] About 10 million slaves arrived in the Americas from Africa. The journey that enslaved Africans took from parts of Africa to America is commonly known as the middle passage.[39]

Enslaved Africans had a significant influence on the emerging African-American culture in the New World as well as all other nations to where they were transported, especially the Caribbean and Brazil. The presence of enslaved Africans not only represented skilled labor but it also gave way to a new population which represented a hybrid of the two cultures.[40] The Birth of African American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective is a book written by Sidney Mintz and Richard Price further detailing the cultural impact of enslaved Africans in America. Mintz and Price's book helped to publicize how integral the socialization aspects of plantation life were to the structures of black culture.

The treatment of enslaved Africans during the Atlantic slave trade became one of the most controversial topics in the history of the New World. Since its abolishment in 1865 in the USA and its total extinction by 1890 in the rest of the New World, it has remained a key subject in politics, pop culture and media.

Organism examples

Post-Columbian transfers of native organisms with close ties to humans
Type of organism Old World to New World New World to Old World
Domesticated animals
Cultivated plants
Cultivated fungi
Infectious diseases

Later history

Plants that arrived by land, sea, or air in the times before 1492 are called archaeophytes, and plants introduced to Europe after those times are called neophytes. Invasive species of plants and pathogens also were introduced by chance, including such weeds as tumbleweeds (Salsola spp.) and wild oats (Avena fatua). Some plants introduced intentionally, such as the kudzu vine introduced in 1894 from Japan to the United States to help control soil erosion, have since been found to be invasive pests in the new environment.

Fungi have also been transported, such as the one responsible for Dutch elm disease, killing American elms in North American forests and cities, where many had been planted as street trees. Some of the invasive species have become serious ecosystem and economic problems after establishing in the New World environments.[41][42] A beneficial, although probably unintentional, introduction is Saccharomyces eubayanus, the yeast responsible for lager beer now thought to have originated in Patagonia.[43] Others have crossed the Atlantic eastwards to Europe and have had the power to change the course of history: in the 1840s phytophthera infestans crossed the oceans and caused problems with the potato crop in several nations of Europe but totally destroyed the crop of Ireland and lead millions to starve and die in the Irish Potato Famine.

In addition to these, many animals were introduced to new habitats on the other side of the world either accidentally or incidentally. These include such animals as brown rats, earthworms (apparently absent from parts of the pre-Columbian New World), and zebra mussels, which arrived on ships.[44] Escaped and feral populations of non-indigenous animals have thrived in both the Old and New Worlds, often negatively impacting or displacing native species. In the New World, populations of feral European cats, pigs, horses and cattle are common, and the Burmese python and green iguana are considered problematic in Florida. In the Old World, the Eastern gray squirrel have been particularly successful in colonising Great Britain and populations of raccoons can now be found in some regions of Germany, the Caucasus and Japan. Fur farm escapees such as coypu and American mink have extensive populations.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Nunn, Nathan; Qian, Nancy (2010). "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 24 (2): 163–188. CiteSeerX doi:10.1257/jep.24.2.163. JSTOR 25703506.
  2. ^ a b Gambino, Megan (October 4, 2011). "Alfred W. Crosby on the Columbian Exchange". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
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