The Colombian Exchange

579 Words3 Pages
The Columbian Exchange was a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), communicable disease, and ideas between the Eastern and Western hemispheres (Old World and New World). It was one of the most significant events concerning ecology, agriculture, and culture in all of human history. Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the Americas in 1492 launched the era of large-scale contact between the Old and the New Worlds that resulted in this ecological revolution, hence the name "Columbian" Exchange. The term was coined by Alfred W. Crosby, a historian, professor and author, in his 1972 book The Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange greatly affected almost every society on Earth. New diseases introduced by Europeans, to which the indigenous peoples of the Americas had no immunity, depopulated many cultures. Data for the pre-Columbian population in the Americas is uncertain, but estimates of its disease-induced population losses between 1500 and 1650 range between 50 and 90 percent.[1] On the other hand, the contact between the two areas circulated a wide variety of new crops and livestock which supported increases in population in both hemispheres. Explorers returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Eurasia by the 18th century. Similarly, Europeans introduced manioc and the peanut to tropical Southeast Asia and West Africa, where they flourished and supported growth in populations on soils that otherwise would not produce large yields. Before the Columbian Exchange, there were no oranges in Florida, no bananas in Ecuador, no paprika in Hungary, no tomatoes in Italy, no coffee in Colombia, no pineapples in Hawaii, no rubber trees in Africa, no cattle in Texas, no donkeys in Mexico, no chili peppers in Thailand and India, no cigarettes in France,
Open Document