Effect of Columbian Exchange on Indians

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Without the Columbian Exchange, the world would be less agriculturally diverse, more isolated, and pizza wouldn’t exist. The Columbian Exchange is the term used to describe the cross between the people, crops, and diseases of the Old and New World which had not occurred since the Ice Age. The controversial preceding period which caused the expedition to happen, the devastating consequences of the conquests such as slavery and disease, and the extensive trade system which was the main result of the exchange are all aspects that make this significant time period a major turning point in the world’s history.

Before 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Spain was a country divided by the religious beliefs of its inhabitants. However, when Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille created a marital alliance between the two most powerful Catholic kingdoms in Spain, they developed a personal vendetta against anyone not of their faith. “When they became joint rulers of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella…sought to create the Spanish Inquisition, a religious tribunal charged with finding and punishing heresay, or unorthodox beliefs among Christians, and for eliminating non-Christians, most notably Muslims and Jews” (Keene 15). By strengthening their newly united nation, Ferdinand and Isabella successfully completed the reconquista which would mark the beginning of Spain’s reign as a global power and age of exploration.

Christopher Columbus was an Italian sailor that served as the overseer of the four voyages unintentionally taken to the New World. He was hired by Queen Isabella to search for a more efficient route to Asia which would benefit Spain in their trade rivalry against Portugal. However, on his first voyage to “Asia”, Columbus discovered that there was an entire continent that stood in between him and the Indies— North America.

Being flat Earth believer, Columbus assumed he had landed in Asia and proceeded to return to Spain “exaggerating what he had found, especially the gold [which led] Ferdinand and Isabella to give him seventeen ships and 1,200 men for a second voyage to seek slaves and gold” (Fraser 31). Columbus’ men attempted to enslave the indigenous Indian tribes living in Hispaniola which resulted in the mistrust and killing of Spaniards. Columbus was unsuccessful in enslaving Indians, finding gold, and converting Indians to Catholicism which led to his replacement as governor of Hispaniola.

Although Christopher Columbus originated the Columbian Exchange’s beginnings, his successors manifested the process of conquering Indians and converting them to Catholicism through new technological advances. “Improvements in map making and the introduction of navigational devices that allowed mariners to calculate latitude more accurately aided exploration” (Keene 17). These advancements allowed conquistadores to “seize control of the islands of the Caribbean” (Keene 18). This resulted in the encomienda system which let Spanish conquistadores use the Indian population as unpaid laborers that built Catholic missions, tended to crops, and were required to attend Spanish language and catechism classes.

Queen Isabella declared that these laborers were to be treated kindly, but some Spaniards abused their power over the Indians and treated them like slaves. “The harsh labor regime…nearly wiped out these indigenous populations” (Keene 18). Spaniards like Nicolas de Ovando were so jetset on attaining gold that they were ruthless to Indians. Ovando responded to a rebellion “by capturing 600-700 Indians and then ordering them all to be knifed to death and their bodies displayed.

Later, he convened an ostensibly friendly meeting… and when some 80 of them had assembled in one building, he ordered the doors locked and the building burned with them in it” (Fraser 32). These heinous acts of massacre and cruelty were unfortunately not the only cause of mass populations perishing.

The European explorers unknowingly spread “microbes to which native inhabitants had no immunity to which caused sickness and death everywhere Europeans settled” (Khan Academy). The lack of exposure to diseases like smallpox led to the decline of antibodies which made all Native Americans very vulnerable to smallpox.

Cite this paper

Effect of Columbian Exchange on Indians. (2021, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/effect-of-columbian-exchange-on-indians/

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