Positive and Negative Effects of the Columbian Exchange

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The time was 1492. Jews were being expelled, Boulogne was being invaded, and a 41-year-old Christopher was approved for his first voyage across the Atlantic. Setting sail on August 3rd, he set out to find a direct, all-water route to Asia. More than two months later, he stumbled upon a New World which would soon be known as the Americas. His next three journeys across the Atlantic would mark the beginning of the Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange was the global trade of plants, animals, and diseases across the Atlantic that took place when the Europeans colonized the colonies.

The Exchange yields many positive changes to the New and Old World. New crops and livestock brought diversity to food for both countries, and promoted trading between the Colonies and the Mother Country. Although The Columbian Exchange has some positive opportunities, it also brought diseases that killed Native populations, and lead to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. No matter how many benefits the exchange between the old and new worlds brought to the Natives, it will never outweigh the fatalities that it caused.

The Columbian Exchange negatively impacted the environment of both Europe and The Americas; similarly, because essential materials and food were traded with each other. According to “Columbian Exchange” by Lauren Rees (document 9), The Americas realized that food with a higher caloric value, such as the potato, can feed more people and provide more benefits that the food they were using. The potato could end famines by providing many vitamins that could prevent scurvy and other food related diseases. Agriculture was soon being traded between the colonies, Europe, and Africa. A statement from Alfred W. Crosby on The Columbian Exchange (Document 18), explains how cattle and animals such as horses and pigs were also traded between the countries allowing for faster travel and a wider variety of food for the colonies.

Although the new cattle and vegetation being transported from Europe and Africa were providing the colonists a wide variety of food and healthier options, it also caused problems for the environment and the economic situation in the colonies. Deforestation and soil depletion caused economic troubles for plantation owners, and the lower class; leading to economic abatement and a dramatic decrease in population. Children and infants died from lack of milk and protein and families within a lower class struggled to grow or purchase any food.

The Transatlantic slave trade was the enslavement of African Americans, and the Natives that began in the 15th century and was majorly developed in the 1600s when plantation owners colonized the Americas. When Spaniards and Europeans colonized the New World, Native American women and children were separated and forced to work. Poor and brutal treatment from the Spanish and Englishmen lead to a dramatic decrease in population. An excerpt from a writing by Bartolome de las Cases (Document 12), and a quote from Christopher Columbus (Document 11), speaks of how the Spaniards rode the backs of Indians as a mode of transport or how they tested the sharpness of their blades on them. They were cruel and unforgiving, making the Indians suffer in silence from their labors.

Even though slavery and poor treatment of the Native Americans was a large impact on the decreasing population, it wasn’t their only killer. Various diseases such as smallpox, measles, polio, diphtheria, and many more, killed up to half of the indigenous population according to “The Great Disease Migration” by Geoffrey Cowley (Document 7) and “The Crimes of Christopher Columbus” by Dinesh D’Souza (Document 5). The Spanish and English were immune to the diseases they shared, leaving only the Natives to be affected by them. The Natives in return, spread polio and syphilis to the Europeans. The outbreak began as soon as Columbus arrived, with Smallpox posing as the biggest threat killing over 50% of the population. A source from Native American Population Estimate (Document 17), shows the massive decline in the Native population from the year 1500 to 1620 because of the diseases that were passed.

In conclusion, The Columbian Exchange brought advantages and drawbacks to both the Native Americans and the Europeans. Food, diseases, and animals were all transferred and really made a change in the New World.

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Positive and Negative Effects of the Columbian Exchange. (2021, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/positive-and-negative-effects-of-the-columbian-exchange/

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