The Columbian Exchange had a profound influence on the vast spread of plants, animals, culture, human populations, and many infectious and contagious diseases through trade in both North America and Western Europe. The Columbian Exchange began in 1492, when Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyage to the Americas. Although it created an enormous increase in food supply and productivity, and human population, it also damaged the ecological stability of many large areas. In North America, the Columbian Exchange had a positive influence as well as negative.
North America received many domesticated animals from the Old World, including horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, and fowl. Although the animals provided valuable food, clothing, and energy sources, they caused mixed emotions in the Indians because the animals severely damaged important croplands. Not only did North America receive animals, but new plants too; America received plants such as black pepper, barley, wheat, rice, lettuce, sugarcane, and rhubarb. They received domestic plants, animals and other goods from Africa, Asia and India as well.
The Old World also exposed North America to numerous infectious and contagious diseases: including bubonic plague, chicken pox, cholera, influenza, leprosy, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, and yaws. Since the indigenous peoples had no immunity to these diseases, they took a major toll on the Indian population, causing a significant demographic decline. The indigenous people also suffered from the brutality and the expropriation of farmland from the Europeans.
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Effects of the Columbian Exchange
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Aside from the negative, the Columbian Exchange allowed North America to grow and develop into a functional and effective civilization. Through the Columbian Exchange, Western Europe had the opportunity to expand their trade routes across the Atlantic basin, linking with Asian and Indian markets. In addition, Columbus’ voyage to the New World (America) inspired many Europeans to migrate there. Transoceanic migration to the Americas by the Western Europeans, gave Europe much more power in multiple places than they had previously had.
As the Indian population declined due to disease and such, Europeans continued to pour into the Americas. Like North America, Western Europe received many domesticated plants because of the Columbian Exchange such as potato, corn, cotton, vanilla, and tobacco. In Ireland specifically, potatoes became a staple food for society. Crops such as sugarcane and tobacco were in high demand at this time in Western Europe; they were “cash crops” which increasingly improved agricultural prosperity and economy.
An improving economy lead to growing cities; this is all attributed to the Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange had a profound influence on the vast spread of plants, animals, culture, human populations, and many infectious and contagious diseases through trade in both North America and Western Europe. The effects of the Columbian Exchange on Western Europe differ from that of North America in many ways; yet, there are also many similarities. It increased prosperity in both regions.
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