Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Columbian Exchange

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The Columbian Exchange was born as a result of Columbus’s voyage to the Americas in 1492. Also known as the Great Biological Exchange, it was a world wide trade of plants, animals, and diseases in the 15th and 16th centuries. Many benefits and disadvantages came about this exchange during a great time of expansion in the world. The most detriment occurred in the “New World,” while Europe received many benefits of new crops.
Throughout the two centuries, the “old” and “new” worlds traded plants, animals, and many infectious diseases. Most plants traded during this time were food crops. Both the Western and Eastern Hemisphere had benefited from this vast exchange of new foods sources. Europeans brought with them to the Americas: rice, wheat,
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New food crops brought from the new world into the East Hemisphere dramatically increased their population, which would later provide the settlers who would colonize America (Shi, Tindall 27). However the most significant transformation deals with the transmission of infectious diseases. Native Americans had previously never been exposed to diseases such as smallpox, malaria, yellow fever. The catastrophic events following were due to that fact that over the centuries Europeans had become immune to most of these illnesses and were not affected as severely. Because illnesses were new to the Americas, the natives were not immune to the infections and widespread epidemics occurred. The devastation was as bad as 8 million people in Central Mexico, about a third of the population, died within the first 10 years of Spanish’s arrival (Shi, Tindall 27). The first to be infected within native communities, were the leaders because they were usually the first to greet the Spanish. The lack of a leader enhanced the continuation of Spanish colonization and conquest. The Europeans were very ethnocentric and believed that the American epidemics were God’s punishment for those refusing convert to Christianity (Shi, Tindall 27).
The old world and Europeans benefited the most during the Columbian Exchange. The new world introduced them to new crops that would later become staple foods in their diets. New main foods include maize and potatoes. They will contribute to the increase in Europe’s population. The major advantage Europeans possessed was the immunity to many of the diseases that the native population succumbed to. As Native American tribe populations dwindled, the conquistadors took their chance and were able to conquer them and claim the land as
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