Friday, September 6, 2019

The Columbian Exchange And The Colonization Of America Essay Example for Free

The Columbian Exchange And The Colonization Of America Essay The Columbian Exchange refers to the exchange of diseases, ideas, food crops, and populations between the New World and the Old World following the voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492. While some had cataclysmic results for the indigenous populations, other interactions led to exchanges of ideas and resources. These exchanges altered life on both sides of the Atlantic. In North America many native cultures had lived and thrived across the continent. Meanwhile, in Europe, the thirst for knowledge and discovery had led to a competition among. European nations to establish and dominate trade routes to acquire the exotic resources of Asia. Each country began to finance voyages of exploration to see who could find a quick and profitable trade route. Spain, England, the Netherlands and France began to travel west, across the Atlantic, to places that were unknown, at that time, to Europeans. Unaware of how large the world actually was and equipped with basic and inaccurate maps, many decades passed before any of these early travelers realized that they were not traveling to Asia, but actually had stumbled upon a land previously unknown to them. However, these lands were well known to their native inhabitants. By the time Africans and Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere, most peoples of the Caribbean and the coastal mainland lived in sedentary villages or semi- permanent encampments. They had organized themselves into clusters of families and hierarchical communities that were recognizable to Europeans, and they identified among themselves leaders, servants, and specialists of many kinds, American Indian society had not been static before it came into contact and conflict with Europeans. The native people hunted, gathered, and grew an array of foods that nourished millions of people. In short the Americas were not an empty land when the Europeans arrived. (HBG 1) Indigenous North Americans exhibited a remarkable range of language, economies, political systems, beliefs and material cultures. (HBG 25) The Old and New World gained from the Columbian Exchange in a number of ways. The Spanish introduced a wide variety of domesticated livestock to the Americas, including cattle, goats, swine, and horses. Of all the animals introduced by the Europeans, the horse held particular attraction. Native Americans first encountered it as a fearsome beast ridden by Spanish conquistadors. However, they soon learned to ride and raise horses themselves. In the North American great plains, the arrival of the horse revolutionized Native American life, permitting tribes to hunt the buffalo far more effectively. Several Native American groups left farming to become buffalo-hunting nomads and, the most formidable enemies of European expansion in the Americas. The Native Americans, in turn, introduced the Europeans to a variety of beans and squashes, as well as the potato and tobacco. Tobacco, was so universally adopted that it came to be used as a substitute for currency in many parts of the world. The exchange also drastically increased the availability of many Old World crops, such as sugar and coffee, which were particularly well-suited for the soils of the New World, Agricultural discoveries ultimately proved more important to the future of Europe than the gold and silver the conquistadores valued so highly. (Brinkley 20) The transfer of foods between the Old and New Worlds during the Columbian Exchange had important consequences for world history. There are two channels through which the Columbian Exchange expanded the global supply of agricultural goods. First, it introduced previously unknown species to the Old World. Such American foods as squash, pumpkins, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, also found their way back to Europe and in the process revolutionized European agriculture. (Brinkley 20) Second, the discovery of the Americas provided the Old World with vast quantities of relatively unpopulated land well-suited for the cultivation of certain crops that were in high demand in Old World markets. Crops such as sugar, coffee, soybeans, oranges, and bananas were all introduced to the New World, and the Americas quickly became the main suppliers of these crops globally. The primary benefit of the New World staples was that they could be grown in Old World climates that were unsuitable for the cultivation of Old World staples. This benefit of New World crops has resulted in their adoption in all parts of the world. The exchange not only brought gains, but also losses. European contact enabled the transmission of diseases to previously isolated communities, which caused devastation far exceeding that of even the Black Death in fourteenth-century Europe. Most areas of the New World experienced a demographic catastrophe, as least as grave as, and in many places far worse than the Black Death. (Brinkley 20) Europeans brought deadly viruses and bacteria, such as smallpox, measles, typhus, and cholera, for which Native Americans had no immunity, Native groups inhabiting some of the large islands and some areas of Mexico were virtually extinct within fifty years of their first contact with whites. (Brinkley 19) On their return home, European sailors brought syphilis to Europe. Although less deadly, the disease was known to have caused great social disruption throughout the Old World. The effects of the Columbian Exchange were not isolated to the parts of the world most directly participating in the exchange: Europe and the Americas. It also had large impacts on Africa and Asia. Europeans used the new lands as sources of precious metals and plantation agriculture. Both were complex operations that required labor in large, closely supervised groups. Attempts to enslave native peoples failed, and attempts to force them into other forms of bound labor were slightly more successful but also failed because workers died of disease. Europeans turned to the African slave trade as a source of labor for the Americas. The native populations could not meet all the labor needs of the colonists because of disease and war therefore, European settlers began importing slaves from Africa. (Brinkley 21) During the colonial periods of North and South America and the Caribbean, far more Africans than Europeans came to the New World. The slave trade brought wealth to some Europeans and some Africans, but the growth of the slave trade disrupted African political systems, and robbed many African societies of their young men. Millions of Africans were shipped to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade, the largest involuntary migration in human history. The trade was fueled by the high demand for labor in the Americas, which was driven, at least in part, by two aspects of the Columbian Exchange: The first was the spread of Old World diseases to Native Americans, which resulted in extremely low population densities in the New World. The second was the cultivation of highly prized Old World crops, such as sugar and coffee, which were particularly well suited to New World soils and climates. The result was the forced movement of slaves from Africa to the Americas which had devastating consequences for the African continent. In addition to economic motives for colonization there were also religious ones. It became required that Catholicism be the only religion of the colonies. Missionaries were sent out to convert Native Americans to Catholicism, Priests or friars accompanied almost all colonizing ventures. Through their zealous work, the gospel of the Catholic Church ultimately extended throughout South and Central America, Mexico and into the South and Southwest of present United States (Brinkley 16) The Columbian Exchange brought about the greatest interchange of different people, ideas, plants, and animals that has ever been known in the history of the world. Some positive effects, like the agricultural growth and use of the potato and other staple crops in the Old World enhanced people’s lives. The trading of livestock also greatly enhanced the opportunities for the settlers and Native Americans. Still, some results were negative, such as the exploitation of the Native Americans by European colonists, and their depopulation due to the communicable diseases of the Old World that came from across the ocean. The Columbian Exchange had a significantly negative impact on the African slaves. The European success story in the Americas was achieved at horrendous expense for the millions of Native Americans who died and for the millions of Africans who were enslaved. The most perplexing fact about the Columbian Exchange is that it cannot be truly described as completely positive or negative, but just that it happened.

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