“1381 – The Columbian Exchange.”
Read the paper by Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian entitled “The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas, in Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 24, Number 2, Spring 2010, Pages 163-188.
Write a two- or three-page paper analyzing the document and showing its relevance to world history.
This is simply the way ideas, diseases, food, crops and population was exchanged between the two Worlds; New World and the Old World during the voyage to the Americas by a person named Christopher Columbus in the year 1942. The entire Eastern Hemisphere inclusive of Europe which was known as the Old World gained from the Colombian exchange in a number of ways. The metal discovery was the one most widely known.
The food transfer between the Old and the New Worlds during the time the Colombian Exchange took place was of great importance to the history of the world. There were two possible ways in which the Colombian Exchange enlarged the global supply of agricultural food. First it was by introducing new species o of food in to the world. These included cassava, maize, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Then secondly, it happened through the realization that America had a vast fertile unpopulated land that a lot of crops could do well and they were in great demand back in Europe. Crops included coffee, sugar, oranges, soybeans and bananas. The Americans later became the largest exporter of such crops. The Old World gained new staple crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes Maize and cassava. Fewer calorie-intense foods, for example, tomatoes, chili peppers, cacao, peanuts, and pineapples which are now found in many parts of the World including countries such as Italy, Greece, India, Korea and Hungary. The exchange also increased the availability of many Old World crops such as sugar and coffee, which were well suited for the soils of land.
They brought benefits but losses were noted as well. The European contact enabled transmission of diseases to previously isolated communities which in turn caused suffering exceeding even that of the Black Death in the 14th century Europe. The deadly viruses and bacteria were also brought by the Europeans. Examples included smallpox, measles, typhus, and cholera that the Native Americans had no immunity. Since the natives came into contact with diseases for the first time, there body defense mechanism towards the those particular diseases become very poor. It could also be noted that before the natives got into contact with the Europeans, they lived in a diseases free environment and the diseases such as smallpox, measles, chickenpox, influenza, typhus, malaria, typhoid, cholera and whooping cough were not in the New World at all.
However, the amount of depopulated persons as a result of the Colombian exchange may not be exact. It is estimated at around 88-95 percent during the first 100 to 150 years after the contact. For example the native population of Taino became almost extinct with a population of roughly 60000 from the initial possible one 8 million. The extent to which the depopulation took place may not be exact since it is not known the exact number of people that were affected during the process. As they sailed back home from America, they brought syphilis to Europe. Although the disease was less deadly, it created a huge social disruption.
The effect of the Colombian Exchange was not only felt by Europe and America but the rest of the world too. It can also be noted that the European exploration and colonization was widely attributed by the discovery of quinine which was the first effective malaria treatment. Due to the cultivation of financially lucrative crops, America and the natives also suffered from diseases. This lead to migration of large number of Africans in order goes and supply labor in the farms. The process was encountered by abduction and forced movement of people.
The Colombian Exchange brought with it many ideas leading from the discovery of quinine which facilitated European colonization of the rest of the world. The exchange also greatly contributed to the agrarian revolution that resulted into new methods of farming, the development different technical know including and a series of tool, machines and equipment that were invented by several scholars which reduced the necessity of human labor following the mechanization of farms
From the above information, it can be deduced that both the impacts brought by Colombian Exchange has been felt by the rest of the world. This is true as the food crops, ideas and diseases that were exchanged during that period did not remain in Europe and America but reached Africa and Asia.
Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian, ‘The Colombian Exchange: A history of Disease, Food, and ideas in journal of economic perspectives, Vol. 24, Number 2, Spring 2010, pages 163-183.