An Overview of the Columbian Exchange and Its Effects

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The Columbian Exchange was the global diffusion of animals, diseases, people, technology and ideas between Europe, and the Americas. During the Age of Exploration, European explorers embarked on journeys across the Atlantic Ocean to find a shorter route to India. However, they discovered two new continents in which they colonized and claimed for their respective nations. Naturally, trade occurred between Europe and the Americas and was later formally named as the Columbian Exchange. Although the effects of the Columbian Exchange were similar in both the Americas and Europe due to the introduction of crops such as chili peppers and sugar cane in America and the introduction of crops such as corn and potatoes in Europe, it was more different because the Americas experienced more negative effects due to the exposure of many new types of disease, whereas Europe experienced more positive effects such as the monopolization of American silver mines. The Americas were presented with native European crops such as chili peppers and sugar cane. Similarly, Europe was presented with indigenous American crops such as squash, beans, corn, potatoes, and cacao, thus transforming the diets and cultures of both continents forever. For example, the failure to produce healthy potatoes during the Irish Potato Famine led to the emigration of many Irishmen because the potato was a prime staple of Irish diets. Additionally, the American food crops caused the upsurge of the European population and the increase of the cultivation and enclosure of land. Before the Columbian Exchange, diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, the bubonic plague, the flu, and the common cold only resided in the Old World, which consisted of Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, humans, rats, and mosquitos created a pathway for diffusion of these diseases from Europe to the Americas during the Columbian Exchange. Even though Europeans developed immunities to these diseases due to their longtime exposure of the sicknesses, about 100 million Native Americans died because of the long environmental isolation between the New World and the Old World. In other words, indigenous Americans possessed no immunity from European diseases, which lead to a medical catastrophe that wiped out around ninety percent of the Native American race. When China began its trade policy of only accepting silver for their products, the Europeans became desperate to find sources of silver to meet Chinese demands. During the Columbian Exchange, the Spanish discovered the existence of silver in the Americas. Under the impression that white people were superior to colored races, Spain employed a system of forced labor to create and to monopolize American silver mines. By using a form of Mercantilism, an economic system, in which slave labor, trade restrictions that only allowed trade to Spain, and unbalanced trade was enforced through the Encomienda system, the Spanish people benefited because they sucked out most of the possible silver and profit. In contrast, the Americas greatly suffered from the complete transformation of the land, the loss of their land, and brutal working conditions. Additionally, Spain stole the most of natural wealth present in the Americas by mining most of the silver present in the lands.

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