New Worlds for All: an American View Essay
Matt Marshall History 202 Paper #1: New Worlds For All In early America the exchanges between European and native cultures catalyzed changes in the two cultures themselves. The interaction of the two cultures diffused into cultural, biological and economic exchanges. The result of these changes shaped further interactions between the cultures for future generations within each of the two cultures. Cultural diffusion is an inevitable product of the interaction of two worlds. Cultures exchange many things including diseases, plant and animal life and people.
These exchanges took place over a vast scale in the new world, between several different European and native cultures. When Europeans landed in the Americas they brought along the staples of their daily lives in Europe and introduced them into a new world environment. Colin Calloway discusses some of theses staples in the first chapter of his novel “New Worlds For All”. The European importation of wildlife is an example of a change brought about by European contact. The English and Dutch imported animals such as honeybees, cattle pigs, horses and cats.
Among other accidental imports lay more malicious and harmful species such as rats, field mice and cockroaches. The introduction of European bird species such as sparrows and starlings created competition for habitat with indigenous species. Many of these changes in wildlife were witnessed by the native cultures without ever coming into physical contact with Europeans. To quote historian Karen Kupperman “Probably no European after the very first explorers ever saw an excusivley American meadow. Birds and animals took up seeds carried in the holds of ships and in the guts of animals and spread them far beyond frontier contact. The spread of western biology created a more diverse ecosystem. The introduction of new species to the Americas was a double edged sword, while it created more food sources it also changed otherwise stable ecosystems. In the big picture the clash of the two biological spheres was beneficial, indian cultures adopted domesticated animals such as cattle and horses. While European cultures benefited from the fur trade, as furs became more stylish and abundant the American fur market became a valuable economic asset to colonists.
As the Europeans and native americans came into contact they traded the beneficial aspects of the animal life they understood, as a result a hybrid culture began to develop in many communities across the American frontier. Amongst these interactions diseases were spread. Most distinguishable of the results of the cultural contact in the Americas was the spread of disease between the two worlds. Prior to European contact the list of diseases being spread across the American continent was seemed manageable; parasitic infections, respiratory infections, non-pulmatory TB and syphilis seemed to be the worst of them.
Across the Atlantic Ocean lay a new host of deadly diseases such as small pox, measles, the bubonic plague, influenza, typhus, yellow fever and many others. These diseases were introduced to native populations through direct contact at first. Once the disease had a host it could spread from tribe to tribe though trade routes and other mediums devastating native populations with countless deaths. Native populations had little to no immunities to the harsh European diseases that ravaged the indians. The number of natives killed by Europeans is far lower than the number of natives killed by European diseases.
This is not to say that Europeans did not suffer from disease as well, the two cultures came together in this respect. It was common belief among both cultures that for all diseases there was a cure to be found in nature. The exchange of healing practices was a regular occurrence and it was not uncommon for a European to visit a Indian healer. Many Europeans sought out to find out the methods behind Indian healers to quote a Virginian medicine man John Lawson “we should then have a true knowledge of all the Indian Skill in Medicine and Surgery. Many white settlers selectively borrowed Indian herbal medicines in their homes and doctors offices, some even ventured into apprenticeship in an attempt to cultivate the art of healing. When foreign diseases were introduced into the native populations the devastation was on a pandemic scale. While Europeans suffered as well the natives took the brunt of the hit. In many instances ideas concepts about healing were exchanged to further an understanding of medicine. Another form of exchange in the Americas was the exchange of people. As the ffect of European influences shock waved native cultures they adopted individuals into their families for population and sustainability purposes. In this respect the native cultures would adopt individuals from other tribes and even Europeans. In a famous account of Indianization the story or Eunice Williams serves as an example of the movement of people culturally. In 1704 the town of Deerfield was attacked by a French and Indian war party, in the aftermath Reverend John Williams and his family were taken captive by Indians, the family was shattered by the death of William’s wife.
Williams and his daughter Eunice were held captive for two and a half years when John was liberated he returned to English society, Eunice however refused to leave and remained a part of the indian culture she eventually married and started a family of her own apart from her biological family. Adoption into Indian cultures was not uncommon and served as a cultural connect in many instances. Usually individuals who found themselves in a native culture eventually grew to appreciate the Indian lifestyle. The movement of people in the Americas is shown on a even larger scale in the African slave trade.
The movement of African slaves represents the single largest displacement of people in history. Demand for slaves increased in the Americas with the advancement and development of cash crops such as cotton and indigo. A triangular trade pattern developed between the Americas, Europe and the African coast. One account of the passage in the triangle trade is the tale of Olaudah Equiano in “ The Classic Slave Narratives” his story develops a slaves perspective on the journey known as the middle passage, the journey from the African coast to the American slave markets.
In his novel Olaudah Equiano travels around the world serving several different masters along the way. African slaves brought another dimension to the variety of cultures in America. Slaves were transported across vast territories following their masters. The trade and sale of slaves on multiple occasions represents an involuntary movement of people that helped shape an era. Economically slaves were a great asset to colonial America. The movement of people in the Americas served many different purposes.
Wether for economic gains or to develop and maintain a link with another culture, people exchanged people and cultures mixed together good and bad. Both Europeans and Native Americans benefited and suffered form the contact and exchange of wildlife, diseases and people. The positive effects of the contact between the two cultures seem to be balanced by the negative ones. When two cultures come together they bring a complex equilibrium between the adaptations that are shared and sunned away.
These changes can adapt and refashion the way a group of people acts and interacts with one another. The diffusion and exchange of ideas and blood represents a vital aspect in the development of cultures throughout history. Works Cited: Colin Calloway, New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 150. Olaudah Equiano. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, The African,” in The Classic Slave Narratives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York: Signet Classic, 2002), 98.
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