The Columbian Exchange Set Standards for Barter in a Global Scale

Perhaps one of the most prominent features of global expansion and exploration that occurred during the path of recorded history was the many exchanges that occurred among civilizations, where anything ranging form religious ideals, technology, to various forms of cultural diffusion occurred. Unlike previous global exchanges that occurred among civilizations before the 16th and 17th centuries, the “Columbian Exchange” as it became to be known set the standard for further consequences of exchanges that were to follow on a totally new global scale never seen before. The demographic, economic, and geographic factors present in the Columbian exchange were on another level that that seen previously. In the process of the heyday of the imperialist western expansion that boomed during the 16th and 17th centuries, the process known as the “Columbian Exchange” began to take place. What made this seemingly harmless western outreach so important in the influence of further history is the truly global scale that the exchange took place. For example, one of the primary “items” that was exchanged, albeit harmlessly, was the European diseases that came with the explorers to the New Land. Although this would seem on the exterior harmless enough, this transaction of disease would wreak havoc on the Native population, as they had no form of immunity against the diseases to the likes of smallpox, etc. Because of the introduction of these diseases, whole flourishing civilizations were wiped out. This is similar to what happened to Europe when the Mongols, through the trade networks established by them, began the spread of the bubonic plague through out Europe.

Some estimations placed the destruction as that as high as 80 percent of the population was wiped out. With the beginning of the Columbian exchange as well, there existed a fundamental change in the way that the indigenous populations of Native America viewed the European explorers. Instead of viewing the explorers as normal human beings, they viewed the conquistadors as spiritual deities, due to their advanced technology, and method of arrival, etc. Because of this view, the Indians were able to be disbanded by the vastly outnumbered Spaniards and Portuguese, as their word to the Indians was as good as God’s. The economic effects of the Columbian exchange were also felt on a much greater scale than previous exchanges. For example, when the Chinese and their southern neighbor nations such as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan all exchanged the new champa rice with each other, it provided a whole new source of food supply and income for all of the nations. But with the Europeans spearheading the international trade that happened with the Columbian Exchange, many more nations were affected by the introduction of new crops to the global markets. Ireland, for example, received the potato plant from the Americas, which would provide the basis for its economy and food supply for hundreds of years, taking its toll during the potato famine. And many other crops were introduced to the Europeans such as tobacco and cotton that would provide the basis of the development of the colonial empires that the European nations would control for over 300 years, as well as providing a huge source of fuel for a population increase in Europe. This is different to other exchanges that occurred, such as the contacts between Islamic nations and the isolationist west, where only technology was predominantly exchanged. Another difference between the two is that the Columbian exchange opened up new controlled markets for the colonial powers like Portugal to ship goods and have a guaranteed market, while the previous exchanges just opened up new trade routes and did not really open up markets.

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The Columbian Exchange also featured the inclusion of the whole world finally in the trade process, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, unlike the prior exchanges were limited to Europe and the Middle East. And finally, the geographic impact of the Columbian exchange was also much more profound upon the development of world history, as the Columbian exchange sparked a whole new range of exploration of the planet, and by utilizing areas that would have never have been touched before. With the utilization of the deep hulled ocean going ships used by the Europeans, they were able to establish a triangle shaped trading pattern based on the bringing of new African slaves to market. There was also a shift in the basic policy on European expansion in new lands, where the Europeans shifted more from a push towards land holdings to more of an emphasis on sea based expeditions to establish port colonies for trading purposes. With the onslaught of the Columbian exchange, there was a major change in the way that the people of the world began to view their surroundings about them. No longer were the contacts and exchanges between nations the timid and based on just small exchanges of culture, such as it was with the Middle Eastern and Asian exchanges. There was a shift from isolationism to the view that the whole world was at their fingertips, waiting for commercial expansion. The Columbian exchange was a major stepping point towards a major defined world market dominated by Western political control.

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The Columbian Exchange Set Standards for Barter in a Global Scale. (2022, Jun 10). Retrieved from