Columbian exchange refers to the movement and transfer of technology, plants, animals, diseases, culture, and human population across the Atlantic. In 1942, Christopher Columbus convinced Spanish Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to support his quest to reach Asia by sailing west. However, when traveling through the Atlantic, he got lost and discovered the New World. Christopher realized that the New World would offer so much with ecology, agriculture, and culture. He wrote back home letters to the Monarch explaining how the New world would be of more significant benefit; Christopher was able to return to Europe with gold, animals, and crops from the New world in return to convince the Monarch to give Him more men to return to the New World and explore.
Christopher Columbus, after that, returned to the New World with over a thousand men, animals, plants, diseases though not intentionally, and new technology not seen in the New World. Christopher’s quest brought about mercantilism concepts and European colonization. Historian Alfred Cosby 1972 used the term Columbian Exchange to describe the biological globalization due to the transoceanic voyage.
Pros of Columbian Exchange
1. New World Crops: New crops were introduced both in the New World and Old World. New World crops to the old world included pineapples, avocados, cotton, tomatoes, cassava, potatoes, maize, sweet potato, and cacao, while in return, the Old World brought rice, barley, wheat, melons, soybeans, sugarcane, coffee, grapes, and bananas to the New World. The exchange of plants led to alteration of diets, leading to increased immunity to the population and food security worldwide, and new food staples worldwide.
2. New Technology: The Europeans came to the New World with new technology such as the wheel, which saw the introduction of wheeled methods of transport, and this eased movement across the land and improved transportation. Moreover, Old World introduced superior technologies such as guns, swords, and large ships. Christopher Columbus’s introduction of the compass and navigational map made it easy to find the shortest sailing routes and navigation on land.
3. Animal Exchange: Europe had many animals that moved to the New World, including horses, donkeys, mules, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, chicken cats, large dogs, and bees. Since the native practiced hunting, this was a huge step where they would domesticate animals and find ready meat sources without hunting for long distances. Natives used animals for transport, and animals such as horses became valuable assets and changed the lifestyles of the natives. Transportation capacity increased, especially by using horses and wheeled carriages.
4. Food Production: The New World offered vast fertile lands for the plantation of crops, making it cheaper to grow more food and increase the food economy. Production of more variety of foods meant that there would be an overall change in the provision of a steady, balanced diet, which would lead to better health, essential minerals, and vitamins, and therefore reduce mortality rate and promote population growth. Food production contributed immensely to the change of world economies and political change.
5. Cultural Exchange: Colombian Exchange contributed to the transfer of European values to the indigenous cultures. Matters such as the role of women and children in the community. The foreigners introduced private property, while previously, the land was community property. Since the introduction of personal property, fencing off the land became rampant. Moreover, free labor by the natives.
6. Political change: The Columbian Exchange contributed significantly to shifting the balance of power in Europe because of the many products from the New World. Expansion of trade in the Old World from the east to the west became evident. The exploitation of the New World brought about colonialism from Europe since greed took over, and they all wanted a part of the New World, which contributed to the restructuring of the New World.
Cons of Columbian Exchange
1. Animal diseases: During the exchange, livestock disease spread rapidly, and the leading cause was the sharing of germs amongst animals. Chiggers were introduced, which posed a new threat that could cause serious infections.
2. Slave Trade: The Europeans realized they could get free labor from the natives, and also, they would go ahead and use the native population as slaves. The natives experienced violence, inhumane conditions, and ill-treatment by the Old World people, who forced labor policies to profit from the local’s chocolate and tobacco. With the increased demand for workforce, the Old world people started enslavement of Africans and sold them to the New World to provide involuntary labor, which contributed mainly to the start of the slave trade in Africa.
3. Forceful Conversion to Christianity: Christopher Columbus was a Christian catholic and aimed to spread Christianity to the New World, although the natives were resistant and showed no interest in learning his religion. Christopher went ahead with his mission, carried priests from Europe to the New World, and indoctrinated people to his faith. When he felt his strategy was successful, the Old world colonialists set up a system called “Encomienda,” which entails dividing natives into groups, each led by colonialists and forced to learn Spanish and elements of the Catholic faith and, in return, were forced to offer tribute in terms of labor or gold.
4. Drug Trafficking: The Europeans noticed that when the natives chewed coca, they would work longer and harder, and this led to them giving slaves coca to stimulate them to work. The use of coca led to the discovery of cocaine, which was extracted from coca leaves by the Europeans, resulting in a worldwide drug trafficking of cocaine.
5. Wars: Europeans became greedy when they found out that there were so many resources in the New World, and they all started to scramble for the natives’ resources which resulted in fights and diseases wiping out populations like the Aztecs and Mayans. Oppression and subjugation of the native population led them to revolt and attacked the colonialists due to ill-treatment. However, in retaliation, Christopher Columbus used lethal and brutal crackdowns to deal with rebellion on the local populace, leading to mass violence.
6. Cultural Domination: Natives were oppressed and not allowed to speak their native language but to learn Spanish. Europeans brought about the separation of families to acquire free labor and oppress the locals.
7. Vermin, Pests, and Weed exchange: The Colombian Exchange led to the exchange of weeds which massively infested croplands. Invasive rats were disastrous since they ate food in the stores. Pests were transmitted that attacked animals and plants, affecting their productivity and health.
8. Change in Ecosystem: Diseases led to the reduction of population by the high number of deaths, which translated to the labor shortage. The decrease in human populations increased the number of animals hunted for food and contributed to reforestation. The loss of population largely contributed to the introduction of the slave trade.
9. Exchange of Human Diseases: Diseases traveled along with people, and new diseases such as measles, smallpox, and chickenpox from Europe were introduced to the New World and came with devastating effects since the natives had not developed any immunity to such communicable diseases. These diseases were so lethal that they almost wiped out 90% of the indigenous population, such as the Taino tribe of Hispaniola Island. New World transmitted diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis to the Old World.