10 Interesting Facts about the Columbian Exchange

Columbian Exchange refers to the widespread exchange of animals, plants, human populations, diseases, technology, and ideas between Afro-Eurasia and the Americas after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492. Listed are some changes due to the Columbian Exchange.

  1. The Old World hadn’t seen a tomato. The Native Americans had never seen a cow or an apple. Crops introduced to the Old World include potato, maize, cacao, and tobacco. Crops introduced to New World include rice, wheat, apples, bananas, and coffee. Before the Columbian Exchange there was no coffee in Columbia, no chocolate in Switzerland, and no pineapples in Hawaii.
  2. Old World animals expanded the food supply in the New World. Domesticated animals such as turkey and llama were introduced to the Old World. Horses, cows, chickens, and pigs were imported to the New World. Oxen cultivated more land. Due to plenty of meat and large areas of land for agriculture and grazing, the New World rarely experienced a famine.
  3. Horses changed the lifestyle of Native Americans. The llama could carry a maximum of 100 pounds. Native American tribes left agriculture to lead a nomadic lifestyle based on hunting bison on horseback. Horse herds became a measure of wealth.
  4. Many Native American tribes were wiped out due to disease and European brutality. The native Americans did not have the immunity of the Europeans and Asians.
  5. Smallpox epidemics in the New World were more deadly than Black Death. Smallpox, measles, malaria, typhus, chicken pox, venereal syphilis, and yellow fever were deadly diseases transferred to the New World.
  6. Columbian Exchange led to a huge increase in population in the Old World. As the crops from the Americas had more calories than Old World food, it led to population growth. Between 1650 and 1850 the population of the world doubled.
  7. New World crops became popular in the Old World. Today China and India are the largest producers and consumers of potatoes in the world. Cassava, a New World crop, provides more calories than any plant on earth and is the basic diet of more than half a billion people in Africa. Sweet potato, also a New World crop, is a poor people’s staple in China.
  8. Ireland became so reliant on potatoes that one-third of the population was solely reliant on potatoes. When the Potato Blight destroyed potato crops throughout Europe in the 1840s, one million people died and a million more emigrated.
  9. The Columbian Exchange contributed to the Atlantic Slave Trade as commodity crops and goods produced in the Americas were sold in Europe. Many Africans were enslaved and transported to the New World. Most of these slaves were sold by Africans to Europeans. From 1500 to 1880 about 12 million African slaves were transported to the Americas against their will.
  10. The world’s habitants have become genetically connected and fewer people starve. However, biodiversity has diminished. Planting crops where they don’t belong has caused the extinction of many species.

Source: 10 Interesting Facts about the Columbian Exchange
Copyright Rita Kennedy

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