Columbian Exchange Essay

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The Columbian Exchange has been called the “greatest human intervention in nature since the invention of agriculture” (Grennes 2007). The exchange of diseases, plants, and animals lead to a global cultural and economic shift throughout the Old and New Worlds following Christopher Columbus' 'discovery' of the Americas in 1492. The Eastern Hemisphere saw an influx of raw materials, new staple crops, and the income from and production of growing crops that were too resource intensive for Europe and Asia. The Western Hemisphere saw large scale population shifts, massive devastation accompanying colonization, and a significant change in the ecosystem with the introduction of new, sometimes invasive, plants and animals. This 'exchange' had one …show more content…

Knowledge of circular current wind patterns made sailing long distances substantially easier and less labor intensive. The Old World began to travel farther and farther by the ocean. In this sense, it was inevitable that the Old World and the New World should collide. Columbus took advantage of this sea-ward gaze and the Spanish desire to exercise their power, acquire resources, and extend the reach of Christianity. In hindsight, Columbus' original intention to sail to India an obvious and major miscalculation but the mere action of crossing the Atlantic turned “a barrier into a bridge” (Horan). Upon Columbus' arrival, the European advantage became evident: gunpowder weaponry, use of horses for military and transportation, and iron weapons, tools, and armor.
While European advantage was evident, the consequences of the transmittal of plants, animals, and diseases could not have been forseen. The Spanish conquistador Cortés advised the King of Spain to send all ships with plants and animals (Grennes 2007). This recommendation comes from the large quantities of land suitable for farming crops that were in demand in Europe, such as sugar. Crops of the New World required different soil composition, weather and growing season demands, and cultivation techniques than Old World crops. Growth of crops from the Old and New World (in many, but not all cases) complemented rather than competed with each other. This is due to the large North/South span of both

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