Effects Of The Columbian Exchange

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The Spanish cane to the Americas for gold and silver, but in the course of conquest and settlement they also learned about crops such as potatoes and corn that would fuel population explosion across Afro-Eurasia. They brought with them first of all devastating diseases, but also horses, wheat, grapevines, and sugar cane. Historians call this hemisphere transfer of previously unknown plants, pathogens, people and products in wake of Columbus’s voyages the ‘Columbian Exchange’. Over time, this exchange would transform the environments, economies and diets of both the new and the old worlds. The most extreme effect of the Columbian exchange was a destructive one: the decimation of the Amerindian population by European diseases.…show more content…
Indians taught Europeans how to grow potatoes and corn, crops that would become staples all across Afro-Eurasia. The Chinese found that they could grow corn in areas too dry for rice and too wet for wheat, while corn replaced, at first by fits and starts, Africa’s major food grains , sorghum, millet, and rice, to become the continent’s principle food crop by the twentieth century. Europeans also took away tomatoes, beans, cacao, peanuts, tobacco, and squash, while importing livestock such as cattle, swine, and horses to the New World. The environmental effects of the introduction of livestock to the Americas were manifold. In the highland regions north of the valley of central Mexico (where Native Americans had once maintained irrigated, highly productive agricultural estates), Spanish setters opened up large herding ranches. An area that had once produced corn and squash now supported herds of sheep and cattle. Without natural predators, these animals reproduced with lightning speed, destroying entire landscapes with their hooves and their foraging. As Europeans cleared trees and other vegetation for ranches, mines, or plantations, they undermined the habitats of many indigenous mammals and birds. On the island of the West Indies, described by Columbus as “rose of the sea,” the Spanish chopped down lush tropical and semitropical forests to make way for sugar plantations. Before long, nearly all of the islands’ tall trees as well as many shrubs and ground plants were gone, and residents lamented the absence of birdsong. Over ensuring centuries, the flora and fauna of the Americas took on an increasingly European appearance – a process that the historian Alfred Crosby has called ecological
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