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Essay on The Impacts of the Columbian Exchange

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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 of the largest impact on global human systems that man has ever seen.
Pre-Columbian Mexico was far from the uncivilized and sparsely populated image Europeans portray. For example, Tenochtitlan (now, geographically, Mexico City) had a population of a quarter million when Cortés' forces arrived in 1519. This makes Tenochtitlan larger than any European city of the time (Grennes 2007). At their peaks, the Aztec empire had a population of 25 million and the Inca empire had a population of 15 million. In North America, population was not as dense as their southern neighbors but their environment did not go unscathed. For example, the slash-and-burn method was used to improve their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Prairies became more open for hunting and wooded areas soils were replenished by the ashes. Unlike the Old World, which includes Europe and Asia, the Native Americans had not mastered metallurgy or the large scale use of metal tools, had significantly fewer domesticated animals and used animals for ...


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...usiness institutions and increased economic growth. Welfare and urbanization blossomed with the introduction of sugar and potatoes in massive quantities to the working class in Europe. Depopulation plus increased demand for crops in the Americas gave rise to the transatlantic slave trade. Devastating political, social, and economic consequences for the African continent.
Search for precious metals by the Spanish, in a sequential over exploitation fashion, pushed the Spanish inland, but not as fast as their diseases, plants, and animals (Grennes 2012) Classic American icons such as beef, pork, horses, and wheat were actually participants in the Columbian Exchange. Technologically, the New World suddenly acquired iron tools and wheels. (Grennes 2007) In the sense of biological diversity, the Americas were more fragile due to its 12,000 years of isolation (Sheridan)



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