Columbian Exchange Essays

The conquest of the New World by Europeans had both positive and negative affects for both the conquered peoples and the Europeans. Although the Exploration benefited many people, it negatively affected the people in the New World enormously. Christopher Columbus decided to travel to the New World where he thought he has discovered Asia when in reality he had reached what is today the Bahamas. It was only acceptable for Columbus to assume his discovery due to his lack of knowledge of geography. After his discovery, there were various exchanges occurring with goods, diseases, and slavery. Due to the exploration of the New World, there were a few positives that came out of this conquest. Firstly, the New World received chickens, rice, rye, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and more. “Both New and Old Worlds gained from the Columbian Exchange, but the New World gained more because its plant and animal species had been diverse.”

One of the most important things that were exchanged during this time was tobacco. Tobacco was introduced to the Old World, which was something that created a massive change in their culture. Another positive outcome from the Columbian exchange was the impact it had on navigation and missionary activity. Discovering the New World allowed the explorers to aspire to further their knowledge in technology and because of this advances occurred. They improved the aspect of the compass, and now used better tools to help them measure latitude and longitude. Because of the exploration to the New World, there were many advantages to their discoveries and they changed the way of life of both Worlds. Although there were plenty of advantages from the Columbian exchange, the negative results overpowered the good of the cause. Not only was their slavery involved with the exchanges, but also an exchange of diseases. Diseases such as smallpox, influenza, malaria and whooping cough were just the few that affected the New World. “Europeans inadvertently carried diseases that had a devastating effect on the native population of America that lacked immunities.” These diseases had such an affect on the New World that “the population of Mexico dropped by more than 90 percent in the century after Cortés arrived in 1519.”

The people of the New World were not able to cure themselves because they were exposed to diseases that they weren’t familiar with. This resulted in numerous deaths all across the New World and became an epidemic that affected not only the culture, but also the way of life in the New World. Slavery was also a horrible result of the Columbian exchange as well. Europeans bought people from the New World to work for them as their slaved. People were beaten and treated inhumanly for all the wrong reasons. Even though the exchange involved goods, people were also mistreated and used as materials. There is nothing that can be exchanged that is worth more than the value of a human being. The Europeans took that away from the people of the New World. Many natives also lost their homes and their way of life due to the explorers taking over their land. Many were forced to become a part of Christianity due to Christopher Columbus’ want to spread his faith.

Many people were forced to convert religions due to this demand. People had their lives in order and had already built a lifestyle for themselves before the European explorers arrived. The exchange of goods means nothing compared to how the lives of so many people were affected. Many were affected emotionally and mentally just because the explorers decided to take matters into their own hands and change places that people called home. It is important that one must realize is that even though the materials that were exchanged might have been a rise in both cultures, it is incomparable to the way the people of the New World were mistreated. In conclusion, the conquest of the New World by Europeans had both pros and cons.

Due to Christopher Columbus’ wrong assumption, it changed and impacted people’s lives forever. He and his explorers changed life of the natives in more negative than positive ways. He changed them in ways that were impossible to forget or forgive. The exploration was a change in the world and a time of great curiosity. It was a change that involved new beginnings yet horrible outcomes. The exploration definitely had a negative impact more than a positive one.

Greene, Thomas. “The Columbian Exchange And The Reversal Of Fortune.” 27 (2007): 92-93.



 "The Amazon has jaguars   .   .   .   the Congo leopards."   
For tens of millions of years the dominant pattern of biological evolution on this planet has been one of geographical divergence dictated by the simple fact of the separateness of the continents. Even where climates have been similar, as in the Amazon and Congo basins, organisms have tended to get more different rather than more alike because they had little or no contact with each other. The Amazon has jaguars, the Congo leopards.

However, very, very recently—that is to say, in the last few thousand years—there has been a countervailing force, us, or, if you want to be scientific about it, Homo sapiens. We are world-travelers,

Hondius, 1607

Yale University Library
"We are world-travelers, trekkers of deserts and crossers of oceans. . . . Humans have in the very last tick of time reversed the ancient trend of geographical biodiversification."

trekkers of deserts and crossers of oceans. We have gone to and lived or at least spent some time everywhere, taking with us, intentionally, our crops and domesticated animals and, unintentionally, our weeds, varmints, disease organisms, and such free-loaders as house sparrows. Humans have in the very last tick of time reversed the ancient trend of geographical biodiversification.

Many of the most spectacular and the most influential examples of this are in the category of the exchange of organisms between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. It began when the first humans entered the New World a few millennia ago. These were the Amerindians (or, if you prefer, proto-Amerindians), and they brought with them a number of other Old World species and subspecies, for instance, themselves, an Old World species, and possibly the domesticated dog, and the tuberculosis bacillus. But these were few in number. The humans in question were hunter-gatherers who had domesticated very few organisms, and who in all probability came to America from Siberia, where the climate kept the number of humans low and the variety of organisms associated with them to a minimum.

There were other avant garde humans in the Americas, certainly the Vikings about 1,000 CE, possibly Japanese fishermen, etc., but the tsunami of biological exchange did not begin until 1492. In that year the Europeans initiated contacts across the Atlantic (and, soon after, across the Pacific) which have never ceased. Their motives were economic, nationalistic, and religious, not biological. Their intentions were to make money, expand empires, and convert heathen, not to spread Old World DNA; but if we take the long view we will see that the most important aspect of their imperialistic advances has been the latter.

"America," 1586

Reed College
". . . the tsunami of biological exchange
did not begin until 1492."

They off-handedly and often unintentionally effected enormous augmentations and deletions in the biota of the continents, so enormous it is difficult to imagine what these biotas were like prior to Columbus, et al. A large tome would not provide enough space to list the plant, animal, and micro-organism exchanges, and a thousand volumes would be insufficient to assess their effect. In the space of this essay, we can only manage to convey an impression of the magnitude of these biological revolutions.

Jean-Marc Rosier        

"I recommend that you consider the contrast between the flexibly nosed tapir of South America and


the more extravagantly nosed elephant of Africa."
Let us begin with a thumbnail sketch of the biogeography of the globe when Columbus set sail. Everyone in the Americas was a Amerindian. Everyone in Eurasia and Africa was a person who shared no common ancestor with Amerindians for at the very least 10,000 years. (I omit the subpolar peoples, such as the Inuit, from this analysis because they never stopped passing back and forth across the Bering Strait). The plants and animals of the tropical continents of Africa and South America differed sharply from each other and from those in any other parts of the world. I recommend that you consider the contrast between the flexibly nosed tapir of South America and the more extravagantly nosed elephant of Africa. The plants and animals of the more northerly continents, Eurasia and North America, differed not so sharply, but clearly differed. European bison and American buffalo (which should also be called bison) were very much alike, but Europe had nothing like the rattlesnake nor North America anything like the humped camel.


"Europe had nothing like the rattlesnake nor North America anything like the humped camel."



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