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Course: US history   >   Unit 1

  • Motivation for European conquest of the New World
  • Origins of European exploration in the Americas
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Consequences of Columbus's voyage on the Tainos and Europe
  • Christopher Columbus and motivations for European conquest
  • The Columbian Exchange
  • Environmental and health effects of European contact with the New World

Lesson summary: The Columbian Exchange

  • The impact of contact on the New World
  • The Columbian Exchange, Spanish exploration, and conquest

Triangle trade of the Columbian Exchange

Review questions.

  • What were the goals of Spanish colonization?
  • How did technology help fuel European colonization?
  • Can you name two positive and two negative effects of the Columbian Exchange?

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how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

  • Columbian Exchange

A map of the world shows the flow of goods, animals, and diseases between North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Written by: Mark Christensen, Assumption College

By the end of this section, you will:.

  • Explain causes of the Columbian Exchange and its effect on Europe and the Americas during the period after 1492

Suggested Sequencing

This narrative should be assigned to students at the beginning of their study of chapter 1, alongside the First Contacts Narrative.

When European settlers sailed for distant places during the Renaissance, they carried a variety of items, visible and invisible. Upon arriving in the Caribbean in 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew brought with them several different trading goods. Yet they also carried unseen biological organisms. And so did every European, African, and Native American who wittingly or unwittingly took part in the Columbian Exchange – the transfer of plants, animals, humans, cultures, germs, and ideas between the Americas and the Old World. The result was a biological and ideological mixing unprecedented in the history of the planet, and one that forever shaped the cultures that participated.

For tens of millions of years, the earth’s people and animals developed in relative isolation from one another. Geographic obstacles such as oceans, rainforests, and mountains prevented the interaction of different species of animals and plants and their spread to other regions. The first settlers of the Americas, who probably crossed the Bering Strait’s ice bridge that connected modern-day Russia and Alaska thousands of years ago, brought plants, animals, and germs with them from Eurasia. However, scholars have speculated that the frigid climate of Siberia (the likely origin of the Native Americans) limited the variety of species. And although the Vikings made contact with the Americas around 1000, their impact was limited.

A large variety of new flora and fauna was introduced to the New World and the Old World in the Columbian Exchange. New World crops included maize (corn), chiles, tobacco, white and sweet potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, papaya, pineapples, squash, pumpkins, and avocados. New World cultures domesticated only a few animals, including some small-dog species, guinea pigs, llamas, and a few species of fowl. Such animals were domesticated largely for their use as food and not as beasts of burden. For their part, Old World inhabitants were busily cultivating onions, lettuce, rye, barley, rice, oats, turnips, olives, pears, peaches, citrus fruits, sugarcane, and wheat. They too domesticated animals for their use as food, including pigs, sheep, cattle, fowl, and goats. However, cows also served as beasts of burden, along with horses and donkeys. Domesticated dogs were also used for hunting and recreation.

The lack of domesticated animals not only hampered Native Americans development of labor-saving technologies, it also limited their exposure to disease organisms and thus their immunity to illness. Europeans, however, had long been exposed to the various diseases carried by animals, as well as others often shared through living in close quarters in cities, including measles, cholera, bubonic plague, typhoid, influenza, and smallpox.

Europeans had also traveled great distances for centuries and had been introduced to many of the world’s diseases, most notably bubonic plague during the Black Death. They thus gained immunity to most diseases as advances in ship technology enabled them to travel even farther during the Renaissance. The inhabitants of the New World did not have the same travel capabilities and lived on isolated continents where they did not encounter many diseases.

All this changed with Columbus’s first voyage in 1492. When he returned to Spain a year later, Columbus brought with him six Taino natives as well as a few species of birds and plants. The Columbian exchange was underway. On his second voyage, Columbus brought wheat, radishes, melons, and chickpeas to the Caribbean. His travels opened an Atlantic highway between the New and Old Worlds that never closed and only expanded as the exchange of goods increased exponentially year after year. Although Europeans exported their wheat bread, olive oil, and wine in the first years after contact, soon wheat and other goods were being grown in the Americas too. Indeed, wheat remains an important staple in North and South America.

A map of the world shows the flow of goods, animals, and diseases between North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

With European exploration and settlement of the New World, goods, animals, and diseases began crossing the Atlantic Ocean in both directions. This “Columbian Exchange” soon had global implications. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

Horses, cattle, goats, chickens, sheep, and pigs likewise made their New World debut in the early years of contact, to forever shape its landscapes and cultures. On the lusher grasslands of the Americas, imported populations of horses, cattle, and sheep exploded in the absence of natural predators for these animals in the New World. In central Mexico, native farmers who had never needed fences complained about the roaming livestock that frequently damaged their crops. The Mapuche of Chile integrated the horse into their culture so well that they became an insurmountable force opposing the Spaniards. The introduction of horses also changed the way Native Americans hunted buffalo on the Great Plains and made them formidable warriors against other tribes.

The Atlantic highway was not one way, and certainly the New World influenced the Old World. For example, the higher caloric value of potatoes and corn brought from the Americas improved the diet of peasants throughout Europe, as did squash, pumpkins, and tomatoes. This, is turn, led to a net population increase in Europe. Tobacco helped sustain the economy of the first permanent English colony in Jamestown when smoking was introduced and became wildly popular in Europe. Chocolate also enjoyed widespread popularity throughout Europe, where elites frequently enjoyed it served hot as a beverage. A few diseases were also shared with Europeans, including bacterial infections such as syphilis, which Spanish troops from the New World spread across European populations when their nation went to war in Italy and elsewhere.

By contrast, Old World diseases wreaked havoc on native populations. Aztec drawings known as codices show Native Americans dying from the telltale symptoms of smallpox. With no previous exposure and no immunities, the Native American population probably declined by as much as 90 percent in the 150 years after Columbus’s first voyage. The Spanish and other Europeans had no way of knowing they carried deadly microbes with them, but diseases such as measles, influenza, typhus, malaria, diphtheria, whooping cough, and, above all, smallpox were perhaps the most destructive force in the conquest of the New World.

Contact and conquest also led to the blending of ideas and culture. European priests and friars preached Christianity to the Native Americans, who in turn adopted and adapted its beliefs. For instance, the Catholic celebration of All Souls and All Saints Day was blended with an Aztec festival honoring the dead; the resulting Day of the Dead festivities combined elements of Spanish Catholicism and Native American beliefs to create something new. The influence of Christianity was long-lasting; Latin America became overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

People also blended in this Columbian Exchange. The Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans in the New World procreated, resulting in offspring of mixed race.

An image shows two paintings depicting groups of people of mixed ethnicities.

Races in the Spanish colonies were separated by legal and social restrictions. In the mid-eighteenth century, casta paintings such as these showed the popular fascination with categorizing individuals of mixed ethnicities.

Throughout the colonial period, native cultures influenced Spanish settlers, producing amestizo identity. Mestizos took pride in both their pre-Columbian and their Spanish heritage and created images such as the Virgin of Guadalupe – a brown-skinned, Latin American Mary who differed from her lighter-skinned European predecessors. The Virgin of Guadalupe became the patron saint of the Americas and the most popular among Catholic saints in general. Above all, she remains an enduring example and evidence of the Columbian Exchange.

Watch this BRI Homework Help video on the Columbian Exchange for a review of the main ideas in this essay.

Review Questions

1. The global transfer of plants, animals, disease, and food between the Eastern and Western hemispheres during the colonization of the Americas is called the

  • Middle Passage
  • Triangular Trade
  • Interhemisphere Exchange

2. Which of the following provides evidence of the cultural blending that occurred as a result of the Columbian Exchange?

  • The adoption of Aztec holidays into Spanish Catholicism
  • The willingness of the Spanish to learn native languages
  • The refusal of the Aztecs to adopt Christianity
  • Spanish priests’ encouragement to worship the Virgin of Guadalupe

3. Which item originated in the New World?

4. How did the Columbian Exchange affect Europe?

  • Domesticated animals from the New World greatly improved the productivity of European farms.
  • Europeans suffered massive causalities form New World diseases such as syphilis.
  • The higher caloric value of potatoes and corn improved the European diet.
  • Domesticated animals from the New World wreaked havoc in Europe, where they had no natural predators.

5. How did the Columbian Exchange affect the Americas?

  • Domesticated animals from the Old World greatly improved the productivity of Native Americans’ farms.
  • Native Americans suffered massive causalities from Old World diseases such as smallpox.
  • The higher caloric value of crops such as potatoes and corn improved Native Americans’ diets.
  • Native Americans learned to domesticate animals thanks to interactions with Europeans.

6. Which item originated in the Old World?

Free Response Questions

  • Compare the effects of the Columbian Exchange on North America and Europe.
  • Explain why historian Alfred Crosby has described the Columbian Exchange as “Ecological imperialism.”

AP Practice Questions

“The Columbian Exchange has included man, and he has changed the Old and New Worlds sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally, often brutally. It is possible that he and the plants and animals he brings with him have caused the extinction of more species of life forms in the last four hundred years than the usual processes of evolution might kill off in a million. . . . The Columbian Exchange has left us with not a richer but a more impoverished genetic pool. We, all of the life on this planet, are the less for Columbus, and the impoverishment will increase.”

Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492

1. Which of the following most directly supports Crosby’s argument?

  • Population gain in Europe due to New World crops such as the potato
  • Population decline in North America due to diseases such as smallpox
  • Mass migration of Europeans to North America in the sixteenth century, displacing Native American groups
  • Overgrazing by animals introduced by Europeans

2. A historian seeking to discredit Crosby’s argument might use what evidence?

  • The immediate and widespread adoption of Christianity in the New World
  • Native Americans’ struggles with Europeans for dominance in the New World
  • Native American groups’ failed adoption of European technologies
  • A net population gain over time due to increased availability of high-caloric foods native to the New World

Primary Sources

Bartholomew Gosnold’s Exploration of Cape Cod: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6617

Suggested Resources

Crosby, Alfred W. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 . New York: Praeger, 2003.

Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Mann, Charles C. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. New York: Vintage, 2012.

McNeill, William. Plagues and Peoples . New York: Anchor, 1977.

Related Content

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

In our resource history is presented through a series of narratives, primary sources, and point-counterpoint debates that invites students to participate in the ongoing conversation about the American experiment.

Module 2: Colliding Cultures (1492-1650)

The columbian exchange, learning objectives.

  • Describe the theory of mercantilism and the process of commodification
  • Analyze the effects of the Columbian Exchange
  • Describe changes to Native American life following European settlement

Commerce in the New World

The economic philosophy of mercantilism shaped European perceptions of wealth from the 1500s to the late 1700s. Mercantilism held that only a limited amount of wealth, as measured in gold and silver bullion, existed in the world. In order to gain power, nations had to amass wealth by mining these precious raw materials from their colonial possessions. During the age of European exploration, nations employed conquest, colonization, and trade as ways to increase their share of the bounty of the New World. Mercantilists did not believe in free trade, arguing instead that the nation should control trade to create wealth. In this view, colonies existed to strengthen the colonizing nation. Mercantilists argued against allowing their nations to trade freely with other nations, because that would mean exchanging bullion for goods.

Spain’s mercantilist ideas guided its economic policy. Every year, enslaved individuals or Native workers loaded shipments of gold and silver aboard Spanish treasure fleets that sailed from its American colonies for Spain. These ships groaned under the sheer weight of bullion, for the Spanish had found huge caches of silver and gold in the New World. In South America, for example, Spaniards discovered rich veins of silver ore in a mountain called Potosí and founded a settlement of the same name there. Throughout the sixteenth century, Potosí was a boomtown, attracting settlers from many nations as well as Native people from many different cultures.

Colonial mercantilism, which was basically a set of protectionist policies designed to benefit the nation, relied on several factors: colonies rich in raw materials, cheap labor, colonial loyalty to the home government, and control of the shipping trade. Under this system, the colonies sent their raw materials, harvested by enslaved or Native workers, back to their mother country. The mother country sent back to the colonies finished materials of all sorts: textiles, tools, clothing. The colonists could purchase these goods only from their mother country; trade with other countries was forbidden.

The 1500s and early 1600s also introduced the process of commodification to the New World. American silver, tobacco, and other items, which were used by Native peoples for ritual purposes, became European commodities with a monetary value that could be bought and sold. Before the arrival of the Spanish, for example, the Inca people of the Andes consumed chicha , a corn beer, for ritual purposes only. When the Spanish discovered chicha, they bought and traded for it, turning it into a commodity instead of a ritual substance. Commodification thus recast Native economies and spurred the process of early commercial capitalism. New World resources, from plants to animal pelts, held the promise of wealth for European imperial powers.

As Europeans traversed the Atlantic, they brought with them plants, animals, and diseases that changed lives and landscapes on both sides of the ocean. These two-way exchanges between the Americas and Europe/Africa are known collectively as the Columbian Exchange .

A map shows the “Columbian Exchange” of goods and diseases. Goods include crops such as maize, potatoes, tobacco, beans, squash, peppers, cacao, cassava, and manioc traveling east as well as rye, wheat, rice, sugar, and tea traveling west. Animals such as cattle, horses, and pigs traveled westward. Diseases include syphilis, malaria, smallpox, yellow fever, and plague.

Figure 1 . With European exploration and settlement of the New World, goods and diseases began crossing the Atlantic Ocean in both directions. This “Columbian Exchange” soon had global implications.

Sugar and Tobacco

A 1646 Dutch painting depicts a man seated at a table smoking a long white clay pipe with evident enjoyment.

Figure 2 . Adriaen van Ostade, a Dutch artist, painted An Apothecary Smoking in an Interior in 1646. The large European market for American tobacco strongly influenced the development of some of the American colonies.

Of all the commodities in the Atlantic World, sugar proved to be the most important. Indeed, sugar carried the same economic importance as oil does today. European rivals raced to create sugar plantations in the Americas and fought wars for control of some of the best sugar production areas. Although refined sugar was available in the Old World, Europe’s harsher climate made sugarcane difficult to grow, and it was not plentiful. Columbus brought sugar to Hispaniola in 1493, and the new crop was growing there by the end of the 1490s. By the first decades of the 1500s, the Spanish were building sugar mills on the island. Over the next century of colonization, Caribbean islands and most other tropical areas became centers of sugar production.

Though of secondary importance to sugar, tobacco achieved great value for Europeans as a cash crop as well. Native peoples had been growing it for medicinal and ritual purposes for centuries before European contact, smoking it in pipes or powdering it to use as snuff. They believed tobacco could improve concentration and enhance wisdom. To some, its use meant achieving an entranced, altered, or divine state—entering a spiritual place.

Tobacco was unknown in Europe before 1492, and it carried a negative stigma at first. The early Spanish explorers considered Natives’ use of tobacco to be proof of their savagery and, because of the fire and smoke produced in the consumption of tobacco, evidence of the Devil’s sway in the New World. Gradually, however, European colonists became accustomed to and even took up the habit of smoking, and they brought it across the Atlantic. As did the Indians, Europeans ascribed medicinal properties to tobacco, claiming that it could cure headaches and skin irritations. Even so, Europeans did not import tobacco in great quantities until the 1590s. At that time, it became the first truly global commodity; English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese colonists all grew it for the world market.

Native peoples also introduced Europeans to chocolate, made from cacao seeds and used by the Aztec in Mesoamerica as currency. Mesoamerican Indians consumed unsweetened chocolate in a drink with chili peppers, vanilla, and a spice called achiote. This chocolate drink— xocolatl —was part of ritual ceremonies like marriage and an everyday item for those who could afford it. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant, which may be why Native people believed it brought them closer to the sacred world.

Spaniards in the New World considered drinking chocolate a vile practice; one called chocolate “the Devil’s vomit.” In time, however, they introduced the beverage to Spain. At first, chocolate was available only in the Spanish court, where the elite mixed it with sugar and other spices. Later, as its availability spread, chocolate gained a reputation as a love potion.

The crossing of the Atlantic by plants like cacao and tobacco illustrates the ways in which the discovery of the New World changed the habits and behaviors of Europeans. Europeans changed the New World in turn, not least by bringing Old World animals to the Americas. On his second voyage, Christopher Columbus brought pigs, horses, cows, and chickens to the islands of the Caribbean. Later explorers followed suit, introducing new animals or reintroducing ones that had died out (like horses). With less vulnerability to disease, these animals often fared better than humans in their new home, thriving both in the wild and in domestication.

The cover of Sir Hans Sloane’s catalog of the flora of the New World is shown. The title begins, “Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers, and Jamaica; with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c., Of the last of those Islands.”

Figure 3 . English naturalist Sir Hans Sloane traveled to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands to catalog the flora of the new world.

Plants and Medicines

Just as pharmaceutical companies today scour the natural world for new drugs, Europeans traveled to America to discover new medicines. The task of cataloging the new plants found there helped give birth to the science of botany. Early botanists included the English naturalist Sir Hans Sloane, who traveled to Jamaica in 1687 and there recorded hundreds of new plants. Sloane also helped popularize the drinking of chocolate, made from the cacao bean, in England.

Indians, who possessed a vast understanding of local New World plants and their properties, would have been a rich source of information for those European botanists seeking to find and catalog potentially useful plants. Enslaved Africans, who had a tradition of the use of medicinal plants in their Native land, adapted to their new surroundings by learning the use of New World plants through experimentation or from the Native inhabitants. Native peoples and Africans employed their knowledge effectively within their own communities. One notable example was the use of the peacock flower to induce abortions: Indian and enslaved African women living in oppressive colonial regimes are said to have used this herb to prevent the birth of children into slavery. Europeans distrusted medical knowledge that came from African or Native sources, however, and thus lost the benefit of this source of information.

Europeans encountered New World animals as well. Because European Christians understood the world as a place of warfare between God and Satan, many believed the Americas, which lacked Christianity, were home to the Devil and his minions. The exotic, sometimes bizarre, appearances and habits of animals in the Americas that were previously unknown to Europeans, such as manatees, sloths, and poisonous snakes, confirmed this association. Over time, however, they began to rely more on observation of the natural world than solely on scripture. This shift—from seeing the Bible as the source of all received wisdom to trusting observation or empiricism—is one of the major outcomes of the era of early globalization.

The Introduction of Disease

A drawing shows five depictions of an Aztec smallpox victim. The victim, who is covered with spots, is shown sleeping, vomiting, and being examined by a healer.

Figure 4.  This sixteenth-century Aztec drawing shows the suffering of a typical victim of smallpox. Smallpox and other contagious diseases brought by European explorers decimated Indian populations in the Americas.

Perhaps European colonization’s single greatest impact on the North American environment was the introduction of disease. Microbes to which Indigenous inhabitants had no immunity led to death everywhere Europeans settled. Along the New England coast between 1616 and 1618, epidemics claimed the lives of 75 percent of the Native people. In the 1630s, half the Huron and Iroquois around the Great Lakes died of smallpox . As is often the case with disease, the very young and the very old were the most vulnerable and had the highest mortality rates. The loss of the older generation meant the loss of knowledge and tradition, while the death of children only compounded the trauma, creating devastating implications for future generations.

In eastern North America, some Indigenous peoples interpreted death from disease as a hostile act. Some groups, including the Iroquois, engaged in raids or “ mourning wars ,” taking enemy prisoners in order to assuage their grief and replace the departed. In a special ritual, the prisoners were “requickened”—assigned the identity of a dead person—and adopted by the bereaved family to take the place of their dead. As the toll from disease rose, mourning wars intensified and expanded.

This video explains the significance of the Colombian Exchange.

You can view the  transcript for “Columbian Exchange” here (opens in new window) .

Changes to Native American Life

While the Americas remained firmly under the control of Native peoples in the first decades of European settlement, conflict increased as colonization spread and Europeans placed greater demands upon the Native populations, including expecting them to convert to Christianity (either Catholicism or Protestantism). Throughout the seventeenth century, the still-powerful Native peoples and confederacies that retained control of the land waged war against the invading Europeans, achieving a degree of success in their effort to drive the newcomers from the continent.

At the same time, European goods had begun to change Indian life radically. In the 1500s, some of the earliest objects Europeans introduced to Indians were glass beads, copper kettles, and metal utensils. Native people often adapted these items for their own use. For example, some cut up copper kettles and refashioned the metal for other uses, including jewelry that conferred status on the wearer, who was seen as connected to the new European source of raw materials.

European Goods in Native Communities

As European settlements grew throughout the 1600s, European goods flooded Native communities. Soon Native people were using these items for the same purposes as the Europeans. For example, many Native inhabitants abandoned their animal-skin clothing in favor of European textiles. Similarly, clay cookware gave way to metal cooking implements, and Indians found that European flint and steel made starting fires much easier.

A 1681 painting depicts Niantic-Narragansett chief Ninigret. He wears what appear to be animal-skin footwear and loincloth, along with a patterned fabric headband, a fabric cloak, and a necklace that includes a round metallic piece.

Figure 5 . In this 1681 portrait, the Niantic-Narragansett chief Ninigret wears a combination of European and Indian goods. Which elements of each culture are evident in this portrait?

The abundance of European goods gave rise to new artistic objects. For example, iron awls made the creation of shell beads among the Native people of the Eastern Woodlands much easier, and the result was an astonishing increase in the production of wampum, shell beads used in ceremonies and as jewelry and currency. Native peoples had always placed goods in the graves of their departed, and this practice escalated with the arrival of European goods. Archaeologists have found enormous caches of European trade goods in the graves of Indians on the East Coast.

Native weapons changed dramatically as well, creating an arms race among the peoples living in European colonization zones. Indians refashioned European brassware into arrow points and turned axes used for chopping wood into weapons. The most prized piece of European weaponry to obtain was a musket , or light, long-barreled European gun. In order to trade with Europeans for these, Native peoples intensified their harvesting of beaver, commercializing their traditional practice.

The influx of European materials made warfare more lethal and changed traditional patterns of authority among tribes. Formerly weaker groups, if they had access to European metal and weapons, suddenly gained the upper hand against once-dominant groups. The Algonquian, for instance, traded with the French for muskets and gained power against their enemies, the Iroquois. Eventually, Native peoples also used their new weapons against the European colonizers who had provided them.


Environmental changes.

The European presence in America spurred countless changes in the environment, setting into motion chains of events that affected native people as well as animals. The popularity of beaver-trimmed hats in Europe, coupled with Indians’ desire for European weapons, led to the overhunting of beaver in the Northeast. Soon, beavers were extinct in New England, New York, and other areas. With their loss came the loss of beaver ponds, which had served as habitats for fish as well as water sources for deer, moose, and other animals. Furthermore, Europeans introduced pigs, which they allowed to forage in forests and other wildlands. Pigs consumed the foods on which deer and other indigenous species depended, resulting in scarcity of the game Native peoples had traditionally hunted.

European ideas about owning land as private property clashed with Natives tribes’ understanding of land use. Indigenous peoples did not believe in private ownership of land; instead, they viewed land as a resource to be held in common for the benefit of the group. The European idea of usufruct —the right to common land use and enjoyment—comes close to the Native understanding, but colonists did not practice usufruct widely in America. Colonizers established fields, fences, and other means of demarcating private property. Native peoples who moved seasonally to take advantage of natural resources now found areas off limits, claimed by colonizers because of their insistence on private-property rights.

Review Questions

  • How did European muskets change life for Native peoples in the Americas? Show Answer European guns started an arms race among Indian groups. Tribes with ties to Europeans had a distinct advantage in wars with other tribes because muskets were so much more effective than bows and arrows. Guns changed the balance of power among different groups and tribes and made combat more deadly.
  • Compare and contrast European and Indian views on property. Show Answer Indians didn’t have any concept of owning personal property and believed that land should be held in common, for use by a group. They used land as they needed, often moving from area to area to follow food sources at different times of year. Europeans saw land as something individuals could own, and they used fences and other markers to define their property.

Columbian Exchange:  the movement of plants, animals, and diseases across the Atlantic due to European exploration of the Americas

commodification:  the transformation of something—for example, an item of ritual significance—into a commodity with monetary value

mercantilism: the protectionist economic principle that nations should control trade with their colonies to ensure a favorable balance of trade

mourning wars: raids or wars that tribes waged in eastern North America in order to replace members lost to smallpox and other diseases

musket:  a light, long-barreled European gun

smallpox: a disease that Europeans accidentally brought to the New World, killing millions of Indians, who had no immunity to the disease

sugarcane: one of the primary crops of the Americas, which required a tremendous amount of labor to cultivate

usufruct: a European right to common land use and enjoyment that was not widely practiced in the Americas

  • Modification, adaptation, and original content. Authored by : Sarah Franklin for Lumen Learning. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
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The Columbian Exchange

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40 pages • 1 hour read

The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492

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The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 is one of the first environmental histories and was published in 1972. It has remained in print since and was reissued in 2003 as a special 30th anniversary edition with a new preface and foreword. This study guide refers to the 2003 Praeger edition of the book.

Crosby earned his Ph.D. in history at Boston University and was a professor of geography, history, and American studies at the University of Texas. Crosby was a civil rights activist and supported the United Farm Workers Union. His books are published in 12 languages; among the most recognized are Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 and America’s Forgotten Pandemic : The Influenza of 1918 . His 2018 New York Times obituary referred to him as the “father of environmental history.”

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Content Warning: This book uses terminology such as Old World and New World , which is Eurocentric and inaccurate. It also consistently uses “Indian” to refer to Indigenous people, although the author identifies this terminology as inaccurate in the preface. This guide uses “Indian” only in quoting Crosby’s language. This guide also discusses the enslavement of African and Indigenous people.

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Alfred W. Crosby, Jr.’s The Columbian Exchange concerns the long-term biological impact of contact between the Americas and Europe, as well as Africa and Asia. Human both purposely and accidentally transformed the globe through this exchange of plants, animals, human beings, and diseases. Using scientific data and primary sources (documents written during the period under study), Crosby argues that while the Columbian Exchange had some short-term positive effects on the world, its overall impact is destructive.

Crosby begins by explaining the differences between the Americas and the rest of the world. These contrasts were the result of millennia of geographical isolation. Humans migrated to the Americas across the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago. Once this bridge was submerged again, inhabitants of the Americas developed in isolation. When Europeans later encountered the American continents, they were hard-pressed to explain the contrasts between this region and their own—such as the noticeable differences in flora, fauna, and humans’ physical appearances—due to their era’s Christian worldview that God created all life at once. While some put forth new theories of multiple creation, the church deemed these perspectives blasphemous and justified the subordination of Indigenous peoples to papal—and, thus, European—rule by claiming they were part of God’s singular creation.

The conquest of the Americas was not due to superior European technology but was the result of a different kind of warfare: biological. Europeans transported numerous diseases across the Atlantic that did not exist in North and South America because of the region’s isolation. Indigenous peoples, thus, had no natural immunity to these illnesses, such as smallpox, which killed them swiftly and in vast numbers. The origin of syphilis is debated, but some scientists claim that it probably originated in the Americas and was brought back to the Continent by Europeans; however, it was not as devastating to European populations as Europeans’ diseases were to the Americas. It did, however, cause fear and potentially strain social relationships.

Europeans brought new crops and livestock to the Americas that transformed and sometimes damaged the landscape. Wheat, olives, and grapevines were staple Spanish crops, for example, but Spanish colonists initially had difficulty growing them in new climates. However, they soon found zones of the Americas that could support their growth. Nevertheless, survival also necessitated that Europeans embrace the cultivation of indigenous crops such as maize, manioc, and potatoes. These American crops soon found their way to Europe, Africa, and Asia, where farmers embraced them, especially when people realized that they could complement rather than compete with what they already grew. This crop diversification caused massive global population growth from the early modern period into the modern era. European demographic growth led to a steady flow of emigrants to European colonies around the world, including the Americas, which further displaced Indigenous peoples from their lands. Likewise, the introduction of European livestock like cattle and horses also displaced Indigenous populations and intruded on their farmlands, negatively impacting the amount of plant food they could produce and further harming Indigenous groups. The arrival of European plants and animals in the North and South American continents also contributed to environmental degradation and ecological disruption from which the land never recovered. Crosby concludes that the Columbian Exchange harmed and continues to harm the world and its people.

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Alfred W. Crosby on the Columbian Exchange

The historian discusses the ecological impact of Columbus’ landing in 1492 on both the Old World and the New World

Megan Gambino

Megan Gambino

Senior Editor

Columbian Exchange

In 1972, Alfred W. Crosby wrote a book called The Columbian Exchange . In it, the historian tells the story of Columbus’s landing in 1492 through the ecological ramifications it had on the New World.

At the time of publication, Crosby’s approach to history, through biology, was novel. “For historians Crosby framed a new subject,” wrote J.R. McNeil, a professor at Georgetown University, in a foreword to the book’s 30th anniversary edition. Today, The Columbian Exchange is considered a founding text in the field of environmental history.

I recently spoke with the retired professor about “Columbian Exchange”—a term that has worked its way into historians’ vernacular—and the impacts of some of the living organisms that transferred between continents, beginning in the 15th century.

You coined the term “Columbian Exchange.” Can you define it?

In 1491, the world was in many of its aspects and characteristics a minimum of two worlds—the New World, of the Americas, and the Old World, consisting of Eurasia and Africa. Columbus brought them together, and almost immediately and continually ever since, we have had an exchange of native plants, animals and diseases moving back and forth across the oceans between the two worlds. A great deal of the economic, social, political history of the world is involved in the exchange of living organisms between the two worlds.

When you wrote The Columbian Exchange , this was a new idea—telling history from an ecological perspective. Why hadn’t this approach been taken before?

Sometimes the more obvious a thing is the more difficult it is to see it. I am 80 years old, and for the first 40 or 50 years of my life, the Columbian Exchange simply didn’t figure into history courses even at the finest universities. We were thinking politically and ideologically, but very rarely were historians thinking ecologically, biologically.

What made you want to write the book?

I was a young American historian teaching undergraduates. I tell you, after about ten years of muttering about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, you really need some invigoration from other sources. Then, I fell upon it, starting with smallpox.

Smallpox was enormously important until quite modern times, until the middle of the 20th century at the latest. So I was chasing it down, and I found myself reading the original accounts of the European settlements in Mexico, Peru or Cuba in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. I kept coming across smallpox just blowing people away. So I thought there must be something else going on here, and there was—and I suppose still is.

How did you go about your research?

It was really quite easy. You just have to be prepared somehow or other to notice the obvious. You don’t have to read the original accounts in Spanish or Portuguese. There are excellent English translations dating back for generations. Practically all of them will get into a page or two or ten about the decimation of American Indians, or a page about how important maize is when all European crops fail, and things like that. I really didn’t realize that I was starting a revolution in historiography when I got into this subject.

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

So, how were the idea and the book received at first?

That is kind of interesting. I had a great deal of trouble getting it published. Now, the ideas are not particularly startling anymore, but they were at the time. Publisher after publisher read it, and it didn’t make a significant impression. Finally, I said, “the hell with this.” I gave it up. And a little publisher in New England wrote me and asked me if I would let them have a try at it, which I did. It came out in 1972, and it has been in print ever since. It has really caused a stir.

What crops do you consider part of the Columbian Exchange?

There was very little sharing of the main characters in our two New World and Old World systems of agriculture. So practically any crop you name was exclusive to one side of the ocean and carried across. I am thinking about the enormous ones that support whole civilizations. Rice is, of course, Old World. Wheat is Old World. Maize, or corn, is New World.

The story of wheat is the story of Old World civilization. Thousands of years ago, it was first cultivated in the Middle East, and it has been a staple for humanity ever since. It is one of Europe’s greatest gifts to the Americas.

Maize was the most important grain of the American Indians in 1491, and it is one of the most important grain sources in the world right now. It is a standard crop of people not only throughout the Americas, but also southern Europe. It is a staple for the Chinese. It is a staple in Indonesia, throughout large areas of Africa. If suddenly American Indian crops would not grow in all of the world, it would be an ecological tragedy. It would be the slaughter of a very large portion of the human race.

Maize, potatoes and other crops are important not only because they are nourishing, but because they have different requirements of soil and weather and prosper in conditions that are different from other plants.

What ideas about domesticating animals traveled across the ocean?

American Indians were very, very roughly speaking the equal of Old World farmers of crops. But American Indians were inferior to the Old World raisers of animals. The horse, cattle, sheep and goat are all of Old World origin. The only American domesticated animals of any kind were the alpaca and the llama.

One of the early advantages of the Spanish over the Mexican Aztecs, for instance, was that the Spanish had the horse. It took the American Indians a little while to adopt the horse and become equals on the field of battle.

You talk about the horse being an advantage in war. What other impacts did the adoption of domesticated horses have on the Americas?

Horses not only helped in war but in peace. The invaders had more pulling power—not only horses but also oxen and donkeys. When you consider the great buildings of the Old World, starting with the Egyptians and running up through the ages, people in almost all cases had access to thousands of very strong animals to help them. If you needed to move a ton of whatever in the Old World, you got yourself an animal to help you. When you turn to the Americas and look at temples, you realize people built these. If you need to move a ton in the New World, you just got a bunch of friends and told everybody to pull at the same time.

What diseases are included in the Columbian Exchange?

The Old World invaders came in with a raft of infectious diseases. Not that the New World didn’t have any at all, but it did not have the numbers that were brought in from the Old World. Smallpox was a standard infection in Europe and most of the Old World in 1491. It took hold in areas of the New World in the early part of the next century and killed a lot of American Indians, starting with the Aztecs and the people of Mexico and Peru. One wonders how a few hundred Spaniards managed to conquer these giant Indian empires. You go back and read the records and you discover that the army and, just generally speaking, the people of the Indian empires were just decimated by such diseases as smallpox, malaria, all kinds of infectious diseases.

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Megan Gambino is a senior web editor for Smithsonian magazine.

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How the Columbian Exchange Brought Globalization—And Disease

By: Sarah Pruitt

Updated: June 6, 2023 | Original: August 25, 2021

Columbus fleet: Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria

Two hundred million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, all seven continents were united in a single massive supercontinent known as Pangaea. After they slowly broke apart and settled into the positions we know today, each continent developed independently from the others over millennia, including the evolution of different species of plants, animals and bacteria.

By 1492, the year Christopher Columbus first made landfall on an island in the Caribbean, the Americas had been almost completely isolated from the Old World (including Europe, Asia and Africa) for some 12,000 years , ever since the melting of sea ice in the Bering Strait erased the land route between Asia and the West coast of North America. But with Columbus’ arrival—and the waves of European exploration, conquest and settlement that followed, the process of global separation would be firmly reversed, with consequences that still reverberate today.

What Was the Columbian Exchange?

The historian Alfred Crosby first used the term “Columbian Exchange” in the 1970s to describe the massive interchange of people, animals, plants and diseases that took place between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres after Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.

On Columbus’ second voyage to the Caribbean in 1493, he brought 17 ships and more than 1,000 men to explore further and expand an earlier settlement on the island of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In the holds of their ships were hundreds of domesticated animals including sheep, cows, goats, horses and pigs—none of which could be found in the Americas. (Horses had in fact originated in the Americas and spread to the Old World, but disappeared from their original homeland at some point after the land bridge disappeared, possibly due to disease or the arrival of human populations.)

The Europeans also brought seeds and plant cuttings to grow Old World crops such as wheat, barley, grapes and coffee in the fertile soil they found in the Americas. Staples eaten by indigenous people in America, such as maize (corn), potatoes and beans, as well as flavorful additions like tomatoes, cacao, chili peppers, peanuts, vanilla and pineapple, would soon flourish in Europe and spread throughout the Old World, revolutionizing the traditional diets in many countries .

Disease Spreads Among Indigenous Populations 

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

Along with the people, plants and animals of the Old World came their diseases. The pigs aboard Columbus’ ships in 1493 immediately spread swine flu, which sickened Columbus and other Europeans and proved deadly to the native Taino population on Hispaniola, who had no prior exposure to the virus. In a retrospective account written in 1542, Spanish historian Bartolomé de las Casas reported that “There was so much disease, death and misery, that innumerable fathers, mothers and children died … Of the multitudes on this island [Hispaniola] in the year 1494, by 1506 it was thought there were but one third of them left.”

Smallpox arrived on Hispaniola by 1519 and soon spread to mainland Central America and beyond. Along with measles , influenza, chickenpox , bubonic plague , typhus, scarlet fever, pneumonia and malaria, smallpox spelled disaster for Native Americans , who lacked immunity to such diseases. Although the exact impact of Old World diseases on the Indigenous populations of the Americas is impossible to know, historians have estimated that between 80 and 95 percent of them were decimated within the first 100-150 years after 1492.

The impact of disease on Native Americans, combined with the cultivation of lucrative cash crops such as sugarcane, tobacco and cotton in the Americas for export, would have another devastating consequence. To meet the demand for labor, European settlers would turn to the slave trade , which resulted in the forced migration of some 12.5 million Africans between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Syphilis and the Columbian Exchange

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

When it came to disease, the exchange was rather lopsided—but at least one deadly disease appears to have made the trip from the Americas to Europe. The first known outbreak of venereal syphilis occurred in 1495, among the troops led by France’s King Charles VIII in an invasion of Naples; it soon spread across Europe. Syphilis is now treated effectively with penicillin, but in the late 15th-early 16th centuries, it caused symptoms such as genital ulcers, rashes, tumors, severe pain and dementia, and was often fatal.

According to one theory , the origins of syphilis in Europe can be traced to Columbus and his crew, who were believed to have acquired Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that cause syphilis, from natives of Hispaniola and carried it back to Europe, where some of them later joined Charles’ army. 

A competing theory argues that syphilis existed in the Old World before the late 15th century, but had been lumped in with leprosy or other diseases with similar symptoms. Because syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, theories involving its origins are always controversial, but more recent evidence —including a genetic link found between syphilis and a tropical disease known as yaws, found in a remote region of Guyana—appears to support the Columbian theory.

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange

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The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange—the transfer of plants, animals, diseases, and ideas set in motion by European voyages across the Atlantic—marked a dramatic change in global history. Exploring this critical turning point will help students understand both the immediate and gradual consequences of the first truly global network.

In this three-day Columbian Exchange lesson plan, students will learn how new routes of exchange and the interconnection of previously isolated continents changed the world forever.

Kick off a lesson on the Columbian Exchange with this short video!

Columbian Exchange Three-Day Lesson Plan

Teaching this lesson will take approximately 50-150 minutes (one to three 50-min class periods) and will address the following objectives:

  • Use the historical thinking practice of sourcing to evaluate differing perspectives of European and Indigenous American interactions.
  • Assess the impact of the Columbian Exchange on communities, networks, and the environment in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas.

Lesson Length: 100-150 minutes (three 50-min class periods)

Lesson Objectives

  • Asses the impact of the Columbian Exchange on communities, networks, and the environment in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas.

Lesson Description: Of course, there were complex networks of exchange in the Americas long before Columbus arrived. Yet, after the connection between the Americas and Afro-Eurasia began in the late fifteenth century, the first global network emerged. Students will learn how the exchange of goods, ideas, diseases, and people forever altered the complexity of life on Earth. The Columbian Exchange had a massive impact on the demography of the world, and students will analyze the complexity of this exchange through primary and secondary source analysis and informal writing.

Note to teachers: This lesson plan offers a suggested pathway to support the lesson objectives listed above. Based on the needs and objectives of your classroom, you may choose to substitute with the resources listed in “Additional Materials.”

The Columbian Exchange created a global network that would forever alter the world’s people, plants, and animals.

Students are introduced to the Columbian Exchange by exploring how the transfer of goods, people, disease, and ideas marked the beginning of a period of rapid cultural change. This was a network of exchange that covered almost the entire world and moved new plants and animals to new places, transforming societies and environments around the world.

  • Note: If you’re tight on time, you could skip right to the Quick Opener, which should only take a couple minutes. But if you’re going to use both, use the Interactive Opener first, as the video will reveal the answers otherwise!
  • Quick Opener: Columbian Exchange Intro Video : Kick off this topic by playing this one-minute video for your class. You may want to pause at points to encourage students to examine the maps, or to discuss their initial thoughts on the positives and negatives of this exchange. Finally, give your students time at the end of the video to consider how the Columbian Exchange has impacted their lives.
  • Read: “ The Columbian Exchange ”: For better or for worse, Christopher Columbus’s arrival in North America led to a system of exchange that fundamentally altered the environment, economic systems, and culture across the world. For additional teaching support, including key idea reading questions, click here (log-in required).
  • Activity: World Zone Café : How did the Columbian Exchange impact the food we eat? In this activity, students will create a menu that features both pre- and post-Columbian Exchange items.
  • Assessment: Three-Sentence Essay Exit Ticket: To review key concepts from the materials, students will write a three-sentence summary of what they learned. Then, they’ll pair with a partner to share their summary and have an opportunity to revise before turning it in.

Additional Materials:

  • Watch: “ The Columbian Exchange: Crash Course World History #23 ”
  • Read “ Crops that Grew the World ”
  • Read: “ Investigating the Consequences of the Columbian Exchange ”
  • Activity: Columbian Exchange Timeline
  • Activity: Our Interconnected World  

The Columbian Exchange transformed communities across the world. Not only foods, but also people moved as a result of this exchange—and not always willingly. Millions of Africans and Europeans ended up in the Americas, a large proportion of them enslaved or otherwise unfree. In the Americas, European conquest permanently altered life for Indigenous communities.

  • Opener: What Do I Know? What Do I Want to Find Out?: In this quick warm-up activity, students have five minutes to preview the materials for the day and write one sentence describing what they think they already know about the material and one question they have. You may also choose to have a quick class discussion based on student responses.
  • Read: “ Transatlantic Migration Patterns ”: Starting in the late fifteenth century, the population of the Americas changed rapidly. People moved across the Atlantic for multiple reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily. For additional teaching support, including key idea reading questions, click here (log-in required).
  • Read: Amonute – Graphic Biography : Though the facts of her life are disputed, Amonute was an important figure in the relationship between the Powhatan people and English settlers in Virginia. For additional teaching support, including key idea reading questions, click here (log-in required).
  • Assessment: Quick Quiz: In this quick assessment activity, students will write two to three quiz questions they feel capture the most important information from the day. They’ll pair with a partner and take their quiz, then discuss with the class what made a good question, and why.
  • Read: “ The Disastrous Effects of Increased Global Interaction ”
  • Read: “When Humans Become Inhumane”
  • Read: “The Transatlantic Slave Trade”
  • Activity: Quick Sourcing – Accounts of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
  • Read: “ Primary Sources: Accounts of the Transatlantic Slave Trade”
  • Read: “Religious Syncretism in Colonial Mexico City”
  • Activity: Causation – Migration

These additional materials support extended learning objectives, including:

  • Assess the impact of the Columbian Exchange and transatlantic migrations on communities in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas.
  • Evaluate the connection between the Columbian Exchange, the transatlantic slave trade, and the plantation system.

In 1491, no one living in Europe, Asia, or Africa knew that there were humans in the Americas, and no one in the Americas knew there were humans in Afro-Eurasia. Today, students will use primary source documents to examine different perspectives of the same historical event to create deeper insight into the effects of interconnection. Then, they’ll synthesize their learning from the lesson and respond to a writing prompt.

  • Opener: A Different View : Whether in poetry, or history, it’s pretty amazing how a change in perspective can give you an entirely different view.
  • Skills Activity: Sourcing - Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire : These sixteenth-century primary source documents describe the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Why did they do it? How did Indigenous peoples respond?
  • Assessment: Writing Assessment: Students will use all the information they’ve learned over the past three days to write a paragraph response to the prompt: How did the Columbian Exchange create lasting change to communities, exchange networks, and the environment in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas?
  • Activity: Columbian Exchange Infographic
  • Read: “European Colonies in the Americas”
  • Read: “Survey of Transoceanic Empires, 1450 to 1750”
  • Watch: Colonization and Resistance
  • Read: “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz – Graphic Biography”

Take a closer look

Supporting materials or full lesson we’ve got you covered..

Take a deep dive into our free, middle- and high school-level Columbian Exchange materials. Check out the articles, videos, and activities to support an existing lesson, or use our three-day Columbian Exchange lesson plan to explore the global consequences of this momentous event.

how to start an essay about the columbian exchange


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  1. The Columbian Exchange (article)

    These two-way exchanges between the Americas and Europe/Africa are known collectively as the Columbian Exchange. Of all the commodities in the Atlantic World, sugar proved to be the most important. Indeed, in the colonial era, sugar carried the same economic importance as oil does today. European rivals raced to create sugar plantations in the ...

  2. Essay On The Columbian Exchange

    It brought the exchange of various resources like plants, animals, and diseases across the world. The year was 1492 is when Christopher set sail and put in motion The Columbian Exchange or also known as The Great Exchange. The Columbian Exchange affected the geographic location with the trading routes with Afro-Eurasia to the Americas. Also ...

  3. Columbian Exchange

    The Columbian Exchange is a term coined by Alfred Crosby Jr. in 1972 that is traditionally defined as the transfer of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old World of Europe and Africa and the New World of the Americas. The exchange began in the aftermath of Christopher Columbus' voyages in 1492, later accelerating with the European colonization of the Americas.

  4. Columbian Exchange Essay

    The Columbian Exchange is a monumental phase in human history, embodying the profound complexity of globalization, cultural interaction, and human advancement. It opened doors to unprecedented opportunities, fostering economic growth, technological innovation, and cultural fusion. The world's interconnectedness, diverse societies, and ...

  5. Columbian Exchange

    The animal component of the Columbian Exchange was slightly less one-sided. Horses, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, and several other species adapted readily to conditions in the Americas.Broad expanses of grassland in both North and South America suited immigrant herbivores, cattle and horses especially, which ran wild and reproduced prolifically on the Pampas and the Great Plains.

  6. READ: The Columbian Exchange (article)

    The inter- continental transfer of plants, animals, knowledge, and technology changed the world, as communities interacted with completely new species, tools, and ideas. The Columbian Exchange marked the beginning of a period of rapid cultural change. *Infographic showing the transfer of goods and diseases from the Columbian Exchange.

  7. Lesson summary: The Columbian Exchange

    The spread of a disease to a large group of people within a population in a short period of time. An economic theory that was designed to maximize trade for a nation and especially maximize the amount of gold and silver a country had. The process by which commodities (horses, tomatoes, sugar, etc.), people, and diseases crossed the Atlantic.

  8. Columbian Exchange

    The Virgin of Guadalupe became the patron saint of the Americas and the most popular among Catholic saints in general. Above all, she remains an enduring example and evidence of the Columbian Exchange. Watch this BRI Homework Help video on the Columbian Exchange for a review of the main ideas in this essay.

  9. The Columbian Exchange

    These two-way exchanges between the Americas and Europe/Africa are known collectively as the Columbian Exchange. Figure 1. With European exploration and settlement of the New World, goods and diseases began crossing the Atlantic Ocean in both directions. This "Columbian Exchange" soon had global implications.

  10. The Columbian Exchange Summary and Study Guide

    The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 is one of the first environmental histories and was published in 1972. It has remained in print since and was reissued in 2003 as a special 30th anniversary edition with a new preface and foreword. This study guide refers to the 2003 Praeger edition of the book. Crosby earned ...

  11. Essay on The Columbian Exchange

    Good Essays. 1075 Words. 5 Pages. Open Document. The Colombian Exchange was an extensive exchange between the eastern and western hemispheres as knows as the Old World and New World. The Colombian exchange greatly affects almost every society. It prompted both voluntary and forced migration of millions of human beings.

  12. Alfred W. Crosby on the Columbian Exchange

    North Wind Picture Archives via AP Images. In 1972, Alfred W. Crosby wrote a book called The Columbian Exchange. In it, the historian tells the story of Columbus's landing in 1492 through the ...

  13. Essay on How Did the Columbian Exchange Affect Society

    The Columbian Exchange, a watershed moment in history triggered by Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas, brought about profound societal changes that reverberated across continents. This analytical essay explores how the Columbian Exchange affected societies, examining its influence on demographics, economies, cultures, and social ...

  14. Essays on The Columbian Exchange

    When it comes to writing an essay on The Columbian Exchange, choosing the right topic is crucial. The Columbian Exchange was a period of significant cultural, biological, and ecological exchange between the Old World and the New World following Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas in 1492. This historical event had a profound impact ...

  15. How did the Columbian exchange impact both sides of the Atlantic?

    Share Cite. The Colombian exchange is very important to the study of humans as a species. Europeans gained squash, pumpkins, and corn, which led to higher birth rates and greater longevity in the ...

  16. How the Columbian Exchange Brought Globalization—And Disease

    The historian Alfred Crosby first used the term "Columbian Exchange" in the 1970s to describe the massive interchange of people, animals, plants and diseases that took place between the ...

  17. How The Columbian Exchange Benefited Europe and North America

    The Columbian Exchange, which occurred following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, facilitated the widespread transfer of... read full [Essay Sample] for free ... Positive Effects of the Columbian Exchange Essay. The Columbian Exchange refers to the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations ...

  18. 11 Activities to Learn About the Columbian Exchange

    2. Map it out: Using a world map, label the countries and continents involved in the Columbian Exchange to visualize its widespread impact. 3. Watch documentaries: Watch documentaries on the Columbian Exchange to grasp its importance in shaping our world today. 4. Prepare a debate: Organize a debate among your peers about the positive or ...

  19. The Columbian Exchange

    The Columbian Exchange. Presentation Mode Print Download Current View. Text Selection Tool Hand Tool. ... Christopher Columbus's arrival in North America led to a system of exchange that fundamentally altered the environment, economic systems, and culture across the world.

  20. Columbian Exchange Dbq Essay

    The Columbian Exchange was the exchange of plants, animals, and ideas between the New World (The Americas) and the Old World (Europe). It changed lives in Europe and in the Americas. (World Civilizations pg, 806). The Columbian Exchange introduced new plants, animals, and foods to the Americas from Europe.

  21. The Columbian Exchange Lesson Plans

    The Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange—the transfer of plants, animals, diseases, and ideas set in motion by European voyages across the Atlantic—marked a dramatic change in global history. Exploring this critical turning point will help students understand both the immediate and gradual consequences of the first truly global network.

  22. How did the Columbian Exchange alter European lives?

    With the Columbian Exchange, the diet of most people in Europe improved substantially, primarily due to the introduction of potatoes, maize, etc. This improved diet resulted in fewer infant deaths ...