How did the Columbian Exchange change the lives of the people involved?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, please note that this exchange is the Columbian Exchange and not the Colombian Exchange.  It is named after Christopher Columbus and not after the country of Colombia. This is one of the very few instances in which “Columbian” is the proper spelling.

The Columbian Exchanged affected some people’s lives tremendously and others’ lives in relatively less significant ways.   The people who were most strongly affected were the natives of the Americas and those of Africa.  The American natives were affected tremendously, mostly in negative ways.  It is possible to say that they were helped by the Columbian Exchange because the exchange brought new species of animals (most importantly horses) to the New World. This arguably improved the lifestyles of many native groups, most notably the Plains Indians. However, the natives of the Americas were devastated by the germs that came to the New World as part of the exchange.  Infectious diseases like smallpox are believed to have killed up to 90% of the native population since that population had no resistance to those diseases.

The Columbian Exchange also harmed natives of Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly those from the west coast of that continent. This is true because the slave trade is generally seen as part of the Columbian Exchange.  The slave trade took millions of Africans and changed their lives by bringing them to the New World where they were enslaved.  It changed their lives by taking their freedom and by removing them from their homelands.

The Columbian Exchange had mostly positive, though less important, impacts on Europe.  Europeans’ lives were generally enriched by the exchange. Europeans got new foods like tomatoes and potatoes.  They got corn and tobacco and chocolate.  All of these new foods diversified their diets and made them more interesting. Other Europeans enriched themselves monetarily.  Many Europeans came to the New World and made their fortunes.  In these ways, Europeans were generally helped by the Columbian Exchange.

mrssapp eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Columbian Exchange affected many lives on both sides of the ocean.  First, there was the exchange of goods.  Europeans brought materials and products from their homes and shared (purposefully and accidentally) them with the natives they met in the Americas.  This did two things.  First, it introduced native Americans to many technologically-advanced items (comparatively) which changed their societies and cultures.  In addition, the native Americans gave the Europeans many things that allowed them to survive in the new land.  Often, the mixture of the two cultures in regards to products and materials produced interesting and valuable items that served a purpose in both the Old World and the New World.  Next, the Columbian Exchange was a foundation for the exchange of diseases.  The diseases that the Europeans brought to the New World were devastating to the native populations.  Finally, there was the exchange of people.  The movement of people across the Atlantic Ocean created a great meshing of cultures.  This interaction between different cultures created new cultures and enhanced old ones.  It created conflict as new cultural identities had to be dealt with.  In conclusion, the Columbian Exchange was very influential in the progress and development of both the New and Old World.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Native Americans learned the European language. Europeans emphasized teaching their language to the Native Americans in order to address the communication barrier and improve interaction. The new language also presented an opportunity for Native Americans to be taught about Christianity.

The plow introduced by the Europeans helped the natives in agriculture, enhanced their ability to produce more crops, and improved food security. Advanced farming techniques encouraged the natives to move away from hunting and gathering.

The Europeans introduced steel forged weapons and guns that were more effective compared to the weapons used by the natives, especially with regards to hunting. Horses brought by the Europeans also helped with transport, and people were able to move much faster.

Although the Columbian Exchange had a lot of positives, it also had negatives; one of the negatives was the transmission of deadly diseases between the Europeans and the Native Americans. Exposure to the different new diseases led to many deaths among the different groups.

The event also led to an exchange of crops. Maize and sweet potatoes moved east to Europe, and wheat and rice moved west to the Americas.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Columbian Exchange changed the world dramatically.  The vegetables from the New World were exported to the Old World, bringing new sources of vitamins to the European diet.  This in turn increased lifespans and birth rates, leading to population increases which fueled European unrest as people and nations competed for scarce resources.  This in turn led to more European immigration to the Americas, especially from places such as Britain.  Many crops which are associated with European cuisine, such as tomatoes and potatoes, originated in the New World.  New World tobacco became an international sensation.  

Diseases from the Old World such as smallpox and malaria killed over ninety percent of Native Americans.  A smallpox outbreak allowed a small force of conquistadors with some allied help to take over the mighty Aztec nation.  Livestock from the Old World often escaped and reproduced in the New World due to a lack of natural predators.  Wild hogs descended from those brought to the New World from Spain are still major problems in Texas and Florida. They are dangerous and destroy native habitat.  These wandering livestock were also infuriating to native tribes, who had their crops trampled and eaten.  

ssandhu05 | Student

The Columbian Exchange was huge during the 15th and 16th century. Different types of plants, animals, diseases, and technology were exchanged between the America's and the Afro-Eurasian countries. This impacted and changed the lives of people because new foods were able to be grown in the areas that they were introduced to. The same impact with animals, where they had various uses such as food and making leather. In the case of the introduction of the horse, it was used more for riding than it was for food. However, the introduction of disease was not a positive impact, since it affected populations that had never built immunity to them. The Columbian Exchange also aided in colonization from the old world to the new.

zumba96 | Student

New food and culture was introduced via the new and ancient world and there was a quite large amount of exchange based on animals, plants, lifestyles, and population. 

parama9000 | Student

The Europeans gave them food like potatoes while the natives gave them meat.

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