What are some effects still seen today with the Columbian Exchange?

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kat-draney's profile pic

kat-draney | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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After Christopher Columbus' 1942 voyage to the New World, the possibilities of Europe's trade industry grew exponentially. By reaching a new, foreign land, Columbus and the voyagers with him were able to harvest and experience new products of nature and Native society that they did not have back in Europe.

By traveling across the ocean and proving the journey doable, Columbus opened up an entirely new trade route. The New World and the Old World both had items that were native only to them. When the voyagers reached the New World, they realized that they had products such as rice, bananas, and apples, all crops that could not be found in the New World. Likewise, the New World had crops that the Europeans had never seen before, such as maize, potatoes, and tomatoes. The New World introduced horses into the lives of the Natives, and forever changed their means of transportation.

The people of the Old World wanted the difficult-to-acquire crops of the New World, and the settlers of the New World needed the crops from their European homeland. Thus, trading was established and ships carried the different, nonnative crops back and forth between the two continents.

Unfortunately, crops were not the only thing carried on those ships. Communicable diseases and invasive plants and species came along with the coveted crops. The Europeans brought diseases such as smallpox, the measles, and yellow fever. 80 to 95 percent of the native population was wiped out by these diseases. 

The most felt changes in the contemporary world are the crops and the diseases. While smallpox and the measles have been mostly if not entirely eradicated in the United States, nothing we do can change the fact that these diseases killed almost all of the natives who resided in America prior to Columbus' arrival. Although the transportation of crops allowed the surviving people to live "better," many died due to the diseases that spread, and I would argue that is the greatest effect that lingers in our hearts and minds even today.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Most of the effects of the Columbian Exchange can still be seen today.  The Columbian Exchange changed the Americas in tremendous ways and even helped cause an increase in the population of Europe.

While we usually think of the Columbian Exchange’s effects on the Americas, it had an effect on Europe as well.  Most importantly, many new foods were introduced to the old world.  The most important of these were potatoes, corn, and tomatoes.  Potatoes and corn are credited with helping to increase the population of Europe by increasing the amount of food that could be grown there.  This population increase continues to affect the world today.

The impact of the Columbian Exchange on the New World was even more drastic.  First, the germs that were part of the Columbian Exchange killed off a large percentage of the Native American population.  This allowed North America, in particular, to be populated by non-natives.  This impact of the exchange on Native Americans continues to be felt today as Indians in North America are largely marginalized from society.  In addition, the animals brought over from the Old World have transformed the economy of the Americas.  Brazil and the United States, for example, are major producers of beef.  Animals from the Old World make up most of the meat consumption of the peoples of the Americas.

All of these are results of the Columbian Exchange that can still be seen and felt today.

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