The Columbian Exchange refers to the transfer of plants, animals, diseases, culture, and human populations across the Atlantic from the so-called Old World to the New World and vice-versa. The term was first coined in 1972 by Alfred W. Crosby in his book The Columbian Exchange. The title refers to Christopher Columbus, the explorer who initiated the exchange.
Among the positive effects of the Columbian Exchange were the many crops brought to the Old World from the New World. Some of these eventually became staples in cuisines around the world. These included potatoes, tomatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, and cacao, which is used to make chocolate. Crops brought from Europe and other parts of the globe that thrived in the New World included sugar, coffee, bananas, grapes, and citrus fruits. Tobacco was also brought from the New World to Europe; it became a booming industry, but it would have to be considered a negative effect because of its detrimental influence on health.
It was also advantageous that Columbus and other Europeans brought domesticated animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, donkeys, and horses to the New World. Horses in particular became highly prized by Native Americans for hunting and warfare. Other animals were primarily used for food.
On the negative side, Europeans brought many disease-causing microbes to the New World. Large percentages of native populations fell to diseases such as smallpox, chickenpox, cholera, influenza, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, measles, and mumps. Traveling in the other direction, from the New World to the Old, was the deadly sexually-transmitted disease of syphilis.
One of the most evil facets of the Columbian Exchange was the Atlantic slave trade, through which Africans were taken by force from their homelands to be placed into servitude in the New World.