European Exploration of America

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What impact did Christopher Columbus's voyages have on the Americas?

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The impact of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas was the death of countless indigenous peoples via murder and disease, the introduction of European travel to the Americas, and the displacement and enslavement of indigenous peoples for many years to come.

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The impact of Columbus's voyages to the Americas was massive. First of all, he showed that it was possible to sail west from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean. This led to many more voyages of discovery and conquest by the Spanish as well as many other European nations. While Columbus was originally looking for routes to the Spice Islands, he quickly changed his purpose, and his subsequent voyages were more focused on conquest. With Spain snatching up new colonial holdings in the Americas, other European powers got involved, and a contest of imperialism ensued.

Columbus's voyages also led to the enrichment of Spain. In 1492, Spain had recently been reunited after centuries of Moorish occupation. The funds that came in as a result of Columbus's and other voyages helped quickly turn Spain into the richest power on earth.

For the people Columbus encountered in the Americas, the impact was devastating. Diseases that were unintentionally introduced as well as brutal treatment and outright conflict with the Spaniards resulted in the complete destruction of the Taino. Other populations suffered terribly as well. It was ultimately diseases from Europe inadvertently introduced by these and other voyages that decimated the native population of the Americas. It is thought that within a century of Columbus's voyages, the native population had been reduced by ninety percent.

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Christopher Columbus, like so many European colonizers who arrived to the so-called Americas after him, brought rampant genocide and destruction to the lives of indigenous peoples and to the lands that were invaded by colonizers. When Christopher Columbus, who was a terrible navigator, first arrived in the Caribbean islands, he arrogantly assumed he had reached India and declared the people he met to be Indians. Columbus, of course, was in the wrong hemisphere; he had actually made contact with the Taíno people. The Taíno people were incredibly welcoming to Columbus and his crew. Columbus noted this, even going as far as to remark in a letter that they were immensely kind and welcoming and that fifty of his men could enslave them all. This letter certainly foreshadowed all that was to come for the indigenous peoples of the lands now called, mostly by non-indigenous peoples, North and South America. Within few short years of Columbus's first visit, European invaders from Spain, England, and France brought enslavement, genocide, disease, and displacement to the indigenous people and lands.

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Columbus’s voyages to the Americas are important mainly because of the fact that they “opened” the New World to exploration and to conquest.  In other words, Columbus’s four voyages did not have a tremendous impact in and of themselves, but they led the way to other voyages and events that did affect the Americas, Europe, and the world.

For the Americas, Columbus’s coming signaled doom for native societies.  Native societies were almost universally destroyed or at least greatly altered by the Europeans who followed Columbus.  The overthrow of the Aztec empire and the creation of New Spain is an example of this.  The Aztecs lost their political independence.  Culturally, they underwent a process in which their culture was mixed with that of Spain and became something entirely new.

For many native groups, Columbus’s coming led to eradication.  This was particularly true in North America.  There, English and other European settlers did not mix with native societies.  Instead, they simply pushed them off their ancestral lands, killing many in the process.  In addition, diseases brought by Europeans raged throughout the New World where people had no resistance, killing tremendous numbers of natives.

Columbus’s voyages also led to negative effects in Africa.  Eventually, Europeans who came to the Americas decided that they needed labor to work their American plantations.  They turned to Africa, and took millions of people from that continent to work as slaves in the New World.

In Europe, the effects of the voyages were generally more benign.  Europe benefitted from many things found in the Americas.  Spain, of course, got the use of American gold and silver.  (This was not an unmixed blessing for Europe as it helped to fund many wars that might otherwise not have happened.)  European countries gained an outlet for excess population, making domestic affairs less volatile as unhappy people could often simply leave for the Americas.  Europeans were also exposed to such things as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and chocolate, all of which changed their eating habits. 

All in all, Columbus’s voyages led to events that affected almost the entire world.  The effects did not come from Columbus’s voyages themselves, but from the later voyages and colonization that his voyages made possible.

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One of the impacts of Columbus' voyages to the new world was something called the "Columbian Exchange." This does not merely apply to Columbus, but to many of the explorers of the time period.  Essentially, the exchange took place between the European explorers and the indigenous people.  As many of the indigenous people to the explored regions offered insight into the land, assistance to the explorers after weary journeys, and natural resources of their areas, the explorers brought new diseases from Europe, introduced elements of subjugation to the civilizations, and took the natural resources for profit back in Europe.  This underscored one of the major impacts the Columbus brought to the New World, the merging of two worlds and the domination of one over the other.

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How did Christopher Columbus' voyages affect Europe?

Christopher Columbus's voyages had a profound impact on Europe. As it became clear that he had discovered a new continent and as wealth from this continent began pouring into Spain, Spain became more powerful. Other European countries were thus galvanized to send out their own expeditions to explore and to start colonies in the New World. This led, of course, to the British and French establishing colonial outposts in the New World. Europe benefitted from the abundant natural resources of the new continent, and cultural thought and the European sense of cultural superiority were impacted by contact with what were considered more primitive cultures. Exploration of these hitherto unknown cultures and geographies also changed European life by introducing new products, such as tobacco, corn, potatoes and tomatoes. 

It's important to note, however, the name "Christopher Columbus" can act as a shorthand for all sorts of currents that were already in play and that it is difficult to tease out particular contributions that were Columbus's alone: the age of exploration and the quest for faster routes to Asia had begun before his voyages, and contacts with other civilizations in the East and in Africa had already inspired the development of racist ideologies in Europe. Columbus's greatest influence was perhaps to accelerate processes already in play. 

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How did Christopher Columbus' voyages affect Europe?

Christopher Columbus made several voyages to the Americas. These voyages impacted Europe in many ways.

Many European countries were looking for a quicker way to reach the Far East. These countries were hoping to find minerals and to increase trade in the Far East. Columbus decided to try to reach the Far East by heading west. When he traveled westward, he came across various places in the Americas. His reports of the availability of land in what is now called the Americas encouraged other countries to try to come to the Americas. The explorers of these countries hoped to discover a shorter route to Asia. While they never discovered the shorter route, other explorations led to the discovery of many minerals. Explorers claimed these lands for their country, and efforts were made to mine the minerals and bring them back to Europe. This led to the establishment of colonies by several European nations. These countries got the minerals and also benefited economically by increasing their trade with the colonies they established.

While these discoveries had disastrous effects on the Native Americans, the Europeans benefited greatly from these explorations, discoveries, and the creation of colonies. Africans were also eventually enslaved and were negatively impacted by these explorations.

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How did Christopher Columbus' voyages affect Europe?

I would say the Columbus' voyages had a direct impact on Europe in that it helped to bring out the idea that the Age of Exploration can morph into the Age of Exploitation quite easily.  The Columbian Exchange would be the primary example that I could cite to help explain how Europe was directly impacted through Columbus' voyages.  Once Europeans were able to see how Columbus was able to bring back rarities and valuable commodities such as food, knowledge, and people in the form of slaves, the door was swung wide open for nations in Europe to be able to see exploration as a way of being able to take advantage of indigenous people as Columbus did.  This ended up increasing more exploration throughout the world and increasing European profits as a result.

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How did Columbus's voyages affect the people of the New World?

If we are looking only at the actual voyages that Christopher Columbus himself made, the effects were rather minimal.  Columbus made only four voyages to the New World.  He only reached the mainland of Central America on his fourth voyage, having reached various islands on the other voyages.  This means that he and his men had direct contact with a very few natives of the New World.  Those who did come in contact with Columbus were affected in a negative way.  Many were enslaved or forced to work for the Spanish. Some were killed. In general, the people of the New World were typically abused by the Spanish.

However, if we look at the way the natives of the New World were affected by the “discovery” of their continent, the effects are much greater.  Columbus’ voyages paved the way for European exploration and domination of the New World.  In North America, this largely meant that the natives were killed or pushed off their land. In South America, it meant that their cultures were to be absorbed into Spanish culture. The natives of South America and Central America were not killed or forced off their land like the North American Indians, but they were largely forced to accept Spanish culture and they became the lowest class of Spanish colonial society.

In these ways, the long-term, or indirect impacts of Columbus’s voyages on the natives of the New World were very severe.

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What impact did Christopher Columbus have upon the New World?

Columbus had a profound impact on the New World.  Even though he thought that he had found Asia, Columbus's voyage still brought Spain a great deal of wealth.  Thousands of young Spaniards dreamed of going to America and striking it rich either in the spice trade or in gold.  With the exception of sugar production, the spice trade never really materialized in America the way the Spaniards had hoped, but thousands of Spaniards grew rich on the gold trade.  Of course, this was often done by subjugating the indigenous people who lived in the New World.  The arrival of Columbus marked the end of many native cultures in the New World.  European diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, and malaria wiped out over ninety percent of the indigenous people who lived in the New World in the two hundred years after Columbus's voyages.  Also, European livestock, such as hogs, escaped their owners and quickly became feral.  These hogs ate many crops Native Americans needed for survival and are still a nuisance in the United States today.  The horses that escaped from their pens were domesticated by the Plains Indians; the horse was soon used as a type of wealth.  It could be used on the battlefield as well as the buffalo hunt.  Columbus's arrival in the New World brought mainly bad things for the natives who already lived there, but the horse was the one positive thing brought from Europe to the New World.  

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