What is the Columbian Exchange? Although it sounds like something that would be associated with coffee, it is actually named after the explorer Christopher Columbus. This exchange happened when the Americas, or the New World, would exchange items in trade with European countries. This early trading partnership benefited both parties because each region had products that the other needed or wanted.
As with any trade partnership, there are some pros and cons to consider. Here are some of the top pros and cons of the Columbian Exchange.
1. It Helped To Increase Food Production
One of the primary global benefits of the Columbian Exchange was that it became cheaper to grow more food. This was especially true with crops like corn and potatoes. The added farmlands were able to provide people with a steady diet around the world and with consistent food, people were able to live longer lives because they were getting more of the essential minerals and vitamins that they needed.
2. Diseases Traveled Fast
Whenever one group of humans interacts with an isolated group of humans that has no outside contact, there is an extreme danger of spreading death and disease. Tribal groups of humans aren’t generally asked those to harmful diseases like smallpox, or measles, or the flu. They have no immunities to these diseases and so even someone who was just a carrier from Europe of something like Typhus could end up wiping out an entire native population.
3. Livestock Was Introduced
Before the colonization of the Americas, most of the animal protein that was incorporated into diets was obtained through hunting. When European settlers came, they were able to introduce the various livestock options that they were used to back home. This meant sheep, cattle, and pigs. It also meant that they were able to introduce domesticated horses to the continent. Other items were introduced as well, including barley and other grains that could be used to make flour and other food products.
4. It Created Change
Because there were so many products coming out of the Americas, it shifted the balance of power in Europe. The countries that had a presence in the Americas were able to expand trade with all of their partners from the East and the West. This gave them a natural monetary advantage compared to their neighboring countries that were not involved with the American colonization. It created circumstances where colonialism became the thought of the day in Europe so that everyone could get a piece of the New World’s pie.
5. The United States Was Created
Without the Columbian Exchange, the United States might never have come into existence. Some might hate the US, but there is no denying that several great accomplishments have come directly from the efforts of this nation. From the Panama Canal to the billions of dollars in aid that are given out every year, the world would be a very different place without the US.