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Columbian Exchange

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The Columbian Exchange was a sea trade connecting the “Old World” and the “New World” while transferring peoples, animals, plants, and diseases in the 15th century. This transfer of trade products also provoked the Age of Exploration, including Christopher Columbus’s discover of the Western Hemisphere in 1492. Many European explorers discovered new land in this region and saw many prosperous civilizations. Despite having flourishing civilizations in the Western Hemisphere, the Columbian Exchange affected the Natives of this land negatively, while the Europeans had a positive impact.

The positive effects of the exchange between Europe and the New World mainly had this impact on the Europeans, but also some rare occurrences of pleasant effects on the Natives. According to the New Spanish laws of the Indies, the Spaniards ordained the riddance of slavery in the Americas of all “Indians” in 1542. This had a positive impact towards the Amerindians because they were now able to live a free life, instead of being contained in enslavement. These laws have a certain bias and point of view as to why the Spanish Audiencias made these commands. Clearly the government of Spain wanted their conquered peoples to not be held in slavery unjustly. As stated by Antoniio Vasquez de Espinoza, a Spanish priest, his opinion of the University in Lima, Peru was that it was one of the most majestic places in the world. He addresses his bias as a positive one because of his Spanish pride; he favors the Peruvian royal schools and the “outstanding and unusual intellects”. “The Columbian Quincentenary: An Educational Opportunity” was an official position statement developed by the National Council for the Social Studies. It addresses the many features of the worldwide system of exchange and how it was all connected through trade. The Columbian Exchange and fur trade stimulated the joining of Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Overall, the colossal transcontinental exchange of plants, animals, and natural resources started by the Spanish and Portuguese voyages made the global economic system forever an advanced one. According to the Columbian Exchange Chart, the New World and Old World traded extreme amounts of crops and livestock after the discovery of the Western Hemisphere. This included horses, cows, pigs, corn, potatoes, tobacco, beans, wheat, and sugar. Also, wealthy items were traded to rich nobles such as gold and silver. Lastly, the Columbian Exchange document, written by Lauren Rees, sums up the positive effects of the trade of crops and livestock throughout the world. She also speaks of the intricate process it was at the time. The crops with higher calories energized the Amerindians, which eventually led to the adoption of these crops to Europe. Also, the document explains the great uses of horses and how they allowed for faster travel and people to fight from a higher level. Overall, the Columbian Exchange had many new discoveries of how to cultivate plants and raise livestock, which the Natives used and the Europeans adopted. The Europeans mainly had the positive effects, while the Natives were conquered and taken advantage of.

Although the Columbian Exchange was a wonderful advancement in the world’s economy and inventions, it had extreme consequences on the Natives that were discovered in the Western Hemisphere. According to Kenneth Auchinloss, no matter who would have found the Western Hemisphere, the consequences for the people who lived there would have been the same. He says that the Europeans were bound to go off and voyage into the New World because it was a “social necessity”. However, he states that “the spread of Western civilization was built on intrusion”. This could be seen as valid because of the negative impacts that were too happen to the Natives. The author of “The Crimes of Christopher Columbus” clearly explains that the white man conquering the Native land was genocide. The Native population perished in great numbers due to the enslavement of Indians and mainly because of contagious diseases that the Europeans transmitted to the Indians including, smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, and syphilis.

The Indians had no immunity to these new diseases, so they died in calamitous amounts. Geoffrey Cowley, author of “The Great Disease Migration” validates that the diseases began just as Columbus arrived to these tropical lands, killing up to half of the indigenous population. These diseases spread through the Caribbean islands, all the way to Mexico and into South America. At last, “The Columbian Exchange, Plants, Animals and Disease between Old World and New” written by Alfred, exposes that the New World didn’t domesticate animals as much as the Old World did, which is why they were immune to infectious diseases such as sharing the flu with pigs. The New World only had a few diseases to be immune to compared to the Europeans. Even though the Natives went through many hardships, they did receive some protection from the Catholic clergy from the abuse of Spanish settlers. Bartolome de Las Casas wrote a journal entry that demonstrates the New World’s perspective on this epidemic.

He was one of the most influential defenders of the Amerindians in the early colonial period. He arrived in Hispaniola in 1502 and dedicated his life to advocate for the native peoples and the horrors of the misdeeds of the Spanish. The journal entry described the island he lived on and the natives he encountered. He writes about how deeply moved he was by the millions of deaths of natives and how Christianity was forced upon them by the European voyagers. The natives attempted to practice old rituals of their ancestors, but were persecuted if caught. Casas also wrote about his greatest achievement, the enactment of the New Laws of 1542 – a reform legislation that outlawed the enslavement of Amerindians. Overall, the Columbian Exchange caused millions of deaths for the Amerindians in the Western hemisphere, rather than good fortune that the Europeans received. This bloodshed will forever be in the minds of indigenous peoples that lived in South America and the islands surrounding South America.

Despite having flourishing civilizations in the Western Hemisphere, the Columbian Exchange affected Natives negatively, while the Europeans had a positive impact. This sea trade caused the discovery of new lands, technological inventions such as newer and more efficient ships, and the cultural diffusion in trade products. The economy was prosperous during this colonial period all over the world because of this transcontinental system. However, negative consequences such as the mass murders of the Natives in the Western Hemisphere occurred by the European voyagers arrival and force of labor and spread in disease. Overall, these positive and negative effects impacted the world and future sea trades to surpass the advances of the Columbian Exchange.

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