Columbian Exchange: Economic Impact and Social Shifts

Categories: Wealth And Poverty

The Aztecs and Incas were extremely affluent with precious metals, and the Spanish were able to bring much of those riches back to Europe , boosting the economy by adding more wealth . Even the furs of the North American animals were extremely valuable back in Europe for fashion purposes, so the trading of furs became highly profitable . The economic system of mercantilism aided this influx of wealth; the newly prosperous nations gained maximum capital from their trading by establishing colonies. In mercantilism, the European nations exported much more than they imported to increase the wealth of the nation.

The newfound wealth of the Americas affected the upper and middle classes, who benefited from the profits. Governments used the money to sponsor research in industry and to build up their militaries . The flourishing economy led to improved technology and militaries, thus causing a significant change in European society. Another major product of the Columbian Exchange was the introduction of new crops and animals from the Americas.

Get quality help now
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Wealth And Poverty

star star star star 4.7 (657)

“ Really polite, and a great writer! Task done as described and better, responded to all my questions promptly too! ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The most important crop brought to Europe was the potato. The potato was a staple, since it provided key essential nutrients.

Thus, it provided a reliable source of nutrients to sustain peasants during grain shortages, allowing for a population increase. The potato’s versatility led to its expansion, and it became a major food source for Ireland, Scotland, and Germany. It was more efficient to grow than the European wheat, yielding more crops per acre, meaning the potato would feed more people than wheat given a limited amount of land.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

The efficiency also contributed to a population increase. The potato became part of European food so much so that it eventually became known as the food of the poor.

Other crops besides the potato also were integrated into the European diet, including maize, tomatoes, peppers, and chocolate, to a lesser extent. The North American turkeys also became part of the European diet . In addition, Columbian Exchange created the slave trade which heavily influenced Europe. In the New World, certain crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco were cultivated. However, these crops require a great deal of labor and attention in order to grow in mass quantity , since the harvesting a large amount of those crops required manual labor .

The first Spanish conquistadors enslaved the native population or used an encomienda to meet those labor needs. However, the Spanish also sent missionaries to the New World to convert the natives to Catholicism, thus many of the natives converted; and since it was not acceptable to enslave a Catholic, the European nations looked to Africa to provide the need for labor. Slaves were sent from Africa to the New World and Europe. Eventually, many wealthy households in Europe had at least one slave. Owning a slave became a sign of money and power .

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
Cite this page

Columbian Exchange: Economic Impact and Social Shifts. (2018, Oct 08). Retrieved from

Columbian Exchange: Economic Impact and Social Shifts essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment