The Columbian Exchange brought profound changes to both the Old World and the New. Agriculture was transformed through the introduction of new plants and animals in both directions. Health and population levels were affected, often in catastrophic ways, by the exchange of diseases. Culture and history were transformed by the introduction of new technologies, which brought Native American civilizations advances in tool use and warfare that had previously been unknown to them. This lesson facilitates discussion of the consequences of the Columbian Exchange.
• Discuss the changes in agriculture and technology wrought by the Columbian Exchange.
• Explore the structure of global trade that resulted from the Eurasian presence in the post-Columbian Americas.
• Analyze the historical, economic, cultural, and material benefits and costs of the Columbian Exchange for the Americas and Eurasia.
□ Participate in the threaded discussion board (online, scored by teacher).
Discuss: The Columbian Exchange
To complete this lesson, do the following:
Review the online screens to prepare you for the online discussion question.
Ask for help if the material is unfamiliar to you.
Print the Threaded Discussion Board Grading Rubric and review the contents.
Use the threaded discussion board to begin this activity. Be sure to check back regularly to participate in the discussion with your fellow students and teacher.
You can take notes in this space as you work through the lesson.
Group Discussion Prompt
Discuss the costs and benefits of the Columbian Exchange. Who benefited more from the exchange: the New World or the Old World? Consider the influence of animal, plants, and technological changes, and of diseases.
What goods, including human beings, figured in the global trade network that arose in the early modern period? In what ways did the global trade network lead to the increased wealth and dominance of some societies? In what ways did it lead to the exploitation of other societies? In what ways did it affect ecosystems? Support your discussion points with details and evidence.
The Columbian Exchange changed the world and formed its shape for the future; some of its consequences were negative and some were positive. On one side, the Columbian Exchange benefitted the New World and the Old World because it exposed to them to new crops, which brought the people more food to eat and cash crops that helped their economy. The New World was exposed to crops such as bananas, tea, coffee, and sugar cane. Sugar cane ended up being a significant cash crop for the New World. The Americas brought tobacco, cocoa beans, pumpkins, avocados, tomatoes, pineapple, and peanuts to the Old World. A negative effect of the Columbus Exchange was the demographics that became of the New World by the end of the trading system. Due to diseases and epidemics such as yellow fever, malaria, and the bubonic plague, tribes in the Americas lost 5,090 percent of their population.
The New World, however, only transmitted syphilis to Eurasia and Africa. Although the disease was able to kill people, the population of the Old World didn’t suffer. Instead, it increased while Eurasia was recovering from the bubonic plague, and also because of the amount of food that was brought into the New World from the Americas. The population in Eurasia went up 20 percent during the Columbian Exchange. Animals brought into the New World caused both a negative and positive effect.
For instance, animals like sheep helped natives because they brought them food and wool. Wild cattle were also hunted for meat and hide. However, sheep along with horses, rabbits, and rats would eat the crops planted in the Americas causing less food for the indigenous people. The animals brought into the Old World did not cause any threat, except for the Gray Squirrel. The rest of the animals brought into Eurasia and Africa were merely for curiosity.
The Old World benefited more from the Columbian Exchange. While the population in the New World was decreasing dramatically, the population in the Old World was recovering and increased from 425 million to 545 million. Eurasia and Africa also did not receive a negative effect from plants, diseases, and animals. They were also much more advanced technological, with their weapons made from metals such as copper and iron. Meanwhile, the New World had very simple weapons in comparison, made from wood and stone which could not go against the European shotguns and daggers.
The crops that figured in the global trade network were bananas, tea, coffee, tobacco, pumpkin, corn, sugar cane, pineapple, avocado, peppers, peanut, potatoes, and cocoa beans. Animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, parrots, rabbits, rats, honeybees, chickens, llamas, and dogs were also included, along with diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, syphilis, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, and influenza which were typically transmitted through animals. Africans, Native Americans, Asians, and Europeans like Hernando Cortez were also figured in the trade network. The global trade network led to the wealth and dominance of Eurasia.
This was possible first and foremost because the amount of food in Europe and Asia increased when American agriculture was brought into the continents. This allowed for the population of Eurasia to grow. The trade also allowed for the greatness of Eurasia because while that continent was rising economically, the Americas were slowly diminishing. Europeans brought in diseases that were fatal to Natives, killing most of their population. The animals brought into the New World also ate the crops that were meant for the people, causing starvation. While Eurasia was becoming strong, the Americas were facing exploitation.
The trade network affected ecosystems because the invasive animals brought into America ruined the balance of the food chain. When they ate the natives’ crops, they faced starvation and the population decreased dramatically. On the other hand, some animals were hunted for their hide, causing their populations to decrease and the species to sometimes become extinct. Some of these animals include whales, walruses, and tigers. To sum it up, the Columbian Exchange brought a great amount of change to the world; some being positive and some being negative.