Columbian Exchange Effect

The Columbian Exchange, named after Christopher Columbus, was the vast transfer of goods, culture, technology, diseases, and ideas in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1492 the integration of the old and new world inspired discussion of religion, brought about different goods and services to be traded, and manifested diseases that would become deadly. Although there were advancements made, the interaction between Europeans, Natives, and the indigenous people of North America resulted in negative effects. Near the end of the fifteenth century Europeans were determined to find alternative routes to Asia in order to grow trade and wealth. Inspired by Christopher Columbus’s discovery to North America people like Batholomeu Dias and Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope with the same idea in mind, gain access to land that would provide a substantial amount of luxury goods. But through Batholomeu Dias’s and Vasco de Gama’s journeys they were riddled with disease, death, rising opinions of religion, and manipulation caused by the interactions of Columbian Exchange.

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The involvement of the Columbian Exchange generated a rapid expansion of diseases like syphilis and smallpox which caused the death of millions of people. These diseases were transmitted by the interaction of those involved with trade. Sailors were the main carriers of diseases and spread them through each place they encountered. Throughout the sixteenth century over twenty-four million people died due to diseases (Doc 7). This drastic drop of population was known as the great dying, long isolation from the Afro-Eurasian world meant that there was no immunity formed to pathogens which left the new world full of death from diseases. People were taken over with painful rashes that were contracted from either smallpox or syphilis leaving them confined to a bed to recover (Doc 7). The photo in the document shows people suffering from the diseases that were spread over the course of 100 years. From the 1500 to 1600 the drop in population due to that of death or those in bedrest effected many trading options. There were not enough people to fulfill the labor-intensive crops that had to be harvested in order to trade and there were not enough people to conduct a large sailing ship that can distribute massive amounts of goods at one time.

Trade was one of the main factors represented in the Columbian Exchange, trade was one of the main goals that anyone was working for during the Columbian Exchange. Unfortunately, when it came to the exchange of goods between strangers it is easy to manipulate others. In 1492 Christopher Columbus kept a journal that highlighted his travels as he was aiming to sail to Asia for spices and other goods that were traded. He made some miscalculations and landed in North America. When Christopher Columbus arrived in a place he did not plan to be at he noticed that there were inhabitants that have not interacted with others before. Christopher took this to his advantage and used the people’s unsophisticated understanding to make unfair trades with them. He did not offer substantial goods but received numerous things (Doc 1). Christopher wrote in his journal that he gave indigenous people glass beads and red hats and got parrots, cotton, and javelins. This is not a fair trade and he continued to use this system to gain numerous goods. Exchanging crops was a more intricate process, in Europe it was found that potatoes could be left in the ground until they were ready to be eaten which granted the Europeans an opportunity to evade taxes (Doc 2). Europeans not having to pay taxes allowed them to put the currency that they possess towards other goods giving them an advantage over others in the business of trade. While there are some finding ways to manipulate the system of trade mercantilism shows that the mother country sends manufactured goods to colonies and colonies send goods like gold, silver, fur, lumber, and food to the mother country (Doc 6). This shows that even though people are demonstrating unfairness there is a cycle. The luxury goods that many are trying to possess are sent from colonies to mother countries where they can be taken care of a traded for what they are worth without the manipulation from those who have a disconnect between languages and cultures. Interactions between indigenous people, Europeans, and Natives provided a divide between languages and cultures making it even easier to manipulate others into paying more for what you are offering in trade. This manipulation is a negative effect of the Columbian Exchange.

Along with flourishing trade came the diffusion of religion. Christianity spread across the world as people began to interact more. Christianity held a large role in chattel slavery that was introduced. Slavery was not only introduced but implemented as the Columbian Exchange flourished. Africa did not have many valuable goods to trade for the goods that were coming in from Europe but could offer humans. The trans-Atlantic slave trade routes began to open and was used extensively by those involved in the Columbian Exchange. After the Spanish had established colonies in America a new economic system rose, named encomienda which stated that the Indians should produce food and till the fields for Christians unless they themselves are Christian, relating to the action of slavery (Doc 3). When the Spanish had control over a few colonies in 1503 they were stating that any Indians who were not Christian were to tend to those who are Christian. Not only are people being forced into labor, but they are not accepted for who they are and what they believe in which creates tension between people who are not being respected. Along the Columbian Exchange there were missions built along spots with heavy flows of people, which were big buildings that promoted Christianity. These settlements were places where ideas and languages were shared (Doc 5). Although there are places where people can communicate and express their beliefs it is known that at these places’ diseases were most commonly spread. Disagreements in beliefs facilitated anger and frustration which would lead to violence toward others (Doc 4). The weapons that were traded were used against other merchants usually near religious locations by people who did not tolerate other religions and belief systems. When integrating a vast amount of land and people it is impossible to avoid conflicts due to the different beliefs and cultures that are present. For example, the Dutch wanted a route to Asia while the British concentrated on India. The Dutch claimed territory in modern day US and Canada and the British claimed the first successful and permanent colony in North America. These two very separate views of the Columbian Expansion show the diversity of who was involved and how it was easy to create some tension.

The interactions along the Columbian Exchange were not pleasant. Disease was spread and wiped out over three fourths of the population. Trade was facilitated but many were taken advantage of and manipulated through the disconnect of language and knowledge. Religion spread but was also commonly disagreed upon due to the variety of opinions and dehumanization of the standards of Christianity involved in slavery. The effects of the Columbian Exchange were negative throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

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Columbian Exchange Effect. (2021, May 31). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from

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