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The Americas and Europe: The Colombian Exchange and its Similarities

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Compare and Contrast: The Columbian Exchange in The Americas and Europe

In the Americas the overall effect of the Columbian Exchange was extremely negative in terms of population status and natural resources from 1492 to 1750. The European settlers caused deforestation and spread disease, putting the indigenous people in very poor condition. The Europeans ultimately benefitted from the commerce, regarding culture, resources, and physical space, especially for the wealthy class.

The main issue was the European diseases combined with the Native American’s lack of immunity. Smallpox and the plague wiped out a huge percent of the native population and continued killing many for decades after. In Europe an opposite reaction occurred. The plants, fruits, and vegetables in the New World revolutionized food culture in places like Italy, where tomatoes changed daily cooking. The sudden increase in food sparked a population growth in European society. There was a distinct difference between the poor, middle, and wealthy classes, and how the Columbian Exchange impacted them. The New world was seen as a vast area of land perfect for settlers to start a new life, but only wealthy nobles and few middle class families could afford the travel fees. The exchange significantly expanded the middle class of merchants, but as for the poor, there was no clear positive or negative alterations because they did not have enough money to pay for the new and luxurious resources/foods, nor could they supply the fare to migrate to America.

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The environment in America was fertile, lush, and overflowing with silver and gold. These minerals buried in the New World’s environment created a fluctuation in values and led to a money based economic system in Europe. The settlers burdened the Natives beginning with deforestation. As the Europeans pushed westward and settled in the native lands, they cut down trees and exploited the land, aggravating the once natural surroundings. The natives did however benefit from the methods of farming, hunting, fighting, and building that came from Europe. The horse was adopted by Native Americans and quickly because a necessary means of transportation and a massive factor leading to Great Plains cultures. These small incentives could not compete with The Old World’s power and major dominance that made the marginalization of Native Americans inevitable.

Though the poor were only slightly affected, the Columbian exchange proved vital to Europe’s growth and power. The trade introduced incredible advances in food and culture that humans take advantage of even in modern day. The wealthy were given a new home to better their lives and the merchant class became even more large-scale than it previously was. Though the eruption of exchange is easily viewed as globally positive, the Natives were shocked by the abrupt arrival of the “white men” who tore up the land they had lived on for generations. Even with the shared advances, Europeans began to destroy the region’s original population and take the natural plants and minerals that formed in the Americas. Immense consequences followed the trade, such as the “Great Dying” which demolished Indian individuals and entire civilizations. Columbus’s unintentional discovery sparked the long dramatic fight for European conquest, colonization, and power, while disturbing the America’s simplistic evolution.


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