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Colombian Exchange

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Discuss the process of the exchange, what was involved, and the impact on both the Americas and Europe.

According to Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian, “The Columbian Exchange refers to the exchange of diseases, ideas, food crops, and populations between the New World and the Old World following the voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492.” The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas.

The first major impact that affected the new world was the diseases. Some of the diseases they came in contact with were smallpox, measles, whooping cough, typhus, and malaria. Since they were not immune to these diseases they were completely defenseless. There were very few diseases from the new world but the most notable was syphilis. The second major impact that affected the new and old world was the transfer of foods. Some of the most nutritional foods introduced were potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and manioc. Some other foods such as tomatoes, and chili peppers were not high in calories. Quinine, a significant impact, was a medicinal gift from the new world to the old world. Quinine was the first effective treatment for malaria. The introduction of new wildlife was a drastic change for the new world because they knew nothing of horses, cattle, sheep, or goats; those were all animals of the old world. Animals were also infected by all types of diseases. Religion affected both the new and old world. Roman Catholics were one of the first religious groups to migrate to the new world. They came searching to practice their beliefs without the fear of persecution. Slavery was happening in the Americas, prior to the Europeans arriving. The natives often captured other tribe members and held them captive. Sometimes they were forced to work for them. The old world didn’t know too much about slavery then. It was a drastic change for all of the Europeans.


Nunn, Nathan, and Nancy Qian. "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 24. 2010. 163-188.

U.S. Department of State. (2011). Outline of U.S. history [Kindle version]. State Department

Office of Interational Information. Retrieved from

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