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Why Was the Biological Exchange (columbian Exchange) So Beneficial to European Colonizers?

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Why was the biological exchange (known as the ‘Columbian Exchange’) so beneficial to European colonizers? Discuss with reference to TWO distinctive factors.

The Columbian Exchange refers to the transfer of animals, plants, culture, human populations, technology and ideas between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres in the 15th and 16th centuries. It represented the beginning of world wide navigation and connection of the old and new continents, which created a great ecological change and brought a lot of benefits to European colonizers. On the one hand, the biological exchange provided a lot of food sources to European colonizers and brought a positive effect on agricultural development, which directly improved their life quality; On the other hand, the Columbian Exchange brought diseases to the Americas, which decreased the population of native residents but benefited the European colonization of the Americas. The exchange of food sources and the exchange of diseases are both beneficial to European colonization and trade.

Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas on October 12th ,1492, and he initially thought he was in the east of Asia. Columbus found the living conditions of native Indians were relatively backward. He also found that plants and crops were totally different from those in Europe. Because of the independence of geographical position of the Americas, it owned an independent ecosystem of itself. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and corns were only cultivated in the Americas at that time, and native Americans mainly relied on those crops as their diets. Before the Columbian Exchange, there were no tomatoes in Italy, no oranges in Florida, no coffee in Colombia and no pineapples in Hawaii, which is entirely different from the world today.

The Columbian Exchanges transferred a lot of food sources to Europeans colonizers from the Americas, including potato, tomato, corn, bean, vanilla, peanut, pumpkin, avocado and so on, which are the species that Europe didn’t have before. Potatoes, tomatoes and corns tended to become the main food sources since the exchange, because people found these crops were easier to plant due to their strong resistance and high-yield feature. Cassavas and peanuts flourished in Southeast Asian and West African soils, so that more yields could be produced. The exchange brought a positive effect on agricultural development, which strengthened the population supporting capacity and promoted trades in Europe. The development in agriculture helped people solve the problem of food shortage and improved their life quality. Europeans began to use the crops which brought from the Americas to produce a healthier diet with a balanced nutrition, so that the physical quality of European colonizers improved after the exchange. For instance, tomato sauce became an Italian trademark, while tomatoes were not existed in Italy before the exchange. At the same time, many crop varieties were transferred from Europe to Africa and America as well, such as sugar cane, banana and olive. These crop varieties better adopt to the land and environment in the Americas, so that American could get a higher return in advantage of planting the new crops.

In short, the exchange of food sources benefited both Europeans and Americans. The Columbian Exchange greatly affected ecosystems in the old world and the new world. People became to aware of that Atlantic Ocean was no longer an obstacle to communicate between the two areas, and they could transfer sources other than food, which directly accelerated global integration.

Besides food sources, the Columbian Exchange brought diseases from Europe to Africa and the Americas, including smallpox, influenza, typhus, measles, malaria, diphtheria and whooping cough. Since the population of Europe was much higher than that of the Americas, more diseases were existed in Europe. In addition, Eurasian had domesticated more animals than Americans, and many diseases originated from animals. Also, there was no communication among Europe, Africa and the Americas before the Columbian Exchange, native Americans didn’t have the antibodies to against the new diseases. A big number of native residents died because of the diseases, which significantly decreased the population of the Americas. Meanwhile, few diseases were spread from the Americas to Europe. One of the worst diseases was syphilis, which was fatal in early centuries and affected the life of Europeans in the beginning. Compared with diseases which were spread from Europe to the Americas, syphilis was relatively less deadly. As time went on, syphilis became more benign and people found an effective way to treat this disease. Obviously, the bad effect caused by diseases in the Americas was more serious than that in Europe.



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