The Columbian Exchange
By: Emma McElroy and Christan Brewer
Disease was carried to the New World on the ships that brought new settlers. These settlers had already built up an immunity against these diseases and were not affected by them. The Native Americans, however had never encoutered the myriad of diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, typhoid fever, influenze and measles, among many others. However, the disease that took the largest tolls was smallpox, claiming thousands of lives. Native Americans suffered 80-90% population losses because of the various diseases brought over by the Columbian exchange. The Native Americans were especially susceptible to the diseases because of the poor nutritional, sanitation and labor conditions. These losses caused the populations to go into disarray, because of the loss of most of the Native American leaders.
The Columbian Exchange brought the familiar food grains of Europe to the New World: wheat, barley, and rye. It also brought Mediterranean plantation crops such as sugar, bananas, and citrus fruits, which all had originated in South or Southeast Asia. At first, many of these crops couldn't survive; but eventually they all flourished. In return, the New World indroduced corn to Europe and it is now a staple in their daily diets!
The Columbian Exchange brought horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and a collection of other useful species to the Americas. So, while Native Americans had plenty of good food crops available before then, they had few domesticated animals to help. The main ones, aside from llamas and alpacas, were dogs, turkeys, and guinea pigs!!
Demographic changes in this time period include the near destruction of the Amerindian population as a result of the arrival of the Europeans as well as the enslavement and movement of Africans from their homes to plantations in the Americas. Examples of environmental changes include and the exchange of crops and animals between Europe, Africa and the Americas during the Columbian Exchange.
Before the Columbian Exchange began, there were around 18 million Native Americans. By 1500, that number was cut in half from disease, and fighting. The end result was that by 1790, there were only about 2.7 million indians left. That's an 85% loss!!