AP World History
Comparing And Contrasting The Demographic And Environmental Effects Of The
Columbian Exchange On The Americas And Europe Between 1492 and 1750
Prior to 1492, Europeans were not technologically advanced enough to compete with the
Chinese, Persians, and Indians on a global-scale. Europeans were still recovering from the
fourteenth century Bubonic Plagues aftermath. The Black Death’s death toll, which shrunk
Europe’s population by forty percent, was still imminent. Such ramifications led to a lack of
cross-cultural encounters between Europe and the rest of the world. Eventually, Europe gained
the strength it once had and stole maritime technologies from the Chinese. Maritime
technologies were a pivotal factor in successful conquests across the Atlantic Ocean from
Europe to the Americas. Both Spain and Portugal were powerhouses which enabled the
European colonization of the Americas. With the creation of New Spain, Europeans were able to
compete on a global scale. Around 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian seaman, set sail on
his first conquest and initiated European colonization of the New World. European contact with
the New World enabled the transmission of ideas, plants, technology, animals, diseases, and
culture. Historians call this the “Columbian Exchange.” The Columbian Exchange can be
credited with transforming both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in both positive and negative ways.
Europe and the Americas were similar in demographic issues which included the spread
of diseases and an increase in food supply but differed in environmental changes caused
by the transference of animals from the Old World to the New World.
Not all components of the Columbian Exchange were positive. On their voyages across
the Atlantic to the New World, Europeans carried deadly diseases such as smallpox, measles,
malaria, yellow fever, and chickenpox. Once again, Europeans were unsanitary individuals who
had poor hygiene. On the other hand, Native Americans were hygienic, sanitary people who
took care of themselves and had proper manners which included cleaning up after themselves.
Thus such diseases that the Europeans carried did not exist in the New World. Having never
been exposed to such diseases, Native Americans had no susceptibility and responded with
death. The majority of the European illnesses were airborne making them highly contagious.
Some historians estimate that as little as fifty percent to as high as ninety percent of the Native
American population was wiped. Ramifications such as these exceeded the devastation caused
by the Black Plague in fourteenth century Europe. However, the Native Americans did have a
nice welcoming gift for the Europeans called Syphilis. Europeans contracted venereal Syphilis
through sexual encounters with the Native Americans. Syphilis i...