The Columbian Exchange and Depopulation
The Columbian Exchange relates to a period after Christopher Columbus’s voyage in the fifteenth century. The term is used in order to describe a process of transferring food (for example, potatoes and crops), animals, and other goods between the Americas and the Old World. However, the consequences of the contact established by Native Americans and Europeans were ambiguous. Currently, scholars try to evaluate the impact of the Columbian Exchange and other trips to the American continent from different points of view and provide an accurate historical description of the events. The Columbian Exchange is a politically accepted phrase that defines the realities of colonization and actions of conquistadors. It should be acknowledged that the Columbian Exchange had a negative impact on Native Americans. For example, it led to the depopulation of the Americas and its repopulation by Europeans and Africans. The current paper analyses the process of the Columbian Exchange and argues that devastation of Native Americans was a deliberate policy of conquistadors that resulted in the massive depopulation of the New World.
It is a well-known fact that Europeans brought various dangerous and communicable diseases with them. Such diseases as smallpox, measles, influenza, and typhus could be considered a byproduct of the contact. The problem was that Native Americans were not immune to these viruses and infections. In contrast, in the Old World, measles, for example, was just a minor irritant. However, it was lethal to Native Americans. Scholars have estimated that “in the twenty-five years after Columbus landed on Hispaniola, the population there dropped from 5,000,000 to 500” (Neugebauer). Therefore, during the Spanish voyages, more than ninety percent of the native population died. Smallpox and other diseases that were spread by Europeans affected Americans long after the time of Columbus. In fact, it continued to kill people during the expansion of the land when “pioneers and the army often gave Native Americans blankets laced with smallpox germs in order to more quickly “civilize” the West” (Neugebauer). It was a well-thought-out maneuver aimed at the total devastation of the natives in order to prepare the land for other people and challenges of globalization.
The result of the exchange was depopulation that shifted the economic and cultural situation of the New World. A global economy was created on the basis of new discoveries and trading routes. Different peoples interacted, and there was a need for labor. Since Native Americans were killed by diseases or slaughtered, Europeans had to find another way to fill the gap. Thus, the demand for labor was “met with the abduction and forced movement of over 12 million Africans” (Nunn and Qian 164). Europeans were also transported to the new lands so that they could serve as cheap resources.
It may be concluded that the Columbian Exchange is a complicated process of the past that changed the cultural and economic status of the New World. The Spanish voyages had a negative impact on Native Americans who suffered from numerous diseases in exchange for plants, animals, and other goods. After the Columbus’s voyage, a great number of indigenous people died, and the continent became the place with a growing economy and a high demand for labor. For this reason, people from Africa and Europe were forced to move to the New World.
Neugebauer, Ronda. The Impact of “Discovery”: The Columbian Exchange. Lumen Learning, 13 Dec. 2013, https://lumen.instructure.com/courses/202929/pages/Section5-2?module_item_id=4597167. Accessed 17 Nov. 2016.