Discovery of America is known to be one of the most significant events in world history, as it became one of the fundamental steps towards the formation of many great nations. America did indeed offer plenty of opportunities and resources to its colonizers. However, the processes occurring were not beneficial for some other social groups like Native Americans or Africans. Nevertheless, one may confidently claim that this event contributed to the world’s progress in the long-term perspective.
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To begin with, there are many dimensions of exchange between the New and the Old World boosted by the discovery of America. Probably, the most popular one to be discussed were diseases exported to America by the colonizers. The spread of diseases is considered to be the leading cause of Native Americans depopulation by 80 – 95% (Castilla-Beltran et al., 2018). Namely, cholera, malaria, bubonic plague, diphtheria, influenza, and chickenpox, among others, were expanded to the Americas. Nevertheless, there are some examples of diseases spread from the New World to the Old World (Castilla-Beltran et al., 2018). For instance, venereal syphilis is believed to be one of them, being a deadly disease at those times. In a word, such an exchange can be fairly called intense; however, it was also quite asymmetric.
Furthermore, another object of the exchange to be discussed were plants. First, what the Old World is thankful to the Americas for is its multiple kinds of crops. To name some, there were potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and so on. Moreover, tobacco originating from the New World significantly influenced the healthy development of the world population. Secondly, the Columbian exchange also included rice and the knowledge of its cultivation. Moreover, these cultures spread to non-European countries as well. However, there was also vice versa exchange: for example, citrus fruits and grapes were brought to the New World by Europeans as well as bananas quite surprisingly. Therefore, it would be fair to claim that the Columbian exchange enriched the nutrition habits of both parties.
What is more, the animal exchange also took place after the discovery of America. At first, it was quite unilateral, as European countries were more used to animal domestication. Among the examples, there were horses and mules – the drivers of the Old World technological progress – as well as donkeys, pigs, cattle, goats, and sheep. Furthermore, chickens, cats, and big dogs were exported to the New World. On the one hand, it boosted the economic development of the region. On the other hand, such changes destructively affected the natural fauna of the area. Hence, it is more appropriate to analyze the unilateral effect rather than an exchange in this context.
Speaking of the groups influenced by the discovery of America, the first one to be discussed are Native Americans. As mentioned above, this effect was primarily negative due to the massive depopulation of this group. However, there were some other aspects of the European impact. Wisniewski (2016) provides a phrase belonging to Columbus: “I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. They would make fine servants. With fifty men, we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want”. Hence, it is not surprising that the colonizers displaced the Natives. Another example to mention, their culture – including beliefs – was not considered civilized enough, and, hence, was mistreated, which caused its decline. Therefore, the discovery of America was not beneficial for the original peoples, taking into account the depopulation and degradation of their cultural heritage.
As for the way the discovery of America affected Africans, it was probably the most significant. The notion of the triangle trade overall describes it; on the one hand, there were Africans sold as slaves to serve the colonizers. The transatlantic slave trade was a fundamental factor of the economic development of America, and the further states established there. This phenomenon defined the lives of generations of Africans whose dignity was not respected and whose labor was exploited. On the other hand, Africans sold those slaves in exchange for manufactured goods, guns, textiles, and alcohol. This trade enriched the local markets while increasing the dependency of African countries on the future metropolis.
Another group to mention were Europeans, who stayed in the Old World. For instance, migration intensified, and, hence, other generations of Europeans traveled to the New World. Moreover, new products were imported to the continent, and this tendency enriched the nutrition habits of the Old World. What is more, the European communities lost some of their members, and these demographic changes could not help but affect their developments. Therefore, Europeans saw significant transformations in Old World society.
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Finally, it is vital to consider how America’s discovery transformed the life of an average colonist. They received more religious freedom: partially the Pilgrims left the Old World seeking liberation from the Catholic paradigm (Goh, 2020). Nevertheless, various new activities were spread among the colonizers. Furthermore, women started working outside of the home, which did not necessarily mean emancipation. However, in a way, it was a step forward for the female population to become an economic actor. In other words, the discovery of America changed the lifestyle of the erstwhile Old World inhabitants.
To conclude, the discovery of the Americas was a part of the global tendencies in the technological and scientific progress of the Old World. However, these events managed to influence the world processes itself. There were several dimensions of the so-called Columbian exchange, including diseases, animals, and plants that contributed to the development of both parties. Moreover, various groups were affected by such changes: the Native Americans, Africans, Europeans, and the colonizers themselves. The lifestyle of the latter, including women, changed dramatically
Castilla-Beltran, A., Hooghiemstraa, H., Hoogland, M., Pagán-Jiménez, J., Geel, B., Field, M., Donders, T., Malatesta, E., Hung, J., McMichael, C., Gosling, W., & Hofman, C. (2018). Columbus’ footprint in Hispaniola: A paleoenvironmental record of indigenous and colonial impacts on the landscape of the central Cibao Valley, northern Dominican Republic. Anthropocene, 22, 66 – 80.
Goh, R. (2020). Protestant evangelical pilgrimages: hagiography, supernatural influence, and spiritual mapping. Journal of Cultural Geography.
Wisniewski, M. (2016). The decline of Native culture in America: Causes and effects. The Ashford Humanities Review. The AHR: Web.