Sample History Paper on Changes Brought by the Columbian Exchange

(1.) How did the Columbian Exchange Lead to Redistributions of Power and Population? In your Response, Examine a Range of Changes Brought by the Columbian Exchange

The discovery of New Worlds opened a new era in American history, a period characterized by the popular Columbian exchange. Initially, the knowledge of the Portuguese among other experts, hindered the exploration of the western world. It was believed that crossing the Atlantic was impossible until when Christopher Columbus’s exploration inaugurated a geographic revolution. Columbus’s discoveries fostered the exchange of ideas, cultures, people, plants, animals, diseases, and other products between the Europeans and the Americans. The process by which commodities, people, and bugs crossed the Atlantic came to be known as the Columbian Exchange. Following Columbus’s discovery, the European understanding of the world geography underwent a revolution that raised the desire for additional explorations into the new realm. Arguably, this exchange is described with great significance based on its role in the world’s agriculture, culture and ecology.

The transatlantic exchange began when Europeans first arrived at American shores. According to Roark et al., the Columbian exchange can be credited for the introduction of traditional crops in the west such as Barley and rice (176). Nonetheless, the exchange facilitated growth of New World crops including maize, and potatoes in Europe. In America, there were no sheep, goats, cattle, or horses since people only domesticated guinea pigs, dogs, llamas, alpacas, and a few fowls, which could not match the extent of domestication in the old world. According to Roark et al., before the advent of 1500s exchange, potatoes were only grown in South America (109). Still, by the 19th century, they were grown across India, North America, and other European countries (110). Eventually, potatoes became a staple food in Europe, contributing to an approximately 30% increase in population by the 1700s (Roark et al. l15). This increase was fostered by the fact that European rulers such as Frederick of Prussia and Catherine encouraged the cultivation of new types of crops and breed of animals. Besides, the exchange of maize to China and white potatoes to Ireland can be attributed to population growth in the Old World. This is because the upsurge in agriculture and domesticated animals created a sense of food security among Europeans.

The Spaniards brought to America unique products, animals, and plant species that were common in Europe. The new items included: Christianity, iron technology, firearms, and wheeled vehicles. Nonetheless, the voyage carried along many old-world microorganisms that caused diseases and illnesses. The old-world conditions had devastating effects since the new world people lacked natural immunity to bugs. Roark et al. note that measles, smallpox, and other diseases killed thousands of Indians in the 16th century (120). By the 1800s, the conditions had destroyed almost half of the Native American population, significantly impacting the region’s population distribution. Even though European explorers suffered from American diseases, the effect was insignificant compared to Native American losses. With time, intermarriages between Spaniards and Indians in New Spain led to the creation of a new race known as creoles. The Indian population remained high until the advent of disease, which immensely reduced societies. Besides, the decline in population due to health conditions and mass murders following conquest increased the need for slavery. Therefore, the statistical numbers of Europeans grew as a result of new crops, while Americans decreased following catastrophic events caused by Europe’s bacteria.

The discovery of New Worlds enabled Spain to become the most powerful monarchy in Europe and America. Before the Columbian Exchange, nations had weak defence forces as they were unaware of other territories. Therefore, in 1519, when Hernan Cortes led Spaniards to the conquest of Mexico, thousands of Mexicans were killed following the massacre of Mexican nobles (Roark et al. 111). Lured by the insatiable appetite for gold and wealth, the Spaniards continued their quest to conquer Tenochtitlan and proceeded in search for more treasure. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro of Spain murdered the Incan emperor to accomplish the need to control over Peru which was perceived to have enormous treasures (Roark et al. 114). From 1565 to the 1600s, Spain established settlements in Florida and Mexico in a bid to protect Spanish ships from pirates and privateers. The colonies also strengthened Spain’s conquest of the region by laying territorial claims. Juan de Onate led an expedition to claim northern Mexico and settle over five hundred people. However, when Onate reached Pueblos near present-day Albuquerque, Indians revolted, leading to the death of eight hundred men, women, and children (Roark et al. 110). Onate proved the superiority of the Spanish military by suppressing the revolution; however, settlers returned to Mexico, leaving the claimed land as a dusty assertion of the Spanish claim. Hence, the conquest of Mexico and Peru expanded Spanish territories and made Spain more powerful.

Spain extended new world colonies to strengthen its kingdom in Europe. Roark et al. emphasize that during the Columbian exchange, Spain was the dominant power in the western hemisphere, and Portugal controlled the vast territories of Brazil (110). At the same time, England and Spain had little concerns about the new world. Spanish monarchy allowed conquistadors to explore new regions, but the crown took one-fifth of the loot confiscated while conquerors divided the rest. This allowed Spain to rule over Indians and lands in and around the towns using the encomienda institutions. Later in the 1600s and 1800s, France and England followed Spain’s example in an attempt to control some regions of America (Roark et al. 218).

In summary, the Columbian exchange bridged the new and old worlds hence benefiting Spaniards and other countries. The exchange also led to an increase in population, especially in European countries as they discovered new treasures, foods, and animals. However, the exchange also subjected Native Americans in the modern world into diseases and ravages of European conquest. Upon learning about Spain’s dominion in Europe, other monarchs began to contest their positions. The England and French rulers, however, noticed that North America lacked treasures, and the Indian population was high in the regions controlled by Spain. Devastated, the countries introduced agriculture and slave trade between Africa and America. Undeniably, Spain’s religion, culture, language, and institutions created a permanent imprint in the new region as Spain remained influential in the 16th century.

(2). How did Tobacco Agriculture Shape the Chesapeake Region? Consider the Demographic and Economic Changes Brought by Tobacco Culture During the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries

Life in the American wilderness proved nasty, brutish, and filled with diseases for the early Chesapeake settlers.  In the 17th century, the population began to grow with increased England settlers in the region. However, Roark et al. note that conflicts between the natives and newcomers devastated the efforts of the Virginia Company to control the area (140). In 1624, King James 1 regained control over Chesapeake by abolishing the powers held by the Virginia Company. The king also appointed the governor of Virginia and its council but retained most institutions established under the Virginia Company. In 1619, The House of Burgesses system of the ruling was initiated, allowing inhabitants of Chesapeake to elect their representatives (Roark et al. 148). Despite this, the region remained uninhabitable due to increased mortality rates and fruitless experimentations. This concept changed with the discovery of tobacco in the area. Therefore, tobacco consolidated the Chesapeake colonies and strengthened King James’ determination.

Virginia shifted from a colony characterized by devastating adventures to a society of dedicated tobacco planters. The crop was rather demanding and required close attention, extended hand-labour, and use of heavy hoes. However, tobacco became a broadly important cash crop in Chesapeake as it yielded high returns attributed to extensive farming lands in Virginia as compared to England. By the mid-17th century, the region ascribed a society of white servants and ex-servants popularly known as indentured servants. In the early days of the tobacco boom within the 16th century, King James 1 and the Virginia Company shipped women in the region to facilitate the establishment of families, which could strengthen the farming community. Despite the efforts, the women population remained meagre affecting servant labour gender balance.

Chesapeake tobacco plantations represented small clearings surrounded by miles of wilderness. Tobacco planters sought land that gave them access to navigable rivers to avert expensive slave labour. Conversely, Chesapeake colonists were Anglican, with a large number of settlers devoted Protestants. However, the hope lay in turbulent and highly dependent on the survival of tobacco agriculture. Maryland attracted settlers just like Virginia, and both regions shared cultures, beliefs, and religions (Roark et al. 161). Roark et al., point out that both colonies shared devotion to tobacco agriculture, which represented the true faith of the Chesapeake (150). In this light, religion did not raise such concerns in the region, as did tobacco.

The tobacco-based economy boomed in the early 1700s when tobacco planters started trading with Europeans and Africans. As Roark et al. opine, the traders increased their fortunes and soon dominated the riverfront estates broadly recognized within the agriculture and commerce fronts of the southern colonies (165). Leaf-laden ships hauled a lot of tobacco by the 17th century with increased settlements and availability of labour. The enormous production led to a decline in prices, but the Chesapeake farmers responded by planting more tobacco to offset the price differences. This strategy, however, made saving enough funds to own land more difficult for freed servants. With increased landless freemen, wealthy planters began to buy slaves and served as merchants in the region. The society became more polarized with a massive gap between the wealthy merchants and the landless colonists. Class divisions led to the navigation acts that allowed all tobacco products to be shipped using England ships, and by English crew through English ports. This aspect further affected the economic growth that had revolutionized the Chesapeake colony. Therefore, increased tension led to convulsed Chesapeake politics, which threatened the harmony between planters and their neighbors.

Overall, tobacco agriculture fostered the social, economic, and political aspects of the Chesapeake region. The area initially had a high rate of mortality attributed to diseases and a lack of useful sources of livelihood. Although unhealthy for human life, the Chesapeake region received an influx of settlers, and it did not take long before the profit-hungry immigrants could realize the importance of tobacco in the area. Following the awakening, tobacco became a major cash crop in the Chesapeake colonies. Slaves cultivated, packaged, and transported tobacco in an extremely labour-intensive process. Late in the 17th century, the majority of servants created enough wealth to become planters. However, events turned with a decline in prices of tobacco and imposition of government policies that restricted the already limited tobacco benefits to England merchants.


Works Cited

Roark, James L, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia C. Cohen, Sarah Stage, and Susan M. Hartmann. The American Promise: A Concise History. 2017. Print.