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Definition: Columbian Exchange from Routledge Dictionary of Economics

The exchange of people, plants and animals between the Old and New Worlds after the voyage of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492. It was two-way traffic - for example, America exported potatoes and turkeys and Europe the horse and the common cold.


Summary Article: Columbian Exchange from Rourke's Native American History & Culture Encyclopedia

or Columbian Biological Exchange, represents the scientific idea that plants, animals, and other life forms crossed between Europe and the Americas. This occurred when explorers, colonists, and others traveled between continents over vast oceans that had up to this time served as barriers to exchange. Colonists brought Old World animals like livestock, cats, horses, and rats. They brought plants including bananas, coffee, citrus trees, sugarcane, and wheat. They also brought viruses that cause diseases like smallpox, measles, and scarlet fever.

They took many plants and animals to the Old World, too. Those include turkeys, guinea pigs, llamas, cashews, peanuts, potatoes, pumpkins, tobacco, tomatoes, and rubber. These exchanges had sweeping effects on native peoples in the New World, changing their lives in many ways.

See also: horses and smallpox

Europeans brought dandelions to North America for use as an herb.

Before the Columbian Exchange, there was no chocolate in Switzerland.

Before the Columbian Exchange, there were no oranges in Florida.

Copyright ©2009 Rourke Publishing, LLC

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