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The Columbian Exchange
Key Concept 1.2: Contact among Europeans, Native Americans, and
Africans resulted in the Columbian Exchange and significant social,
cultural, and political changes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
I. European expansion into the Western Hemisphere generated
intense social, religious, political, and economic competition and
changes within European societies.
• A) European nations’ efforts to explore and conquer the New World
stemmed from
• a search for new sources of wealth, economic and military
competition, and a desire to spread Christianity.
• B) The Columbian Exchange brought new crops to Europe from the
Americas, stimulating European population growth, and new
sources of mineral wealth, which facilitated the European shift from
feudalism to capitalism.
C) Improvements in maritime technology and more organized
methods for conducting international trade, such as joint-stock
companies, helped drive changes to economies in Europe and the
II. The Columbian Exchange and development of the Spanish Empire in
the Western Hemisphere resulted in extensive demographic,
economic, and social changes.
• A) Spanish exploration and conquest of the Americas were
accompanied and furthered by widespread deadly epidemics that
devastated native populations and by the introduction of crops and
animals not found in the Americas.
• B) In the encomienda system, Spanish colonial economies
marshaled Native American labor to support plantation- based
agriculture and extract precious metals and other resources.
C) European traders partnered with some West African groups
who practiced slavery to forcibly extract slave labor for the
Americas. The Spanish imported enslaved Africans to labor in
plantation agriculture and mining.
• D) The Spanish developed a caste system that incorporated, and
carefully defined the status of, the diverse population of Europeans,
Africans, and Native Americans in their empire.
Columbus Comes upon a
New World
• Christopher Columbus persuaded the Spanish
to support his expedition on their behalf.
• On October 12, 1492, he and his crew landed
on an island in the Bahamas.
• A new world was within the vision of
• Columbus called the native peoples “Indians.”
• Columbus’s discovery convulsed four
continents—Europe, Africa, and the two
• An independent global economic system
• The world after 1492 would never be the
When Worlds Collide
• The clash reverberated in the historic
Columbian exchange (see Figure 1.2).
• While the European explorers marveled at
what they saw, they introduced Old World
crops and animals to the Americas.
• Columbus returned in 1493 to the Caribbean
island of Hispaniola.
• The Introduction of horses changed many
Native American societies.
• A “sugar revolution” took place in the
European diet, fueled by the forced migration
of millions of Africans to work the canefields
and sugar mills of the New World.
• An exchange of diseases between the
explorers and the natives took place.
Figure 1.2 p15
The Conquest of Mexico and Peru
• Spain secured its claim to Columbus’s
discovery in the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494),
which divided the New World with Portugal.
• See Map 1.4.
• The West Indies served as offshore bases for
staging the Spanish invasion of the mainland.
Map 1.4 p17