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Socioeconomic Transformations in the Atlantic World from 1492-1750 CE
Due to New Contact Among Members of the Columbian Ex...
The Atlantic, previously having been a predominantly dormant ocean, erupted with a
flurry of activity during the latter po...
(especially those pertaining to the financial modifications that took place on both sides of the
Atlantic) are made quite ...
previously discussed J-curve of transcontinental/oceanic financial influx generated a massive
“need” for coerced, inexpens...
certain parts of each Atlantic culture managed to remain preserved. Renowned zoologist and
evolutionary biologist Richard ...
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Socioeconomic Transformations in the Atlantic World from 1492 1750 CE Due to New Contact Among Members of the Columbian Exchange

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Written for Dustin Madari's AP World History course at Murray County High School, May 12, 2010. © 2010 Jackson David Reynolds – All Rights Reserved.

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Socioeconomic Transformations in the Atlantic World from 1492 1750 CE Due to New Contact Among Members of the Columbian Exchange

  1. 1. Socioeconomic Transformations in the Atlantic World from 1492-1750 CE Due to New Contact Among Members of the Columbian Exchange Jackson David Reynolds May 12, 2010 AP World History
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  2. 2. The Atlantic, previously having been a predominantly dormant ocean, erupted with a flurry of activity during the latter portion of the 15th century CE with the first voyages of Christopher Columbus. With these came an onslaught of intercontinental trade, beginning, obviously, with the Columbian exchange in the early 1500s CE. The expanse of time between 1492-1750 CE brought to all Atlantic shores what is debatably the greatest relative transformation ever undergone by this region of the globe. In addition to the original bout of explosive growth felt by Africa, Western Europe, and the Americas, the socioeconomic ramifications of such were soon mutually experienced on all sides, if not in different ways. As the practice of cash-cropping on a large scale took root, the need for slave labor increased significantly across the board, this seamlessly facilitating a rich cultural amalgamation, the likes of which never before been seen in the Americas. Within this particular period of time, the enumerable cultures of the African, European, and American peoples desperately clung to their own mores and practices, even in the instance of African enslavement. This, to me, brings up one of the most interesting ways in which multiple social continuities have transpired throughout a period of history, while simultaneously being transmogrified by the customs of the society into which they went forth (or were brought into by force, presumably as the case would have been for coerced laborers from Africa after being shipped to the Americas to work as slaves). Without the Columbian Exchange, it is very doubtful that much change at all would have occurred in the regions bordering the Atlantic during this time period, given that it allowed for, and was originally, the sole source of non-Indio-Pacific transoceanic collateral dispersal. This economized redistribution of goods and wealth throughout the West gave rise to marked alterations throughout Europe, Africa, and the budding Americas. Many of these changes Page ! of !2 5
  3. 3. (especially those pertaining to the financial modifications that took place on both sides of the Atlantic) are made quite evident by their queer superficiality alone. (For example, the Americas were involuntarily ushered into the tradeoff between staggering population losses and equally exponential gains in new crops, commodities, et cetera.) After the initial microbiological shock of European conquest, the Native American peoples looked on as the dust settled over a very different economic landscape than the one they had previously navigated as entirely sovereign and self-sufficient tribal nations. The relatively rapid influx of new goods, crops, and animals from Europe to the Americas (and vice-versa) caused the two continents to economically explode. Equitably, the large number of American goods flowing back into Europe (and eventually western Africa) caused a major shift in the European mindset as well as an even larger bulge than was already present in the pocketbooks of numerous European royals. With the effects of silver bullion mining in Spain spidering outward through Europe, Africa, and soon, across the Atlantic to the New World to a slight extent, the West received yet another hit of economic amphetamine in its hungrily awaiting veins. The monetary channels that had previously been restricted by a shortage of resources, lack of new and/or “mysterious” (foreign) products, and the ever present greed of autocrats, found themselves suddenly dilated enormously by new contacts and trades amongst Europe, the Americas, and newly-appreciated (if not abjectly exploited) African continent. As always, however, one party invariably comes to draw the short end of the stick. In this particular case, this unfortunate entity took the form of the impoverished denizens of Africa. In an effort to preserve/expand the economies of their constituencies, many African rulers took advantage of the rapidly growing new demand for slave laborers in the New World. The Page ! of !3 5
  4. 4. previously discussed J-curve of transcontinental/oceanic financial influx generated a massive “need” for coerced, inexpensive labor not only in the Americas, but in Europe as well, where the introduction of new cash crops like corn were being produced on a staggering scale. This increased demand for slave labor in conjunction with the heinous willingness of many African leaders to literally sell out their people for personal gain, to me, was one of the major contributors to the overall European attitude of apathy towards the sickening atrocities occurring within the slave trade, not only within the triangular trade itself, but additionally in the sugar plantations of the West Indies and in other areas where African slaves were violent abuse of African slaves was the horrifying norm. On top of the transoceanic economic/agricultural boom and the subsequent rise in the volume of human cargo being greedily ferried across the Atlantic, other, somewhat more subtle transformations were occurring during this time, as well. Due to the steady flow of newfound luxuries to Europe, many Europeans found themselves addicted to these newfangled vessels of hedonism, thus sculpting an entirely new European mindset with respect to the natural moral desert of luxury items by non-royalty. Across the Atlantic in the Americas, the large-scale introduction of slave labor began to seed a melting pot (albeit not anything close to our modern, feel-good, definition of such) of cultures, races, languages, and much more. While the changes that occurred in the expanse of time between the latter portion of the 15th century CE and the mid 18th century CE were great in quantity, it is important to realize that even throughout these hemispherical shifts, some specific elements of the involves Atlantic cultures, social structures, and economies remained largely unaltered. The cultural and ethnic mixing given a nod at the end of the previous paragraph brings up the interesting way in which Page ! of !4 5
  5. 5. certain parts of each Atlantic culture managed to remain preserved. Renowned zoologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins refers to these chronologically conserved cultural “data sets” as “memes”. Dawkins theorizes that memes (defined by Dawkins as “any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator”) present themselves at one point of time in history and, if widely enough entertained, press on through a process of natural selection by society, much in the same manner that physical genetic material is subjected to natural and artificial selective pressures. It is these memetic fragments of culture that I believe constitute the backbone of the continuities over this time period in the Atlantic. The mix of cultures caused by the Columbian Exchange as well as slavery in the Americas (and, yes, Europe, also) is just that – a mix. Even though so many changes couldn’t help but transpire due to the factors previously detailed, the memes of each distinct social group shone through, remaining remarkably sequestered from outside influence, and crossing, quite literally, the stormy seas of economic shift. It is these memes that ever-so-subtly made their presence known (and continue to do so to this day) in the meshed peoples of the Americas, Africa, and western Europe. In brief, the Atlantic played host to enormous upheaval and change during the latter half of the 1st millennia CE, while also (quite involuntarily, and most likely, unknowingly) providing an ideal environment for the memes of multiple societies and cultures to partially mesh, allowing for the existence of much of the cultural climate contemporarily present in the modern West. Page ! of !5 5
  • DavidReynolds143

    Jul. 18, 2017

Written for Dustin Madari's AP World History course at Murray County High School, May 12, 2010. © 2010 Jackson David Reynolds – All Rights Reserved.

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