1. The World In 1492
2. The Colombian Exchange
3. Spices and other things
4. The Journey of Man
The World in 1492
Age of Exploration; Portugal led Europe
Henry the Navigator, 1394-1460. Christopher
Portuguese explorers and other Europeans wanted
to reach East Asia for: Sugar, Silk, Silver, Spices,
Tea, and other goods.
The real “discovery” Wind and water patterns of the
northern Atlantic. “Discovered” a course out and
The Colombian Exchange
Explorers created contact between Europe and
Contact between the Europeans and Native Americans
led to the exchange of disease, plants , and animals.
Scholars estimate that one-third of all food crops
originate from the Americas.
Spices and other Things
European traders kept trying to find their way by sea to Asia. Portuguese sailors were
the first to succeed. They, for the first time, managed to sail south around the Cape of
Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and then back up to India and Asia. European
countries quickly set up regular trade routes - and colonies - to transport valuable
spices, tea, silk, and porcelain back to Europe.
European and Asian traders had been traveling back and forth for many hundreds of
years before this. They had traveled over land, using the Silk Road and camel
caravans to transport goods from place to place. But the new sea route around Africa
was quicker and safer. And it led to an explosion of world trade that involved people in
Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Journey of Man
Human ancestors originated in Africa, and eventually made their way out to the
rest of the world
It is believed, on the basis of genetic evidence, that all human beings in
existence now descend from one single man who lived in Africa about
60,000 years ago. The earliest groups of humans are believed to find their
present-day descendants among the San people, a group that is now
found in western southern Africa.
The first wave of migration out of Africa stayed close to the oceans shores,
tracing a band along the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean including parts of the
Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and into South East
Asia, down into what is now Indonesia, and eventually reaching Australia.
The second wave of migration took a more northerly course, splitting
somewhere in the area around what is now called Syria to sweep to the
northwest into the area of the Balkans and to the east, where it split several
more times in Central Asia, north of Afghanistan.
One of the biggest developments in our world history was the Columbian
Exchange of plants, animals, and microorganisms between Asia, Europe, and the
Americas. It followed the success of European sea captains in permanently
linking the two hemispheres. The ecological and demographic consequences of
the Great Global Convergence were huge, especially the “Great Dying” of much
of the indigenous population of the Americas. Europeans benefited from this
disaster by peopling the Western Hemisphere with new immigrants, both free
European settlers and Africans slaves. Europeans also gained access to
important new sources of food and fiber. These included, among many others,
maize (corn), tobacco, and the potato, which were American crops, and sugar
and cotton, which came from Asia but thrived in American soil.
In the Western Hemisphere, the demographic collapse among Native Americans was
catastrophic in places that had large populations on the eve of European contact. These
places included the Caribbean islands, central Mexico, the Mayan highlands of southern
Mexico and central America, and the Andes Mountains. The Great Dying involved
multiple infectious diseases and ferocious pandemics that followed one after another for
more than a century and a half. It began when new disease pathogens were
inadvertently introduced to American Indian populations by early Spanish and
Portuguese invaders. The long separation between the western and eastern
hemispheres, the populations of the Americas had not evolved significant natural
immunities to European infections, which included measles, smallpox, influenza, typhus,
and tuberculosis. Therefore they had no inherited defenses against them. In this
perspective, the epidemic diseases can be seen as part of the Columbian Exchange of