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Columbian Exchange and the Slave Trade

The Columbian Exchange created a connection between North and South America, Europe and Africa, which had evolved separately after the continental drift to cultivate new plant and animal life. Christopher Columbus voyage marked the onset of the interaction and exchanges between the New World and Old World. Crops such as wheat, barley and rice arrived in the Atlantic while crops such as maize and potatoes reached Eurasia. Similarly, the Columbian Exchange allowed Americas to discover domesticated animals such as horses, cattle and chickens, which were a key element of the traditions of the Old World. The Columbian Exchange had negative outcomes because it led to the transfer of disease-causing pathogens that had evolved in the Old World due to the dense human and animal population. The inhabitants of the New World faced the danger of new diseases such as smallpox, measles and malaria associated with the Arrival of sailors in America. The interaction between the New World and Old World ended the relative period of freedom from infectious diseases attributed to the fact that Americans had not domesticated animals. Unlike the Afro-Eurasians who had developed immunity to most of the infectious diseases, the Americans were vulnerable to the diseases from the New World as evident by the high mortality rate associated with the disease outbreaks. An analysis of the unraveling of the Columbian Exchange illustrates the impacts of the event on the Atlantic coast of North America and portions of the West and Central Africa affect by the slave trade.

The epidemics led to a decline in America’s population and a significant shortage of labor, which contributed to the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade and the introduction of new diseases in America. The transfer of crops such as wheat and white potatoes to the New World stimulated a significant population growth in areas such as Kansas and Pampa. Crops such as sugar and bananas flourished in the Caribbean and Brazil and became a key economic factor in both regions, which largely relied on slave labor. The introduction of cotton, wheat and tobacco in America spurred economic growth and fueled the slave trade as American farmers sought to cater for the labor-intensive farming activities. While the introduction of maize had significant impacts in the Southern African countries such as Mozambique, crops such as peanuts and cassava transformed the West and Central African countries. Cassava, which originated from Brazil, thrived in the West and Central Africa due to leached soils and suitable environmental conditions to become a major source of food. Other crops, cacao and rubber, which originated from South America, transformed the economies of West African countries and turned the countries into major exporters in the 20th century. An analysis of the slave trade highlights the devastating impacts of the Columbian Exchange on the inhabitants of the West and Central Africa, who became the main force behind the development of land and resources in America. The preference for Africans from the West coast arose from the fact that they exhibited great immunity to diseases that affected the inhabitants of the New World. While the impoverished Native Americans and displaced Europeans were subjects of bonded labor, they had lower immunity to viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases compared to the West Africans.

The demand for labor in the New World led to the mass transfer of about 13million Africans while millions of others succumbed to the conflicts and warfare caused by the demand for slaves. The countries most by the transatlantic slave trade were Congo, Angola, Senegal and Sierra Leon. The Columbian Exchange led to the destruction of communities in the West and Central Africa and made the communities vulnerable to colonization by Europeans in the 19th century. The exploitation of Africa because of the Columbian Exchange broke down the social, economic and social constructs in Africa leading to wars, poverty and hardship. Ports along the West African coast formed the main hub for the slave trade with the slave ships transporting the captives across the Atlantic Ocean to America. The Atlantic coast of North America was a key destination for slaves from Africa as European settlers established plantation colonies in the temperate climate zones of North America, which relied on slave labor. Furthermore, the Atlantic coast served the business interests of European exporters who sold crops such as cotton and tobacco to European markets. Activities such as exploratory voyages and fishing expeditions in the North coast increased the interaction of Native Americans and Europeans and led to racial and cultural mix as evident in Mexico and the Caribbean. An analysis of the economies, political power and civilization of the nations of the Western Europe demonstrates one the most profound effects of the Columbian Exchange. The Exchange provided an opportunity for Western European nations to exploit enslaved Africans, America’s resources and land, and enhance trade ties with the East Asia to amass unimaginable wealth.

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