the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, Christopher Columbus the famed Italian explorer who “discovered” the “New World” of the Americas on an expedition sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492. Columbus was an explorer and adventurer , who leaves us with a mixed legacy. His life is that of a consummate promoter and a figure at the center of the unforeseen and wholly “unintended consequence” of discovery.
Columbus is of course credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization as well as often blamed for the destruction of the native peoples of the islands he explored. Ultimately, he failed to find that what he set out for which was a new route to Asia and the riches it promised. He was as controversial then , as he is today.
In what is known as the Columbian Exchange, Columbus’ expeditions set in motion the widespread transfer of people, plants, animals, diseases, and cultures that greatly affected nearly every society on the planet. The horse from Europe allowed Native American tribes in the Great Plains of North America to shift from a nomadic to a hunting lifestyle. Wheat from the Old World fast became a main food source for people in the Americas. Coffee from Africa and sugar cane from Asia became major cash crops for Latin American countries. And foods from the Americas, such as potatoes, tomatoes and corn, became staples for Europeans and helped increase their populations.
The down side to the Exchange was that it brought new diseases to both hemispheres, though the effects were greatest in the Americas. Smallpox from the Old World decimated millions of the Native American population to mere fractions of their original numbers. This more than any other factor made for European domination of the Americas.
The overwhelming benefits were clearly to the Exchange went to the Europeans initially and eventually to the rest of the world.