July 3, 2013
Focus shifting to Atlantic.
Recall what we’ve seen, we saw massive Chinese fleet go across China and new explorers trying new
China and India started becoming the wealthiest countries in the world. It was this wealth that attracted
Europeans. We also see the Indian Ocean world being influenced by outside forces. Europe in
comparison to India and china was a poor region.
Commercial network Europeans put in place competed with what was already existent. Thickening and
building of Atlantic network which allowed Europeans to move into India and Asia.
The Columbian exchange – coined in 1972 by Alfred Crosby – Called it tsunami of biological exchange
Consequences of biological exchanges
This exchange was possible because during the ice age humans were capable of crossing over the Bering
Strait. Sea level rose and this land ridge was closed and isolated the two continents. Their environments
evolved separately for thousands of years. The Columbian exchange is the exchange that happened
when the two continents were reunited by sea travel.
Effects were both bountiful but also catastrophic. Native people in the Americas did not have the
antibodies to fight off the diseases the Europeans carried with them.
- Diseases and conquest of the Americans
- Making a new world: Eurasian plants and animals in the Americas
- Old world remade: calories and population growth
Diseases and conquest of the Americas:
Cortez and conquest of the Aztec empire (1518-1521). They heard of the Inca empire and heard of gold
and silver, went to explore the mainland. He arrived with nearly 530 men and managed to conquer the
Aztec empire in 4 years. They had also mastered hydraulic power and could control the water in the
area. The capital of the empire was by a salted lake, at the time the Spanish arrived, it was one of the
largest cities in the world. They overcame the lack of farming land by creating floating fields called
chinampas. Certain areas of the lake, they were built up using earth and plants. In other areas they
would anchor the dirt deeper in the lake. It was a very original way to create fields in places they did not
normally exist. Were also able to import fresh water from the sea.
How did such an advanced civilization become overthrown by 530 men?
Europeans had steel, the natives did not (Steel vs. stone) military advantage
Cannon and firearms vs. bows, arrows and slings. Europeans had horses (Aztecs did not have horses, had no animals they could mount, terrorizing effect
Fed into native prophecies and mythology of the coming of white gods.
Lack of unity amongst the native people, even within the Aztec empire. When the Spanish arrived there
was no unity amongst the people. The native people did not have a sense of being one against the
Spanish. The Spanish played into their rivalries and secure native allies which would help them fight
against the Aztec.
Key in ensuring the European success was their unintentional import of old world diseases to the
Americas: Smallpox, chickenpox, measles and the plague. European pathogens literally invaded the
continent. Native population had never been exposed to these illnesses before. Native people died in
masses whereas Europeans could survive a little. For 8 months Cortez’ men isolated the area and cut off
fresh water supply and food. The siege was successful because 1/3 of people died of smallpox. Invasion
of germs and diseases happened differently in different time frames. Approx 80% of the population of
the Americas died since the arrival of Columbus. Europeans would arrive in areas where disease had
already struck and people were already gone.
Had a psychological impact on the native people. Natives had apocalyptic descriptions of foreigners.
Native people found it impossible to bury their dead. European witness remembered that they started
using their houses as tombs. Europeans have antibodies against these diseases and were immune, they
could leave in the middle of an endemic and still survive. It also reinforced their belief they were gods
and protected by supernatural forces. This interaction changed peoples’ cultures and their views of the
Europeans set out to explore the new world, dependent on their ability to import their flora and fauna.
Plants and animals spread quickly. Key point in the Columbian exchange.
The European plants that were brought to the Americas: chickpeas, melons, grapevine , sugar canes,
bananas, rice (many of which were exploited in slave plantations). Made Europeans in the new world
By the 1600s, many plants of the old world were being cultivated in the new world. Could produce more
food and calories. Tripled the number of cultivable food in the Americas. Having larger variety of plants
you can grow – like investing in the stock market, if one fails you won’t lose all your money.
Grass and weeds from Europe also invaded the Americas, arriving in different things such as textiles,
mud, animals, a lot of the biological exchange was not intentional.
Animals adapted quickly to the conditions on this continent. Pigs were remarkable and adapted the
quickest. The pigs became fast and tough and relatively lean animals, becoming closer to wild boar and
went back into the wild quickly. Same happened with grazing animals (cattle, sheep, horses). They
reproduced quickly enough to go back into wild. Diseases and animals preceded European arrival. Some
were involuntary spread such as insects which interacted and changed the environment. Less successful
stories (introducing camels to this environment did not prove successful).
Novelty imported by Europeans- using animals as instruments of war Advantages: increases in animal protein quantity available to man, beas