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The Columbian Exchange, which was a logical outgrowth of the Era of Exploration, refers to the exchange of goods, ideas, and populations between the Old and New Worlds, by which new material wealth and useful agricultural products were obtained. The exchange, however, also caused devastating outbreaks of deadly and disabling illnesses in both directions. Some of the agricultural products that were introduced to the Old World include maize, potatoes and sweet potatoes, cassava beans, cacao beans, pineapples, eggplant, sunflower seeds, peanuts, vanilla, and chilis. In addition, tobacco, quinine, and rubber were imported to Europe, as was the coca plant and its associated products. Sugar cane was found to be an Old World crop that thrived in the more tropical environments of the New World. In addition, wheat, various meats and dairy products such as cheese, eggs, milk, citrus fruits, and a variety of spices were imported from Europe to the Americas. Diseases that decimated New World populations included smallpox, chicken pox, bubonic plague, whooping cough, typhus, and malaria. An indirect consequence of the Columbian Exchange was the discovery of quinine which is an anti-malarial drug. Quinine is from the bark of the cinchona tree found in mountain forests of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. This present from the New World was not discovered until the 19th century.

To learn more about the Columbian Exchange, click on the links below:

Harvard University Department of Economic, Professor Nathan Nunn.
Nunn, Nathan and Nancy Qian. "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 2010, pp. 163-188.

Crosby, Alfred. “The Columbian Exchange.” Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Malone, Cory, Sarah Gray, Sean Ross, and Katie Ryan. “The Columbian Exchange,” Gettysburg College.

PBS Video: When Worlds Collide: Crops

PBS Video: New World Foods in Europe

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