Reacting to Identifying Continuity and Change

When Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, an influential chain of events followed. Some of these events were intentional, while others were not. The arrival of new plants, animals, and diseases changed the Americas forever. The Columbian exchange marked progress and decline in history.

The Columbian exchange marked the progress of bringing new life through new plants and animals to this land. Many of the common plants and foods we know today are not all native. Some foods were intentionally brought for agricultural purposes such as maize and potatoes, and also fruits like strawberries and apples. New settlers also brought along domesticated animals. I believe these things mark progress because, without them, life in the Americas would be incredibly different as we would not have progressed to be one of the top-food producing countries today without bringing cattle, pigs, horses, and so forth. However, not all good came from the Old World’s goods.

This era marked an incredible decline in many of the indigenous populations. Along with the Colombian exchange came terrible disease. Large percentages of indigenous village populations were wiped out due to these new diseases such as smallpox, Influenza, Measles, malaria, and Scarlet fever. Many of which were caused by animals and insects. The indigenous people were not equipped to fight these diseases whether it because of the lack of modern medicine within their societies, genetics, or their ways of coping with sickness. According to Crosby, the “virgin-soil epidemic” explains that “populations that have had no prior contact with the diseases which leaves them immunologically defenseless.” Crosby’s work has been picked apart by many mostly because people feel he downplayed the genetic weakness hypothesis and focused too much on behavioral factors for the reason for the indigenous peoples' vulnerability to European diseases, shifting the blame on the Indian’s for their irresponsible and unwise behavior.

When assessing change and continuity over time, we need to find a balance between environmental factors and human actions/decisions. There are times that the environment can be more to blame for the spread of disease, and there are instances where human actions and decisions can worsen the situation. And more often than not, both issues are what creates the most change. I believe the Columbian exchange debate closely relates to change and continuity because when people think of Columbus we mostly think of his discovery of the Americas as just an event on a timeline, we (myself included) don’t pay mind to the tremendous changes- disease and agriculture- and continuity- start-up of the middle class- he brought to the entire continent and those surrounding.



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