Friday, July 27, 2012

The Columbian Exchange

Do you say potato or potato, tomato or tomato? Do you eat corn or maize? Sweet potatoes or yams? Do you take quinine for malaria, ride a horse along a trail?

Which came to the Americas starting in 1492, and which have come from the Americas since Columbus sailed the ocean blue?
How about bugs, large and small? Viruses, bacteria? And plants in the yard or trees lining a street?

The paperback release of Charles C. Mann's 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created  (Knopf, 2012; originally published in 2011) reminds me of the dramatic changes wrought by "The Columbian Exchange" (a phrase coined by Alfred W. Crosby): variables, wild cards, adaptations, replacements, and population shifts. 

And hey, what about the Viking voyages starting with Erik the Red perhaps as early as 980 A.D.? And, surely others were blown off course and drifted into what we now call the Western Hemisphere even before that? What of mustard seeds left even before 1492?

And: what about the impact of asteroids, meteors and climate change?

Another day and more to ponder.

Today's Rune: Fertility.  


Charles Gramlich said...

I would definitely find this very interesting.

Johnny Yen said...

Whenever two separated worlds connect, both are irrevocably changed, for better and worse. The Europeans got tomatoes and potatoes, but they also go tobacco and syphillis. The indigenous people got the end of the conquering Aztec empire, but also got a new master, the Spanish, as well as mass death through smallpox.

DenverLightm said...

And right up until Steve Barry opened his mouth on the bookreportradio show, I was happily thinking Columbus was a happy go lucky sailor with some strange ideas about globes. Turns out he really did more than get back after putting foot in the Americas.