What was the Columbian Exchange and what did it cause to happen?
The Columbian Exchange refers to the exchange of crops, animals, disease and technology between the Old World and the New World in the decades following Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Sometimes called the Triangle Trade, this concept includes Europe, the Americas, and Africa in a three-pronged swap of flora, fauna, foods, technologies, people, and ideas. The four main categories of this exchange are: disease, animals, plants, and people. Native Americans suffered a 90% mortality rate upon the arrival of Europeans, and that was mainly due to disease. The spread of infectious disease in the Americas was so devastating mostly because the Western hemisphere was isolated, biologically, from Europe’s pathogens, and the Americas just did not have much in the way of infectious diseases prior to 1492. More importantly, the Americas had far fewer domesticated herd animals, which are among the greatest sources of disease-carrying microorganisms. Secondary effects of disease in the Americas were numerous, as well. For example, the deaths of Aztec and Incan rulers set off wars, which eased the spread of disease, as we all know the best way to spread germs is via hand to hand combat. Another secondhand effect of the introduction of disease was starvation. There simply weren’t enough people left standing to get food to keep themselves alive. Malnutrition, then, left people more vulnerable to disease. Smallpox was the most deadly of transmittable diseases brought to the Americas. This pathogen sometimes took down so many adults simultaneously within a community that deaths by starvation numbered nearly as high as those from the disease. In some cases, entire tribes were rendered extinct. The only disease that spread from New World to Old World, usually via sailors and explorers, was syphilis. It quickly made its way into the upper classes of European society, and amongst the infected were Gauguin, Nietzche, and the famously infertile Tudor family, who all suffered from syphilis. The effects of this, of course, paled in comparison to smallpox in the Americas. American animals like llamas and guinea pigs never really caught on in Eurasia, but European animals coming to the Americas were revolutionary. Prior to Columbus, the Americas had no horses, donkeys, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, or chickens. Large European animals changed the nature of work in the Americas. Before the Columbian Exchange, the largest beast of burden was the llama, and at best it carried 100 lbs. The Europeans brought the horse, which was a game changer for Native American culture. The introduction of horses enabled many Plains tribes to develop entirely nomadic lifestyles, traveling and hunting by horse. Oxen with their plows enabled large-scale cultivation, heretofore unknown in the Americas. This obviously allowed for greater food production. There were much fewer large mammals that were native to the New World that could be tamed. Buffalo, the primary large American mammal, are still not domesticated. While Old World animals and diseases totally reshaped the New World, it was New World plants that had the biggest impact on Eurasia. American plants radically changed the lives and cuisines of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Much of what we perceive to be typical European food was unheard of prior to the Columbian Exchange. Prior to Columbus’ setting sail, New World crops foreign to Eurasia and Africa include: tomatoes, chocolate, hot peppers, corn, beans, potatoes, avocados, peanuts, squash, pumpkin, manioc. The abundance of food influx from New World crops led to a planet-wide population explosion. The world population doubled between 1650 and 1850. Potatoes and corn grow in soil that Old World crops cannot survive in. Consuming primarily potatoes, the Irish more than doubled their population between 1754 and 1845, when the potato famine hit. The European colonization of the Americas led to the establishment of plantation slavery in the New World, spurring the Atlantic slave trade. This transfer of unwilling migrants from Africa to the Americas had another, unintended effect: a transfer of crops across the ocean between Africa and the Americas, creating another leg in the Columbian Exchange. Slave ships en route to the Americas were provisioned with African food crops, and these crops, upon their establishment in the New World, dramatically influenced American cuisine. Typical African foods supplied to slave ships included yams, African rice, pearl millet, sesame, sorghum, and tamarind. It was believed that slaves fed familiar foods were more likely to survive the ocean voyage. New World crops made their way to the west coast of Africa in the first decades after 1492, beginning with corn, and followed shortly thereafter by manioc, sweet potatoes, capsicum peppers, and others. Corn, as it is a high-yield crop, quickly became a standard cereal crop grown along Africa’s west coast, in order to supply slave ships. South Carolina had, by 1690, established rice as its primary export crop. In order to establish this economy, plantation owners requested seeds from ship captains, and the result was the introduction of seeds from all over the globe, including a red rice from Africa. African slaves working the plantations planted the same red rice in their garden plots for their own consumption. Europe’s population had been cut by 1/3 – 1/2 during the plagues of the 14th and 15th centuries. Better food products from the New World allowed Europe’s population to grow by leaps and bounds, putting pressure on the continent, causing more people to move to the Americas for land and food. The bottom line is, the Columbian Exchange devastated the population of the Americas; led to widespread slavery of Africans; allowed for a worldwide population increase. And as a result of the Columbian Exchange, fewer people have starved since 1492, but the diversity of life on earth has diminished dramatically.
What was the Dawes Allotment Act? How was the Curtis Act connected to it?
The 1877 Dawes Allotment Act was designed to dissolve Native American reservations, which were always assumed to be a temporary fix anyhow, and force reservation Indians into individual, rather than communal, land ownership. This also took millions of acres of land from Indian hands and placed it into the possession of the U.S. government. The Dawes Act also led to the creation of the state of Oklahoma out of Indian Territory amidst resistance from some of the Civilized Tribes who were not handing over their land without a fight. The Oklahoma land opened at noon on September 16, 1893, in the largest land run in history. By horse, train, wagon, and on foot more than 100,000 pioneers raced for 40,000 homesteads and valuable town lots. The state of Oklahoma was created officially in 1907. The tribal governments in the area were dissolved. The Indians, who had been promised earlier that Indian Territory was their exclusive home, constituted only 5% of the population of the new state. The Curtis Act of 1898 assisted in this process. Charles Curtis, who later became Vice President under President Hoover, was the senator responsible for the Curtis Act of 1898, which dissolved tribal authority in Indian Territory, placing all tribal decision-making into the hands of the federal government. The Act subjected all persons in the territory to federal law. This meant that there could be no enforcement of tribal laws and that any tribal legislation passed after 1898 had to be approved by the President of the United States. Turning over jurisdiction of all the tribes of Indian Territory to federal control meant the opening up of Indian Territory to become the state of Oklahoma. The irony? Charles Curtis was a Native American.
How did the Black Death impact monasticism in England, and what was the eventual outcome of this impact for the monasteries?
The effects of the Black Death on the English Church provided fertile ground for later religious change, and, in the long run, contributed to the decision to end monasticism in England. The monasteries in particular likely suffered higher rates of mortality than did the general population. The disastrous Black Death also heavily affected monasteries through their various resources, to include landholdings, crops, mills, and rents. The economic fallout from the plague was widespread for English monasteries. Post-plague, the monasteries faced two main concerns: replenishing their clerical ranks, as the losses were so high, and financing their holdings as all of England struggled to regain its feet. Benefactors were, contrary to what might be expected, not increased after the plague, as those who might have given to the monasteries shifted their attention to parish churches and chantries. Requirements for qualified clerical replacements were softened dramatically following the plague to boost the monasteries’ flagging populations. Noble families were loath to send their younger sons to the monastic life, as fear of more plague led them to consider that all their children had a chance at inheriting their fathers’ titles and lands. New monastic recruits post-plague were less qualified, undereducated, and in fact often illiterate. Standards of behavior dropped with the influx of less spiritually inspired monastic personnel. With wages on the rise, ecclesiastical landholders were hard-pressed to pay laborers to maintain the land, and their income was greatly reduced. Monasteries were losing good leadership and sound laborers, and money was not coming in at a sufficient rate to support their needs. These circumstances sent English monasticism spiraling toward its demise. The dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII was a major part of his reformation of the English Church. The necessity of dissolving the monasteries was expedited in large part through the inability of the monastic houses to maintain their adherence to the rules of their orders and to remain financially solvent in the economic depression and amidst the destruction wrought in the aftermath of the Black Death. The monasteries never recovered from their hardships, and the subsequent deterioration left them weak and corrupt, prime targets for Henry VIII’s reform efforts.