Ecological Imperialism and the population explosions due to the Columbian Exchange, the consequences of discovery and occupation.
Chapters / Capitulo
1, The Columbian Exchange
2, Ecological Imperialism
3, Biological Changes
4, British Empire
5, Infectious Disease
6, Virgin Soil Epidemics
7, God would
9, American crops in Europe
10, Maize and national character
11, Reassessing 1492
12, Life in Space
Chapter summaries from
Crosby’s, Germs, Seeds and Animals.
1. The Columbian Exchange
A. Euro-American markets were a blend that occurred when divergently evolved crops were exposed to European animals & livestock that were transhipped to the Americas.
B. The transfer occurred in three waves of change that ended in European dominance.
- Phase One: initial foothold in Antilles spread to the Americas - 1500s
- encomienda and hacienda systems
- slavery of:
- indigenous enslavement was not a success always
- failed in the Antilles
- was opposed by the Church on the mainland despite Creole support
- African, Negro slavery was a substitute labor and control system
- Phase Two: population explosion / decline - 1600-1820s
- rise of New Britains, New Spains, New France - Lands of the demographic takeover
- huge export of livestock, grains, people
- European peasant numbers increased, while Aboriginal populations declined.
- Phase Three: populations experience adaptive radiation - 1880s
- European population, livestock, and food all increased in numbers and ranges
- Enormous migration of European peasant class to cities and overseas farms
- Abolition of slavery (1830s) led to the import of Asian labor in the colonies
- Colonial rivalry in its last manifestation: UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and the USA culminated in
- The Opium War in China, and the revolt in India,
- The partition of Africa, China and southeastern Asia,
- World War One, 1914-1918.
- World War Two, 1932 (in China), 1939-1945 and
- The Cold War, 1945-1989, and the ending of European colonialism
- 1953,The United States destabilization and overthrow of Guatemala
- 1962, The Cuban missile crisis.
- 1980s, The invasion of Grenáda, El Salvador, & Nicaragua crises.
2. Ecological Imperialism
Four ingredients in European success
- Human population growth and decline
- weeds colonized entire areas because their was no competition,
- domestic animals and livestock spread, often to the detriment of native plant foods,
- the bees spread well ahead of settlement or appearance of whites.
- rats and pigs destroyed the root crop based food economies of the island and coastal peoples.
- pathogens (few % of lethal bacteria wiped out indigenous people).
- Smallpox was virulent killing 9/10 or 1/3 native populations because it was spread by breath.
- diseases to which the Aboriginal inhabitants had less resistance due to isolation.
Ecological pyramid, found in any ecosystem
The top of the pyramid represents fewer numbers.
Top level predators = people
CONSUMERS = animals
PRODUCERS = plants
Base = bacteria and pathogens
The base of the pyramid represents greater numbers.
What is an ecosystem, technically speaking?
3. Biological Changes
metamorphosis, the elements of: disease, plants, animals
fortunate mix of new world plants and old world animals
4. British Empire
Neo-Britain’s land had favorable climate and benefited from phase two of a European population explosion and a leveling off of indigenous declines.
Unprecedented European population growth doubled every 20 to 40 years
5. Infectious Disease
6. Virgin Soil Epidemics
7. God would punish them.
Europeans often found vacant land, previously cultivated (Va. & Mass.)
They mistakenly blamed “Providence” – God’s will for their success
Indigenous people had no immunity to the epidemic diseases and thus lost their faith in the healing capacity of their “extended family-pow-wow” approach to health.
Europeans were reinforced by their success to think that Christian faith destined them to succeed – laid the foundations for concepts of mission and manifest destiny.
9. American crops in Europe
A simple thesis: during the 1500s and 1600s the vegetable crops of corn, squash, potatoes and beans, to name but a few, caused a rise in European and Asian nutrition levels and fueled and explosion in populations of both humans and their livestock.
by the 1700s and the 1800s, population growth hit record levels in Eurasia and these excess numbers of Europeans and Chinese, or East Indians then migrated to the Americas and founded healthier populations in new colonies among the existing indigenous, or earlier European and African migrants.
10, The American Character.
"maize was lavishly advantageous."
"John Winthrop wrote from Connecticut in the 1680s that it [Maize] had been the usual diet of 'first Planters in these Parts,' and was still a common food. A half-century later Peter Kalm recorded that while "traveling in America one sees miles of nothing but maize fields."
by 1850: six times the amount of corn than wheat was grown in the US.
"maize was the primary or at least the secondary staple in the diet of a great mass of people. . . ."
Crosby p. 173 .
metamorphosis, literally to change shape or take on another shape or form, figuratively the ability to transform beyond recognition.
The Future requires some understanding of the past roles of disease, plant materials, livestock and economic geography if we are to understand the challenges of today.
These current challenges include, impoverished families, the pull of migration, the change in rainfall and drought patterns, and the slowly, yet relentlessly, rising seas that we will require us to retreat from the shore, due to melting glaciers.
How well we adapt, exactly how far we reduce our pollution and to what to what commercial extent we can make this impending transition in a world of rising demands and pollution is revealed by the difficulties we can see in the Columbian exchange.
A Spanish map of South America from 1585 depicting people, households, animals and plants, their fleets, mountains and rivers.