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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars when originally published, this analysis of consequences of biological exchange spawned volumes of further research, November 25, 2010
By 
This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Although only a large essay, Columbian Exchange was a paradigm shift in how Western historians view biological exchanges between Old & New World after 1492. Besides the exchange in human (mostly African) slaves which was the intended 1st leg of a nefarious Triangular Trade cycle between Old & New Worlds, Crosby also examines the unintended consequences of food crops, pathogens, domesticated animals, and commodity crops (rubber, cotton, etc.)

It concerns not only the cash crops (tobacco, sugar,coffee, rubber, cotton).

It also suggests the effect of pigs & horses which readily adapted to the New World. Horses transformed many Amerindian cultures into horse-centered cultures.

Many Old World plants & animals transformed the Americas(and Africa). Unintended 'hitchhikers' like smallpox & flu had the effect of a genocidal pandemic upon native Amerindian tribes.

New World species, especially potato, once they gained acceptance in Europe, became a staple of the poor, (Ireland & Russia).

Not emphasized by Crosby, many exotic New World specimens were returned to the Old World by natural scientists and the idea of natural selection was devised based upon evidence & specimens gathered in New World by European naturalists (i.e., Darwin's studies of finches of Galapagos)

These are a few of the effects of the Columbian Exchange. Crosby's work changed the way that historians and scientists understand the Age of Discovery.
I read this book 'after the fact', having become familiar with the exchanges by secondary, later sources. I am surprised that more scholarship hasn't pursued the effect of Dutch exchanges in Indonesia, British exchanges in India, etc which I would expect to have been as transformative as the Old World / Americas exchanges.

Note: This summary of important exchange species gives a sense of scale of exchanges (wikipedia)

Old World to New World
Domesticated animals
bee
cat
camel
CHICKEN
COW
goat
goose
honey bees
HORSE
rabbit (domestic)
PIG
rock pigeon
sheep
silkworm
water buffalo

New to Old
alpaca
guinea pig
llama
TURKEY

Domesticated plants Old to New
almond
APPLE
apricot
artichoke
asparagus
banana
barley
beet
black pepper
cabbage
cantaloupe
carrot
COFFEE
CITRUS (orange, lemon, etc.)
cucumber
eggplant
flax
garlic
hemp
kiwifruit
kola nut
lettuce
mango
millet
oat
okra
olive
ONION
OPIUM
peach
pea
pear
pistachio
radish
rhubarb
RICE
rye
soybean
SUGARCANE
taro
TEA
turnip
WHEAT
walnut (English)
watermelon

New to Old plants /crops
amaranth (as grain)
avocado
common beans (pinto, lima, kidney, etc.)
black raspberry
bell pepper
blueberry
cashew
chia
chicle
chirimoya
chili peppers
cranberries (large cranberry, or bearberry species)
coca
COCOA
COTTON(long staple species)
CORN
guava (common)
huckleberry
jicama
maize (corn)
manioc (cassava, tapioca, yuca)
marijuana
papaya
peanut
pecan
pineapple
POTATO
pumpkin
quinoa
RUBBER
squash
strawberry (commercial varieties)
sunflower
sweet potato
TOBACCO
tomato
vanilla
zucchini

Infectious diseases Old to New
bubonic plague
chicken pox
CHOLERA
FLUs
leprosy
MALARIA
measles
scarlet fever
SMALLPOX
typhoid
typhus
YELLOW FEVER
yaws

New to Old pathogens
SYPHILLIS
yaws
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very important book, November 8, 2006
By 
This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Slim though it is, this is a powerful little book. This insightful study of the biological consequences of the great culture clash that began in 1492 changed the way I think about history and has proved to be a valuable reference. It is a must-read for anyone interested in anthropology, epidemiology, ecology or history.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review, May 9, 2011
This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Alfred W. Crosby's Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 discusses the anomaly of European migration. European colonization of the so-called "Neo-Europes", in particular, is the focus of this work. Crosby argues that the reason for European success in lands, so different than their own, in the temperate zone can be attributed to biology. The temperate climates occupied by European forces across the globe were more accommodating than other zones for habitation, which Crosby explains is the reason that European settlements were able to thrive there. In addition, as well as causing, the European cultures to thrive, a biological occupation occurred; European plants, diseases, and species of animals invaded and supplanted the local lands. This combination allowed European colonialists--human, plant, and animal alike--to take control of the temperate zone and, as a result, the agricultural belt of the world.
The areas deemed "Neo-Europes" by Crosby are composed of populations of European ancestry, despite the distance from Europe, and produce the most food surpluses; these two facts are not coincidental. Although the nineteenth century saw mass emigration due to a variety of conditions, it was the Neo-Europes which were the most popular. Crosby explains this success in the temperate zones by European imperialists biogeographically, starting with an observation about the respective latitudes of European and the Neo-Europes. The respective latitudes lie in the temperate zones and share similar climates. Therefore, when European plants and animals were transported to the new lands, they found an environment which was able to sustain them; more so, it allowed them to thrive. However, the arrival of these biological invaders had a negative effect on the original species of the Neo-Europes. The invader plants and animals ended up flourishing and overtaking the native species, creating an environment which imitated Europe.
Crosby also focuses on disease, which he claims is the reason for the comparative ease of the initial and recurring European invasion. Whereas the natives of the Neo-Europe regions had not participated in the same close contact with domestic animals that Europeans did, they were not exposed to conditions in which diseases festered. Rodents, cockroaches, worms, lice, et al. prospered in the urban settings of Europe and, as the main disease carriers, were an important aspect in the European people's eventual resistance to the diseases which would devastate the human populations of the Neo-Europes. The likened temperate climate which had allowed for European plant and animal species to thrive led in turn to a place for disease to flourish as well, which in turn eased the human invasion take place.
Another important part of Crosby's argument is the role of wind in European imperialism. It was through the development of understanding how the winds worked that Europeans were able to successfully travel by ship to destinations further and further from their homeland. In particular, the experimentation which resulted in the modern process of tacking--creating zigzag lines to move forward--that allowed for greater travel and, therefore expansion. An important point mentioned in this section is that of the problematic doldrums, which had an effect on where explorers sailed. Because the doldrums made travel more difficult, and by default expansion and colonization as well because of the inability to transport as much livestock and goods, the winds played an important role in where Neo-Europes were created. And so through both understanding the winds and atmospheric circulation, the Europeans were able to make it to the lands which would become Neo-Europes.
Neo-Europes were created through biological expansion, which was possible because of disease and wind manipulation, as Crosby argues. I found Crosby's argument to be invigorating and interesting. The idea that the temperate climates of the Neo-Europes was similar enough for the plants and animals of Europe to thrive is more than plausible for two reasons: the first being that places of similar latitudes receive similar insolation and can be defined as having relatively similar temperatures and climates and, most importantly, that climates are not defined only and exactly by latitude, but rather by many forces. This makes the movement from Europe to the Neo-Europes plausible in terms of invasion because of the ability for species to thrive in areas with similar insolation, which is an important aspect when considering vegetation.
However, I do have a point of contention with Crosby's analysis, which is that I do not believe he takes the differences in the microclimates into enough account. Rather, he seems to ignore the fact that the makeup of the landmasses themselves results in different climates; topography, coastal versus continental, and specific climate are not taken into a detailed account. The problem with not addressing these features is that Crosby makes a lot of generalizations. The makeup of the soil is also important because it influences the type of vegetation and erosion in the area. A part of this is because the material is intended for those with little to no previous knowledge on the subject matter, making it distracting for those with more advanced knowledge on both history and climate. Given that Crosby is focusing on the Neo-Europes as a whole, this can be forgiven.
Although he makes generalizations in regards to the climates, Crosby is also guilty of focusing his attention on very specific areas of basic knowledge--his historical examples, for instance, focus on specific regions and lose the greater picture. Despite the limitations, this work piece is overall very insightful. The hindrances are merely minor speed bumps which are far from difficult to get past. He does well in maintaining balance on this very complex and broad topic, making Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 both informative and accessible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars transformational, October 8, 2012
By 
Crosby guest-lectured a class when I was in school at UT Austin 30 years ago. His ideas blew our minds.

A perspective I found mind-boggling was that the industrial revolution would not have been possible without the agricultural products from the new world. Corn, potatoes, etc., had the nutritional content needed for Europeans to leave farming for factory work.

I remember how some of my friends refused to accept Crosby's ideas. I think many folks continue to deny that imperialism is violent & harmful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars epidemiology and indigenous agriculture as History, April 13, 2014
By 
D. McGraw (Rose Canyon, Utah) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
After being deluged in recent years with Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" theory of history in books and on TV, its refreshing to go back to the original thinker. One only need consider the "Great Man" theory of history, and its utter inadequacy to account for the dynamics of old world meets new world history to realize how much history has changed and the seminal part in that change of this author and this book. Crosby shows that a knowledge of epidemiology and botany informs our history more than belief, culture, or technology. That the spanish slaughtered and enslaved in pursuit of gold, ignoring a harvest of potatoes and tomatoes; since valued much higher than all the gold ever mined, puts in doubt both any "great man" theories of history not to mention any "rational self interest" based economic theories. We're just now beginning to perceive the greater gifts of agricultural diversity that the native americans left us but we have rejected, possibly to our peril. The first flickers of recognition of the depths of their gift and sacrifice starts here. A book that's a joy to read and changes the way you see the world - more than one can reasonably ask of any book.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 30th anniversary edition of a classic treatise, August 9, 2003
This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
The Columbian Exchange: Biological And Cultural Consequences Of 1942 by Alfred W. Crosby Jr. (Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History, and Geography, University of Texas - Austin) is the 30th anniversary edition of a classic treatise that shows how the voyages of Columbus caused a sweeping biological change as organisms large and small spread to both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. From the deadly toll of smallpox among the Indians of Mexico, to the introduction of Old World plants and animals to the New World, and so much more, The Columbian Exchange is a seminal, educational, and uniquely insightful contribution to Native American, Medical History, and World History Studies reference collections and reading lists.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for all history buffs, April 15, 2014
By 
Linda T. (Oakland, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Wish I had read this book many years ago. Crosby lays out the influence, flowing in both directions, of the meeting of Europe/Africa with the Western hemisphere. It was and is way more of a give and take than you might imagine. Fascinating.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars arrived as described, January 30, 2014
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This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
very boring book, a few interesting concepts. i would not read it for fun, but it was useful for a class once.
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0 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars my book review, September 30, 2009
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This review is from: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
This book is pretty interesting at parts, boring at others. I have learned a lot about the Colombian exchange.I needed it for my college history class. Its very detailed and confusing language is used at times.
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