The Columbian Voyages: The Columbian Exchange, and Their Historians

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American Historical Association, 1987 - History - 29 pages
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The 500th anniversary of the Columbian discovery of America is upon us, and with it the obligation to assess existing interpretations of the significance of the voyage and establishment of permanent links between the Old and New Worlds. The traditional, or bardic, version of the Columbian voyages and their consequences was the product of narrative historians who wrote about the American past in ways consonant both with the documentary record then available and with the ethnocentrism of their fellow white citizens of the New World. Though popular, it is deceptive because it takes a selective view of history, reinforces Euro-American ethnocentrism, and confirms premises and approaches clearly obsolete in the late 20th century. The analytic interpretation takes a more scientific, less romantic view of the voyages, their motives and consequences. These historians open themselves to geology, climatology, biology, epidemiology, and other fields. They are scientific in their research and in attempts to limit bias. Examples of historical interpretation from each school of thought are presented. The Columbian influence on the Old and New Worlds is assessed; and intellectual, economic, nutritional, and demographic effects are discussed. Finally, the legacy of the Columbian exchange is reviewed in terms of its effects on world population and ethnic composition. (GEA)

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