1. Write an essay on one unintended consequence of the Columbian Exchange. To begin, read the examples of actions and consequences below, and note how each consequence was intended or unintended.
|Some European sailors and conquistadors have smallpox.
|Sailors come in contact with Native Americans, who contract the disease and die after infecting their relatives and neighbors, who continue to spread the disease.
|Unintended: Europeans did not intentionally infect Native Americans with diseases.
|Europeans bring rice and wheat with them and plant the crops in the New World.
|Rice and wheat become important crops in many parts of North America.
|Intended: Europeans intended to grow rice and wheat in the New World to supplement the native crops.
|Europeans take potatoes from the New World back to Europe.
|Potatoes become an important crop, so much so that some European countries begin to depend on them as their main food source.
Intended: Europeans intended to grow potatoes in Europe to supplement the native crops.
Unintended: Some European countries became overly dependent on the potato as a food source.
|Affluent Europeans buy sugar from merchants in European cities.
|Millions of people in Africa are kidnapped by African slave traders and sold to European sugar cane planters in the Caribbean.
|Unintended: The demand for sugar in Europe became so great that sugar cane growers needed more workers to tend crops. They expanded the slave trade that had started in Africa and brought slaves to the Americas to tend the crops.
|Spanish conquistadors bring horses with them to the New World.
|Some horses escape. Native Americans catch the horses and learn to ride and train them. They become expert horsemen.
|Unintended: At first Native Americans were afraid of horses, but they soon saw their value and learned to use them to their benefit.
|Europeans bring cattle with them to the New World.
|Cattle ranches become a profitable business and beef becomes a major American food source.
|Intended: Europeans intended to raise cattle in the New World to supplement native sources of meat.
Conduct Research, Choose a Topic, and Write a Thesis Statement
Conduct some online exploration to find more consequences of the Columbian Exchange, and decide whether they are intended or unintended. Choose one unintended consequence that you found or one of the examples listed above and do in-depth research on it. Gather details such as locations or countries, key people, populations involved, and ways in which the unintended consequence can be seen many years or even centuries later. Then, write the consequence in the form of a question, such as, “How did the introduction of the horse to the New World change the lives of Native Americans?”
Use the question to formulate a thesis statement for your essay. The thesis should answer the question. Using the sample question above, the thesis would be, “Plains Indians domesticated horses from Europe. They became famous for their skill in hunting and fighting from horseback.” Write your thesis statement in one or two clear sentences.
Write Your Essay
Write an essay that supports your thesis statement. Include details such as locations or countries, key people, populations involved, and ways in which the unintended consequence can be seen many years or even centuries later.