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  • Hi. I'm John Green, This is Crash Course: World History and today's video is kind of

  • a response to one of the most riveting history books you'll ever read,

  • "The Columbian Exchange," by David Crosby.

  • He had a good year in 1969. Published "The Columbian Exchange," played Woodstock, he

  • was still on his first liver. What? It was Albert Crosby? Gah! History. Never being as

  • interesting as I want it to be.

  • Right, so, it was Alfred Crosby Jr. And in that book, he wrote:

  • "The big questions are really the only ones worth considering, and colossal nerve has

  • always been a prerequisite for such consideration." I love it!

  • Before 1492, we couldn't really talk about a world history at all. We could only talk

  • about the different histories of separate regions. But, Columbus changed all of that,

  • and everything else.

  • The Columbian Exchange irrevocably homogenized the world's biological landscape. Since Columbus,

  • the number of plant and animal species has continually diminished.

  • And the variation in species from place to place has diminished dramatically.

  • I mean the first European visitors to the Americas had never seen a tomato or a catfish.

  • Native Americans had never seen a horse.

  • And by making our planet biologically singular, the Columbian Exchange completely remade the

  • populations of animals, particularly humans.

  • And vitally, this cross-pollination also made possible such wonders as contemporary pizza.

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  • So we're going to break Columbian exchange down into four categories: diseases (boy,

  • you're looking good, smallpox, I'm glad you've been eliminated), animals, plants, and people.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green. People are animals.

  • Yeah, that's true, Me from the Past, but just for the sake of simplicity--

  • Also, if you think about it, microbes are kind of animals and plants are too, I mean

  • OH MY GOD SHUT UP BEFORE I KILL YOU AND CREATE A TIME TRAVEL PARADOX.

  • Microbes, like those hairy blokes back there, were a definite negative in terms of the Columbian

  • Exchange.

  • Terminology is hard here, but the majority of Caribbean Islanders or Native Americans

  • or Amerindians had exactly one response to the arrival of Europeans: death.

  • We can't be sure how many natives died as a result of European arrival, but it was definitely

  • more than 50%, and some estimates place it as high as 90%.

  • Historians used to blame European brutality, which was definitely was a factor, but the

  • main culprit was disease.

  • Smallpox is usually seen as the villain of this story, but it's more likely that a series

  • of diseases in combination did the damage.

  • Along with smallpox, Americans were killed by measles, and mumps, typhus, chicken pox,

  • none of which they had been previous exposed to.

  • This astonishing decrease of population was definitely the worst effect of these diseases,

  • both psychologically and demographically, but the secondary effects were almost as bad.

  • For one thing, the deaths of Aztec and Incan rulers touched off wars, which in turn made

  • it easier to spread disease, because, you know, the number one way to catch smallpox

  • is via hand-to-hand combat.

  • Plus, leaders kept dying. Huayna Capac, the leader of the Inca Empire succumbed to smallpox

  • before Pizarro even arrived.

  • His death led to a violent succession struggle between his sons, which was won by Atahualpa

  • who, in turn, was captured and killed by Pizarro.

  • And, without that war, the Inca would have had a much better chance against the Spaniards,

  • whose numbers were comparatively tiny.

  • A similar thing happened to the Aztecs. The Moctezuma who eventually lost to Cortes was

  • the nephew of a much more powerful king who died of smallpox.

  • And, the death of that great king encouraged some of the smaller states in the Aztec empire

  • to rebel and some of them even fought for the Spaniards.

  • And, another side effect of disease was starvation because there simply weren't enough people

  • left to grow crops to feed the living.

  • And then malnutrition made survivors that much more susceptible to disease. In short,

  • it sucked.

  • The transmission of disease largely went one way, from the Old World to the New, but the

  • Americans did have one gift for Europe: venreal syphilis.

  • It showed up in Europe around 1493. And even though Europeans are very fond of ascribing

  • syphilis to each other

  • Italians called it the French Disease; the French called it the disease of Naples; Poles

  • called it the German disease; Russians called it the Polish Disease

  • The truth is, venereal syphilis was spread by sailors who'd returned from the Americas.

  • In fact, in his book "The Columbian Exchange," Crosby tells it like this:

  • "Sailors, by the nature of their profession, are men without women and therefore men of

  • many women. we can imagine no group ... more perfectly suited for guaranteeing that venereal

  • syphilis would have worldwide distribution."

  • Who says history books are boring?

  • Syphilis would go on to infect a veritable who's who of Europe, from Baudelaire to Gauguin

  • to Nietzsche, not to mention numerous family members of the famously infertile Tudor and

  • Valois families, meaning that Syphilis may be responsible for many of those miserably

  • boring dynastic power struggles of post-Columbus Europe.

  • Anyway, nothing against syphilis, but it pales in comparison to the devastation wrought by

  • Old World diseases arriving in the New World. But the New World did have one gift for the

  • Old World that was pretty destructive: Tobacco.

  • Oh, it's time for the Open Letter? And there's been a costume change? That doesn't bode well.

  • An Open Letter to Tobacco.

  • But first, let's see what in the secret compartment. Don't be cinnamon, don't be cinnamon, don't

  • be--dang it!

  • I guess that I'm going to do the cinnamon challenge. Oh...I'm not happy about this,

  • Stan. For the record. Alright. I'm going to do the cinnamon challenge, one tablespoon

  • of cinnamon in my mouth, no water.

  • Ah, boy. That sucked. I regret doing that, to be honest with you.

  • Dear Tobacco, I just did something really stupid. But at

  • least it was cheap.

  • I'm going to tell you two stories about smoking. The first comes from my high school history

  • teacher, Raoul Meyer, who also writes Crash Course. When I was a senior in high school,

  • he walked up to me and he said, "I want you to keep smoking. I want you to smoke until

  • the day after your 65th birthday, and then I want you to die so that I collect all of

  • your social security."

  • That inspired me, Mr. Meyer, to quit smoking just eight short years later.

  • Here is an amazing statistic, cigarettes were handed out to American service men during

  • World War II.

  • And more soldiers, who started smoking during the war, died from smoking than died from

  • the war.

  • So if the New World was looking to extract some measure of revenge for smallpox and measles

  • and chicken pox, mission accomplished. Best wishes, John Green.

  • Now, onto animals. American animals like llamas and guinea pigs never really caught on in

  • Eurasia.

  • But, imports to the Americaslike pigs, cows, and horseswere revolutionary. Let's

  • go to the Thought Bubble.

  • First of all, these animals, especially pigs, completely remade the food supply.

  • Pigs breed really quickly, they eat anything, and they turn into baconwhich made them

  • heroes to the New World just as they are today heroes to the Internet.

  • Here's how quickly pigs breed: When Hernando de Soto arrived in Florida in 1539, he brought

  • 13 pigs. By the time of his death, there were 700. That was three years later.

  • The abundance of meat and plentiful land for agriculture and grazing meant that Europeans

  • in the Americas very rarely experienced famine, and despite what you may have learned about

  • religious and political freedom, the main reason Europeans came to America was to eat.

  • Large European animals also changed the nature of work in the Americas. Before Europeans,

  • the largest beast of burden was the llama and at best it could carry, like, 100 pounds.

  • This meant that for the long distance travel that the Inca engaged in, the primary transportation

  • animal was...Incas.

  • Oxen, when combined with their plows made it possible to bring more land under cultivation,

  • and also made transportation easier and more efficient.

  • And plus, European animals remade culture. The grossly stereotypical American Indian,

  • like from the movies, riding the Great Plains with an eagle feather headdress and war paint.

  • Well, he didn't exist before the Columbian Exchange because there were no horses for

  • him to ride.

  • And the introduction of horses allowed many native Americans to abandon agriculture in

  • favor of a nomadic lifestyle, because riding around hunting buffalo made them far richer

  • than farming ever had.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble. While animals and diseases completely reshaped the New World,

  • it was New World plants that had the biggest effect on Eurasia.

  • Sure, Europeans brought over some crops that we now grow here in the Americas, like wheat

  • and grapes, both of which are necessary for Catholic mass.

  • But New World plants radically changed the lives of millions, maybe hundreds of millions

  • of Africans, Asians, and Europeans. Specifically, by making pizza possible.

  • I mean, until 500 years ago, Italians lived without tomatoeswithout modern pizza or

  • marinara sauce or pizza or ketchup or pizza or even pizza.

  • Indians lived without curry, which contains chilies, a New World food.

  • Persians lived without corn, which is a New World food. As are beans and potatoes and

  • avocados and peanuts and blueberries. The list goes on and on.

  • And these New World crops led to probably the greatest population increase in history.

  • To quote Crosby:

  • "It is crudely true that if man's caloric intake is sufficient, he will somehow stagger

  • to maturity, and he will reproduce."

  • And New World food was far more caloric than Old Word food, which is the central reason

  • that the world population doubled between 1650 and 1850.

  • Plants like corn and potatoes could grow in soils that were useless for Old World crops.

  • Potatoes were actually introduced to Europe as an aphrodisiac, but it turns out that you

  • have to distill those potatoes into vodka before they have the desired effect.

  • Anyway, if potatoes are an aphrodisiac, the Irish quickly became the hottest people on

  • Earth.

  • An acre and a half of potato cultivation could feed an Irish family for a year, and the average

  • Irish worker often ate 10 POUNDS of potatoes EVERY DAY.

  • Surviving primarily on potatoes, the Irish more than doubled their population between

  • 1754 and 1845, when the potato famine showed up and ruined everything.

  • And it wasn't just Europe. Manioc, or cassava, is a New World plant with roots that provide

  • more calories than any other plant on earth, provided they are properly processed, otherwise

  • they're poisonous.

  • Manioc is so prevalent in Africa that many Africans swear the plant is native to the

  • continent. But it isn't.

  • Nor are sweet potatoes, and while New World grains never replaced rice in South East or

  • East Asia, the sweet potato is so common that it is known as the poor person's staple in

  • China.