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 Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Tue 17 Jan 2012, 15:12

Recently it's been fairly succinctly shown that the crew who returned to Europe with Columbus brought with them, amongst other "presents", the disease syphillis, which started to devastate European society very shortly after. In rather unfair exchange it is well known that those same crewmen introduced the native American peoples to the joys of smallpox. So much so that by the time Pizarro finally landed in Peru 30 years later, he found the native Inca empire so seriously weakened by the ravages of the disease and the resulting dynastic power struggles, that he managed to conquor the whole empire with little more than a handful of spanish soldiers.

And so the exchanges have gone on, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill:

Potatoes introduced from the Andes to Europe greatly boosted the diet of the poor.... but then an over dependence on them left the poorest societies at risk when the harvests failed... but again to America's benefit when vast numbers of industrious people were forced to emmigate.

Gold and silver from South America boosted banking and financed many prestige building programmes (and not a few wars) in Europe, but the glut of precious metal seems to have created such inflation in Spain itself that much local industry was seriously if not fatally damaged.

So what other examples, anecdotes, or speculations are there concerning the trans-atlantic exchanges following Columbus's botched attempt to get to China & Japan?
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Tue 17 Jan 2012, 16:21

Well, whatever was exchanged doesn't seem to have been of much benefit to the Caribs - more or less wiped out -, nor the Fuegians - completely wiped out.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 14:47

Yes indeed, apparently the only (non-artifact) bit of the Arawak's culture to survive their all too brief brush with Columbus is their word for a fish-net: "hammock".
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 14:53

Makes one wonder how sailors announced their retirement at the end of their shifts on the western bound route. "Ok, Cap'n Chris. I'm off now to lie down in my ... in the ... the hangy thing."

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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 14:59

Or... "I'm just off to lie down in my fish-nets!" Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 15:27

@Meles meles wrote:
Or... "I'm just off to lie down in my fish-nets!" Embarassed



Dion't think that's a sailor going off watch - another profession perhaps.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 15:37

Not a sailor... but maybe the captain's mate. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Wed 18 Jan 2012, 21:16

Not exactly trans-atlantic, but Britons gave us muskets for Maori to kill each other with and then we gave you back some very good soldiers a few generations later for you to kill off at the Somme. One way traffic really.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Thu 19 Jan 2012, 08:56

The issue of the effectiveness of firearms used by the Conquistadors is interesting. In the first encounters I'm sure firearms must have had a considerable "shock and awe" aspect, but their actual hitting power cannot have been that great. A few tens of muskets are not really going to make that much difference against a few tens of thousands of native warriors - even if the latter are only relatively weakly armed and armoured. I seem to recall that both Cortes (in Mexico) and later Pizarro (in Peru) had considerable trouble maintaining their firearms and in keeping them supplied with gunpowder. Certainly in the assault on Tenochtitlan Cortes used crossbows as much as muskets - and probably with more effect given the greater reliability and reloading rate of the crossbows. And of course, with even greater effect still he used thousands of allied native bowmen - only too happy to help the Spanish defeat the Aztecs - but in doing so sowing the seeds of their own ultimate destruction.

The Conquistadors' use of horses was probably more effective. Besides their obvious shock effect they gave unrivalled mobility and fast striking power to the Spanish. I find it amazing, but one reads time and time again of a handful of horsemen, riding un-armoured horses and themselves probably only in half-armour, and armed with a light lance and sword, repeatedly charging huge bodies of indeginous troops with supreme, and apparently well-warranted confidence. I believe that it was only quite a bit later, when Peruvian resistance had really degenerated into a guerrilla war, that the Incas developed pike units which they used with some belated success to counter cavalry.

The Spanish introduction of the horse to the American continent is interesting. Horses were widespread in North America until about 10,000 years ago when they became exinct there. This may have been due to climate and ecosystem changes, but it may have been, at least in part, due to hunting by humans. All the mustangs that at one time roamed in a wild state over the southwestern grasslands and semi-deserts of North America were descended from animals brought from Europe by the Spanish and other invaders. These animals were then of course gratefully used, with some initial success, by native North American peoples. But had the pre-columbian horse been domesticated rather than driven to extiction, the whole story may have been different.


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 19 Jan 2012, 10:30; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Thu 19 Jan 2012, 09:23

Besides the potato and the pineapple bought from South America, didn't Colombus introduce Europe to tobacco? I suppose that could be said to be damaging.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Thu 19 Jan 2012, 10:08

Potatoes, maize and tomatoes too.... but weren't tomatoes thought of as poisonous or at least liable to inflame unhealthy humours, or such like, for at least a couple of centuries after ?
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Thu 19 Jan 2012, 10:12

Tomatoes were indeed poisonous when they were introduced into Europe, but only when sliced.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Thu 19 Jan 2012, 10:46

Wasn't one of the Spanish imports, at least as far as the Aztecs were concerned, the concept of the aim of warfare being to kill your enemy rather than capture him alive to provide the necessary supply of sacrificial victims? This would have given the invaders a huge advantage in strategy, an entirely different mind set, which must have come as a bit of a surprise to the locals in the first encounters anyway. Presumably their tactics and weaponry were geared to acquiring as many live captives as possible with the minimum of 'wasted' dead.
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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Sun 04 Mar 2012, 09:18

@Meles meles wrote:
Yes indeed, apparently the only (non-artifact) bit of the Arawak's culture to survive their all too brief brush with Columbus is their word for a fish-net: "hammock".

The theory now is that the original inhabitants of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico were actually Tainos and not Arawaks....

Of course, they were wiped out, so they couldn't ask them who they were!
Sad
It seems that the European diseases the Spaniards brought with them did most of the work, though putting them in slavery arguably didn't help them much.

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PostSubject: Re: Old World - New World, the "cultural" exchange   Sun 04 Mar 2012, 09:21

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Well, whatever was exchanged doesn't seem to have been of much benefit to the Caribs - more or less wiped out -, nor the Fuegians - completely wiped out.

Funny, but while the Arawaks-Tainos were completely wiped out, descendants of the Caribs still live on in pockets of Dominica, St Vincent, etc. Apparently, the Caribs were more warlike than the Tainos, and put up more resistance, so the Spaniards tended to avoid islands where the Caribs lived. It was the British and the French who fought the Caribs.

Is there a moral in the story somewhere?
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