Columbian Exchange

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Columbian Exchange the name given to the massive exchange of plants, animals, people, knowledge, etc. (not forgetting diseases) which took place between the Old World and the New World in the period following Columbus’ voyages. The first of these was in 1492, in vessels financed by the King and Queen of Spain, the intention being to discover new trade routes to the East. Wool, clothing, iron, and lumber had long been exchanged overland with the East for luxury goods, dates, figs, fruits, and, above all, spices. The trade was hazardous, slow and, due to the exactions of a multitude of middlemen, expensive. Columbus’ big idea was that by sailing westward he would make direct contact with the Asia by sea. However, this was not to be.