The Columbian Exchange or Grand Exchange refers to the widespread transfer of animals, plants, culture, human populations, communicable diseases, technology and ideas between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres in the 15th and 16th centuries, related to European colonization and trade (including African/American slave trade) after Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage. The contact between the two areas circulated a wide variety of new crops and livestock, which supported increases in population in both hemispheres. Traders returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe by the 18th century. Similarly, Europeans introduced manioc and peanut to tropical Asia and West Africa, where they flourished and supported growth in populations on soils that otherwise would not produce large yields.
The term was first used in 1972 by American historian Alfred W. Crosby, in his eponymous work of environmental history. It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known.
- The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Contributions in American Studies #2) - Alfred W. Crosby
- The Columbian Exchange: Shmoop US History Guide - Shmoop