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The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange

Reading Quizzes

Available to teachers only as part of theTeaching The Columbian ExchangeTeacher Pass

Teaching The Columbian ExchangeTeacher Pass includes:

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Sample of Reading Quizzes

Big Picture


1. What event began centuries of colonization and conquest in the Western Hemisphere?
2. What was "The Columbian Exchange"?
3. What was the most important factor in the Indians' "Great Dying"?
4. What benefits did the Europeans get from the New World?
5. How did the Columbian Exchange affect the populations of both Europeans and Native Americans?


1. In 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew of ragtag, starving, near-mutinous sailors washed ashore in the Bahamas, "discovering" the New World and claiming ownership of it for the Spanish monarchy. In the decades that followed, Europeans displaced the "Indians" they found and remade the Western Hemisphere in their own image.
2. The arrival of Europeans in America rapidly introduced Old World plants, animals, and micro-organisms into New World environments, and vice versa. This manmade reunion of the ecologies of the hemispheres—dubbed "The Columbian Exchange" by historian Alfred Crosby—had dramatically asymmetric consequences for the peoples of the Old World and the New.
3. The New World had few or none of the devastating diseases that plagued the populations of Europe, Africa, and Asia. When Europeans arrived, American Indians—never before exposed to vicious Old World pathogens like smallpox and thus lacking any immunities to them—began dying at apocalyptic rates, up to as much as 90% of the population.
4. Europeans successfully appropriated New World staple crops originally developed by Indians. The adoption of efficient, carbohydrate-rich American crops such as corn, potatoes, and cassava allowed Europeans and Africans to overcome chronic food shortages. Thus, even while Native American populations were decimated by Old World diseases, European and African populations swelled as American crops helped to overcome Old World famine.
5. In 1492, Europe's population stood at about 60 million, while that of the Americas was somewhere between 40 and 100 million. But by 1800, after three centuries of the Columbian Exchange, Europe's population had surged to 150 million, while that of the Americas' fell to 25 million—of which the vast majority were descendents of European colonists or African slaves, not American Indians.