Columbian Exchange

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pages: 606 words: 87,358

The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization by Richard Baldwin

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, air freight, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, Branko Milanovic, buy low sell high, call centre, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, Commodity Super-Cycle, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, domestication of the camel, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial intermediation, George Gilder, global supply chain, global value chain, Henri Poincaré, imperial preference, industrial cluster, industrial robot, intangible asset, invention of agriculture, invention of the telegraph, investor state dispute settlement, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Dyson, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fragmentation, mass immigration, Metcalfe’s law, New Economic Geography, out of africa, paper trading, Paul Samuelson, Pax Mongolica, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, Robert Metcalfe, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, Skype, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, Washington Consensus

The Dutch knocked off the Portuguese, and were in turned knocked off by the British. In addition to altering Asian–European trade routes, this so-called Age of Discovery is associated with Europeans’ colonization of North and South America—an event that would help reverse ten millennia of economic dominance by Eurasian civilizations. The Columbian Exchange: Food Crops for Epidemics The shift of the planet’s economic center of gravity to the North Atlantic was based in part on the so-called Columbian Exchange. Imported food crops from the Americas—especially potatoes and maize—were imperative in allowing Europe to gain critical levels of population density. In exchange, Europeans brought new diseases that depopulated the New World and almost erased the ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica and the Andes. Both effects are illustrated in Figure 13.

Economically and geographically, Europe was “a small promontory of Asia,” as historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto puts it in his 1995 book Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years.10 Proto-Globalization, 1450 to 1776 The opening of the Silk Road proved to be a key stage in globalization’s long history. Its shutting in 1450 was equally notable. It launched a period described by historian Anthony Hopkins as proto-globalization—a preparatory stage for the dramatic shift that was to come in Phase Three. Proto-globalization rested on three pillars: the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the Age of Discovery, and the Columbian Exchange. Renaissance and Enlightenment In the fourteenth century, Europe started transforming itself from the western periphery of Asian civilization into the world’s leading economic and military power. John Hobson, Ferdinand Braudel, and Ian Morris argue that much of the European revival was based on ideas, institutions, and technologies borrowed from the advanced civilizations in the Middle and Far East—much of which had been preserved, integrated, and extended by Islamic scholars during the Golden Age of Islam.

Water transportation advanced with new types and layouts of sails, new shipbuilding techniques, and big advances in navigational technology. By the 1700s, Europeans had mapped the world and were navigating the seas with ease. Colonialism continued to be developed—especially by the British, French, and Dutch. The independence movements in North and South America did nothing to disrupt trade and economic development in the Atlantic. FIGURE 13: Populations in Europe and the Americas, year 1 to 1820. The Columbian Exchange boosted European populations via the introduction of new food staples. It also decimated New World populations via the introduction of Old World diseases like smallpox, measles, and typhus. This set up a situation where the Old World had too many people and not enough land—an imbalance mirrored by the opposite imbalance in the New World. Note the scale for the Old World chart is about ten times that of the New World chart.


pages: 342 words: 88,736

The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis by Ruth Defries

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agricultural Revolution, Columbian Exchange, demographic transition, double helix, European colonialism, food miles, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, John Snow's cholera map, out of africa, planetary scale, premature optimization, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade

The New World that Columbus opened to other conquistadors and explorers—Hernando Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa—during the wind-powered Age of Discovery had little resemblance to the Old World. Reconstruction of Columbus’s diaries note his observation that “all the trees are as different from ours as day from night; and also the fruits and grasses and stones and everything.” This difference was not to last. Alfred Crosby, the historian who coined the term for the “Columbian Exchange,” the transcontinental transfer of species following Columbus’s voyages, wrote of the day that Columbus landed ashore on the Bahamas: “The two worlds, which were so very different, began on that day to become alike. That trend toward biological homogeneity is one of the most important aspects of the history of life on this planet since the retreat of the continental glaciers.” The sun-powered homogenization was partially intentional and partially accidental.

Some of the oldest and largest qanats still exist, such as one in the Iranian city of Gonabad that still provides irrigation and drinking water to nearly 40,000 people. Qanats can move water only so far, and other inventions, such as dams and wells, are also only local solutions. But trade—the other, more hidden and surreptitious way to move water—involves much greater distances. The sun-powered sails that made the Columbian Exchange and guano part of the story of humanity’s domination of the planet also made possible the virtual trade in water. Moving water virtually, in products grown or raised with large amounts of water, spread the vital resource farther than was ever possible with Mesopotamia’s irrigation canals or the ingenious qanats. Sugar, coffee, tea, oranges, rice, wheat, or any other crop that grows where water and sun are abundant could feed people in places with more meager endowments, so long as there was trade.

[L]asting fertility of the soil”: Quoted in Clark and Foster 2009, 315. 92New sources for fertilizer: Brown 1963. 93Yams, banana, pearl millet, and sorghum: The National Research Council (1996) described traditional African staple grains in detail. 94Trade routes of his era in 1735: Hadley wrote that “the action of the Sun is the original Cause of these Winds, I think all are agreed,” and further deduced that “without the assistance of the diurnal Motion of the Earth, Navigation, especially Easterly and Westerly, would be very tedious, and to make the whole circuit of the Earth perhaps impracticable” (Hadley 1735–1736, 62). 94“. . . [S]tones and everything”: Columbus et al. 1991, 93. 94“. . . [R]etreat of the continental glaciers”: Crosby 1972 [2003], 3. Mann (2011) also provided a detailed and readable account of the Columbian Exchange. 95Plants back to Spain: Barrera-Osorio 2006. 95Scholars do not agree on this point: Nunn and Qian (2010) discussed the controversies about whether syphilis came from the New World. 95“. . . New England in America”: Thorpe 1909, 1829. 95“. . . Kind of Interests therein”: Thorpe 1909, 1828–1829. 96“. . . [T]itle to what we possess”: Winthrop 1634. 96Easy to grow in poor soil: Li (1982) described the controversy about the degree to which New World crops contributed to population growth in China. 96Completely transforming the diet: Nunn and Qian 2010. 96“. . .


pages: 225 words: 54,010

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

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Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, nuclear winter, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Malthus, urban sprawl

Egypt’s Old Kingdom is thought to have had between 1.2 and 2 million people; the Middle Kingdom between 2 and 3 million. There was probably a peak of 6 or 7 million at the start of the Ptolemaic period, but this fell somewhat by Roman times. As recently as 1882, the total was still only 6.7 million, showing no overall gain in the more than 2,000 years since the pharaohs (Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 [Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1972], p. 190). By 1964, it had risen to 28.9 million; Crosby attributes much of this rise to the introduction of maize. Since 1964, the population has doubled again, but Egyptians now are eating mainly imported wheat and feeding their maize to livestock (see Timothy Mitchell, “The Object of Development: America’s Egypt,” in Jonathan Crush, ed., The Power of Development [London: Routledge, 1995]). 72. 150 per square kilometre. 73.

Manco and his sons later set up an Inca free state from which they waged guerrilla war for nearly forty years. Modern civil wars in Peru and Guatemala during the 1980s, in Chiapas during the 1990s, and the 1990 Oka crisis in Canada were all fuelled by unfinished business between whites and Amerindians. However, leaders of the Shining Path uprising in Peru were exploiters of Peruvian nativism, not its champions. 16. Fray Motolinía, quoted in Crosby, Columbian Exchange, p. 52. 17. Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (New York: Norton, 1976), p. 30. This is especially true of North America and parts of the lowland tropics, where a century or more went by between the collapse of the old population and the arrival of the new. Like the Maya jungles, much of eastern North America’s “virgin forest” was secondary growth on abandoned Indian cornfields, towns, and parklike hunting lands.

London: Penguin, 1982. Cohen, Mark Nathan. The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1977. Conrad, Geoffrey W., and Arthur A. Demarest. Religion and Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1936. Originally published in 1907. Crosby, Alfred. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1972. ———. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe 900–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Culbert, T. Patrick, and Don S. Rice, eds. Precolumbian Population History in the Maya Lowlands. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990. Daniel, Glyn. The Idea of Prehistory.


pages: 282 words: 82,107

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

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agricultural Revolution, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, Bartolomé de las Casas, British Empire, carbon footprint, Columbian Exchange, Corn Laws, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Eratosthenes, financial innovation, food miles, Haber-Bosch Process, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, Mikhail Gorbachev, special economic zone, spice trade, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, women in the workforce

Botany was regarded as the “big science” of its day, an indication of a country’s might and sophistication, just as mastery of nuclear science or space technology is thought to be today. All this meant that the pineapple presented to Charles II was more than a mere fruit; it was a vivid symbol of his power. As European explorers, colonists, botanists, and traders sought out new plants, learned how to nurture them, and worked out where else in the world they might also thrive, they reshaped the world’s ecosystems. The “Columbian Exchange” of food crops between the Old and New worlds, in which wheat, sugar, rice, and bananas moved west and maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and chocolate moved east (to list just a handful of examples in each direction), was a big part of the story, but not the only part; Europeans also moved crops around within the Old and New worlds, transplanting Arabian coffee and Indian pepper to Indonesia, for example, and South American potatoes to North America.

Had he known this in 1675, Charles II would no doubt have been proud, though he might have been disappointed to hear that the pineapple was not one of the many foods that would play a part in this tale. Instead, the two foods that are central to the story are sugar, which traveled west across the Atlantic, and the potato, which traveled in the opposite direction. COLUMBUS AND HIS EXCHANGE The Columbian Exchange, as the historian Alfred Crosby has called it, was aptly named because it really did start with Christopher Columbus himself. Although many other people carried plants, animals, people, diseases, and ideas between the Old and New worlds in the years to follow, Columbus was directly responsible for two of the earliest and most important exchanges of food crops with the Americas. On November 2, 1492, having arrived at the island of Cuba, he sent two of his men, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, into the interior with two local guides.

Estimates of the size of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas vary from 9 million to 112 million, but a consensus figure of 50 million, which had been reduced by disease and warfare to some 8 million by 1650, gives an idea of the scale of the destruction. Even as their invisible biological allies wiped out the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Europeans began importing slaves from Africa on a vast scale to work on sugar plantations. The demographics of Africa and the Americas were transformed. But the Columbian Exchange also helped to alter the demographics of Eurasia. In China, the arrival of maize and sweet potatoes contributed to the increase in population from 140 million in 1650 to 400 million in 1850. Since maize could be grown in areas that were too dry for rice, and on hillsides that could not be irrigated, it added to the food supply and allowed people to live in new places. The uplands of the Yangtze basin were deforested to make way for the production of indigo and jute, for example, and the peasants who grew them lived on maize and sweet potatoes, which grew well in the hills.


pages: 1,152 words: 266,246

Why the West Rules--For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Doomsday Clock, en.wikipedia.org, falling living standards, Flynn Effect, Francisco Pizarro, global village, God and Mammon, hiring and firing, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kitchen Debate, knowledge economy, market bubble, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, out of africa, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pink-collar, place-making, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Sinatra Doctrine, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, upwardly mobile, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

The most famous example is what the geographer and historian Alfred Crosby has called the “Columbian Exchange,” the horrific, unintended fallout of Europe’s conquest of the New World since 1492 CE. Entirely separate disease pools had evolved in Europe and the Americas. America had unpleasant ailments of its own, such as syphilis, but the small, rather thinly spread American populations could not begin to compete with Europe’s rich repertoire of microbes. The colonized peoples were epidemiological virgins. Everything from measles and meningitis to smallpox and typhus—and plenty in between—invaded their bodies when the Europeans arrived, rupturing their cells and killing them in foul ways. No one knows for sure how many died, but the Columbian Exchange probably cut short the lives of at least three out of every four people in the New World.

Spaniards liked to joke that their imperial overlords in Madrid were so inefficient that “if death came from Spain, we would all live forever,” but Native Americans probably did not find that very funny. For them death did come from Spain. Shielded by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, they had evolved no defenses against Old World germs, and within a few generations of Columbus’s landfall their numbers fell by at least three-quarters. This was the “Columbian Exchange” mentioned in Chapter 6: Europeans got a new continent and Native Americans got smallpox. Although European colonists sometimes visited horrifying cruelty on the people they encountered, death came to natives mostly unseen, as microbes on the breath or in body fluids. It also raced far ahead of the Europeans themselves, transmitted from colonists to natives and then spread inland every time an infected native met one who was still healthy.

DECLINE AND FALL 280 “All is for”: Voltaire, Candide (1759), chapter 1 and passim. 280 “When the emperor”: Han dynasty poet, cited from Lovell 2006, p. 83. 280 “For the eternal”: Aelius Aristides, To Rome 29, 109. 282 “As things stand”: Sima Qian, Shi ji 48, translated in Watson 1993, pp. 2–3. 284 “All happy families”: Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1875), part I, chapter 1, translation from http://www.gutenberg.org. 286 “I think”: Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 23. 286 “All right then”: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). 293 stone chambers, etc.: Chuci, cited from Paludan 1998, p. 49. 295 “Columbian Exchange”: Crosby 1972. 295 “It appears”: cited in Crosby 2004, p. 215. 297 “Recently there have been”: He Gong, cited from McNeill 1976, p. 118. 300 “If you lose”: Wang Fu, Discourses of a Hidden Man, p. 258, translated in M. Lewis 2007, p. 259. 302 “When a new”: Fan Ye, History of the Later Han 71, p. 2299, cited from Twitchett and Loewe 1986, p. 338. 302 “The Han”: Fan Ye, History of the Later Han 72, p. 2322, cited from M.


pages: 775 words: 208,604

The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality From the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel

agricultural Revolution, assortative mating, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, collective bargaining, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, corporate governance, cosmological principle, crony capitalism, dark matter, declining real wages, demographic transition, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, fixed income, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Gini coefficient, hiring and firing, income inequality, John Markoff, knowledge worker, land reform, land tenure, low skilled workers, means of production, mega-rich, Network effects, nuclear winter, offshore financial centre, Plutocrats, plutocrats, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, rent control, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, universal basic income, very high income, working-age population, zero-sum game

By the end of the medieval period, the gradual merging of the Old World’s regional disease pools in the wake of commercial and eventually military contacts had ensured maximum coverage, causing many of these killer diseases to become endemic. By contrast, indigenous Americans enjoyed a less severe disease environment and lacked any prior exposure to these Old World scourges. Exploration and conquest opened up what Alfred Crosby called the “Columbian exchange,” transatlantic contacts that swiftly introduced a plethora of lethal infections to the Americas. And although the New World returned the favor by sending syphilis the other way, the European pathogen contribution to the Americas was much more diverse and vastly more catastrophic.1 Smallpox and measles were the most devastating of the diseases introduced by Europeans: long endemic as early childhood diseases in the Old World, they struck the Americas in epidemic outbreaks.

Spanning as they do much of recorded human history and several continents, what all these cases have in common is that substantial reductions in resource inequality depended on violent disasters. This raises two pressing questions: Has there been no other way to level inequality? And is there now? It is time to explore less bloody alternatives to our Four Horsemen. 1 See Diamond 1997: 195–214 for the differences between the pre-Columbian Old and New World disease pools. Crosby 1972 and 2004 are classic accounts of the Columbian exchange. For a very brief summary, see Nunn and Qian 2010: 165–167. 2 The following survey is based on Cook 1998. My section caption is a quote from the Mayan Chilam Balam de Chuyamel in Cook 1998: 216. Quotes: 202, 67. 3 For the debate, see McCaa 2000; Newson 2006; Livi Bacci 2008 (who emphasizes the multiplicity of causal factors). Arroyo Abad, Davies, and van Zanden 2012: 158 note that the quadrupling of real wages in Mexico between the sixteenth and the mid-seventeenth century is logically consistent with a population loss of about 90 percent, a tantalizing if inconclusive bit of support for very high mortality estimates; see herein.

“College wage premium over time: trends in Europe in the last 15 years.” Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 03/WP/2014. Crone, Patricia. 2003. Pre-industrial societies: anatomy of the pre-modern world. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. Cronin, James E. 1991. The politics of state expansion: war, state and society in twentieth-century Britain. London: Routledge. Crosby, Alfred. 1972. The Columbian exchange: biological and cultural consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Westview Press. Crosby, Alfred. 2004. Ecological imperialism: the biological expansion of Europe, 900–1900. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Culbert, T. Patrick, ed. 1973. The Classic Maya collapse. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Culbert, T. Patrick. 1988. “The collapse of classic Maya civilization.”


pages: 268 words: 76,709

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook

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Bernie Sanders, biofilm, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, McMansion, medical malpractice, old-boy network, urban sprawl, women in the workforce

Their field work in many ways echoes the expeditions of those quirky Victorian naturalists who scoured the globe to add botanical curiosities to their collections. But were it not for the efforts of Chetelat and his predecessors and colleagues at the Rick Center to find and conserve all seventeen species that make up the tomato family, there is a very real possibility that tomato production as we know it today would not exist. Of all the species that played a part in the great Columbian Exchange—the widespread mingling of plants, animals, and disease organisms between the Eastern and Western hemispheres following the establishment of Spanish colonies in the New World—the tomato surely would have topped the list as the least likely to succeed, never mind to become one of our favorite vegetables. Botanists think that the modern tomato’s immediate predecessor is a species called S. pimpinellifolium that still grows wild in the coastal deserts and Andean foothills of Ecuador and northern Peru.

Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center, 1, 2, 3 collection, 1 Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), 1, 2, 3, 4. See also Campaign for Fair Food Benitez and, 1 boxing match, 1 Brown and, 1 early days, 1 fast food companies confrontation, 1 Flores and, 1 Florida governors and, 1 members, 1 surfxaholic36 and, 1 Whole Foods Market and, 1 Cobra, 1 Coles, Robert, 1 Colfer, Joan, 1 Collier County Health Department, 1, 2 Columbian Exchange, 1 community, pesticide exposure in, 1 Community Development Credit Union, 1 Compass Group, 1 conservation challenge, 1 consumer satisfaction, 1 convict lease programs, 1 cookbook, first appearance of tomato in, 1 Corkscrew Swamp, 1 Cortés, Hernán, 1 cover crops, 1, 2, 3 “coyote,” 1 crew bosses, 1 regular members of, 1 crime index, 1 prevention practices, 1 “crimson” gene, 1 Crist, Charlie, 1, 2 to Benitez, 1 to Reyes, 1 crop cover, 1, 2, 3 development, 1 management, 1 rotation, 1 cross-pollination, 1 Cuban tomatoes, 1 cubeta, 1 Cuello, Abel, 1 culture, tomato, 1 D Dade County, 1 Daiker, Davis, 1 Davilos, Ricardo, 1 Davis, Shelly, 1 debt-peonage, 1, 2 deformities.

A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America by Tony Horwitz

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airport security, Atahualpa, back-to-the-land, Bartolomé de las Casas, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, dematerialisation, diversified portfolio, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, joint-stock company, out of africa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, trade route, urban renewal

Though often dense, and occasionally dated (the first volume appeared in 1978), the Handbook examines every region, era, and tribe in North America, from every perspective: archaeological, demographic, linguistic, political, religious, musical, and so on. There are a number of excellent books about environmental history and the interchange of plants, animals, and microorganisms known as the Columbian Exchange. Pioneering works in this field include Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 and William Cronon’s Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. More recent is Charles Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, an excellent and balanced overview of current scholarship on the Columbian Exchange, disease, and New World demography. My material on Verrazzano is mostly drawn from Lawrence Wroth’s The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano, which includes not only the navigator’s writings but a comprehensive look at what’s known about his life and voyages, as well as the geographical thinking of his day.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Adelantado, Governor, and Captain-General of Florida, Memorial by Gonzalo Solís de Merás. Deland, Fla.: The Florida State Historical Society, 1923. Cotten, Sallie Southall. The White Doe or the Legend of Virginia Dare. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1901. Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983. Crosby, Alfred. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1973. ———. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900. London: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Cushing, Frank Hamilton. Zuñi: Selected Writings of Frank Hamilton Cushing. Edited by Jesse Green. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979. Da Silva, Manuel Luciano. Portuguese Pilgrims and Dighton Rock.


pages: 565 words: 164,405

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein

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Admiral Zheng, asset allocation, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, British Empire, call centre, clean water, Columbian Exchange, Corn Laws, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Doha Development Round, domestication of the camel, double entry bookkeeping, Eratosthenes, financial innovation, Gini coefficient, God and Mammon, ice-free Arctic, imperial preference, income inequality, intermodal, James Hargreaves, John Harrison: Longitude, Khyber Pass, low skilled workers, non-tariff barriers, Paul Samuelson, placebo effect, Port of Oakland, refrigerator car, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile, working poor, zero-sum game

Now consider the contribution of trade to our planet's agricultural bounty. Try to imagine Italian cuisine without the tomato, the highlands around Darjeeling without tea plants, an American table without wheat bread or beef, a cafe anywhere in the world beyond coffee's birthplace in Yemen, or German cooking without the potato. Such was the world's limited range of farm produce before the "Columbian exchange," the invasion of billions of acres of cropland by species from remote continents in the decades following 1492. How and why did this occur, and what does it tell us about the nature of trade? During the seven centuries between the death of the Prophet Muhammad and the Renaissance, the Muslim states of Europe, Asia, and Africa outshone and towered over western Christendom. Muhammad's followers dominated the great conduit of long-range world commerce, the Indian Ocean, and in the process spread his powerful message from west Africa to the South China Sea.

A Single-Species Model for the Origins of Modem Human Behavior in Europe," Evolutionary Anthropology, 14:1 (February, 2005): 12-27. 14. Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). 15. Warmington, 35-39; see also William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York: Anchor, 1998), 128. 16. Warmington, 279-284. See also Ian Carapace, review of Roman Coins from India (Paula J. Turner) in The Classical Review, 41 (January 1991): 264-265. 17. Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973), 75-81. 18. Quoted ibid., 88. 19. Quoted ibid., 21. 20. Patricia Risso, personal communication. 21. John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money (New York: Harcourt, 1936), 383. Chapter 1 1. Daniel Boorstin, Hidden History (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), 14. 2. Robert L. O'Connell, Soul of the Sword (New York: Free Press, 2002), 9-23. 3.

Conybeare, John, "Trade Wars: A Comparative Study of Anglo-Hanse, Franco-Italian, and Hawley-Smoot Conflicts," World Politics 38, no. 1 (October 1985): 147172. Crafts, Nicholas, "Globalization and Growth in the Twentieth Century," IMF working paper WP/00/44. Crawford, H. E. W., "Mesopotamia's Invisible Exports in the Third Millennium BC," World Archaeology 5 (October 1973): 232-241. Critchell, James Troubridge, and Joseph Raymond, A History of the Frozen Meat Trade, 2nd ed. (London: Constable, 1912). Crosby, Alfred W., The Columbian Exchange (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973). Curtin, Philip D., "Africa and the Wider Monetary World, 1250-1850," in J. F. Richards, ed., Precious Metals in the Later and Early Modern Worlds (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1983). Curtin, Philip D., The Atlantic Slave Trade (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). Curtin, Philip D., The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).


pages: 329 words: 85,471

The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu

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air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, Community Supported Agriculture, creative destruction, edge city, Edward Glaeser, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, intermodal, invention of agriculture, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, labour mobility, land tenure, megacity, moral hazard, mortgage debt, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, planetary scale, profit motive, refrigerator car, Steven Pinker, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl

Rhode observe in their 2008 survey of American agricultural history, the varieties of corn, wheat, fruits, cotton, and tobacco grown at the beginning of the 20th century were dramatically different from the varieties grown one hundred years earlier, while 1940s farm animals such as swine, sheep, and cattle bore little resemblance to those of 1800.10 Of course, along the way innovative farmers adopted and adapted domesticated plants and animals that had been developed in distant lands, such as in the “Columbian exchange” that followed the incorporation of the Americas into the world economy more than 500 years ago. Native American contributions included edible crops like the tomato, potato, sweet potato, chili pepper, cocoa, pineapples, beans, cassava, and corn, as well as tobacco and some varieties of cotton. Many products refined in the Old World, from wheat, rice, and soybeans to onions and peaches and virtually all of its domestic animals, traveled west and significantly altered the American landscape.

See Common Agricultural Policy Carson, Rachel Cato the Elder Chambliss, Saxby Cheese(table) Chefs, elite status of professional Chicago meat-packing district China economic growth Han Churchill, Winston City agricultural productivity in developing counties development and economic growth edge food production in proximity to inner population percent living in surface area of trade and green See also Urbanization Cleveland, David Cliffe Leslie, Thomas Edward Climate change food security and trade and Climate criminals Climatic trends Coal Cockran, William Bourke Cocoa(table) Coffee(table) Collingwood, Henry W. Collinsville, Illinois Columbian exchange Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus Commodities boards nonedible agricultural sold in London(table) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Communication technologies Community-supported agriculture (CSA) pitfalls of Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) Condiments(table) Consistency Consumer behavior poor producer-, relationship standards of living and transportation Consumption energy European substitutions during military blockades expenditures local of meat products per capita in Denmark of protein, vitamins, and minerals unsustainable Convenience Conventional produce nutrition Cooke, Morris Llewellyn Cooperatives agricultural service Cork, Ireland Corn Belt Corporate welfare Countermeasures, Agricultural Crago, Linda Critser, Greg Cronon, William Crop diversification failures staple American See also specific crop types Cropland Crunchy Cons (Dreher) CSA.


pages: 540 words: 168,921

The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism by Joyce Appleby

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1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Doha Development Round, double entry bookkeeping, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Firefox, fixed income, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francisco Pizarro, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, informal economy, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, moral hazard, Parag Khanna, Ponzi scheme, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, refrigerator car, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, strikebreaker, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra, Yom Kippur War

Educated people had long known that the earth was round, but they had no idea of its circumference. The conquests of Mexico and Peru gave Spaniards access to Aztec and Incan mines as well. Gold and silver extracted from these mines began pouring into Europe. Far more important, the ships crossing the Atlantic brought animals and plants that dramatically transformed the societies on both sides of the ocean. What has been called the Columbian exchange completed the biological and botanic homogeneity of our planet.2 Alas, germs lethal to the inhabitants of the New World were part of that exchange. The arrival of newcomers in the Western Hemisphere triggered an unintended holocaust, for the Europeans carried with them lethal microorganisms against which the native population had no protection. Exposed to these Old World diseases with no immunity, the entire population of Arawaks on San Domingo died within a generation.

.]), 306, 3, 13, and 328. 9. Joyce Oldham Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England (Princeton, 1978), 158–70, 199–216, 242. CHAPTER 2. TRADING IN NEW DIRECTIONS 1. C. R. Boxer, Four Centuries of Portuguese Expansion, 1415–1825: A Succinct Survey (Berkeley, 1969), 14; Holland Cotter, “Portugal Conquering and Also Conquered,” New York Times, June 28, 2007. 2. Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, CT, 1972). 3. Leonard Y. Andaya, The World of Maluku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (Honolulu, 1993), 151; Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Holding the World in Balance: The Connected History of the Iberian Overseas Empires, 1500–1640,” American Historical Review, 112 (2007): 1367–68. 4. M. C. Ricklefs, A History of Modern Indonesia (Bloomington, 1981), 21. 5.

I am indebted to David Levine for this information. 19. Charles P. Kindleberger, A Financial History of Western Europe, 2nd ed. (New York, 1993), 173–76. 20. Dennis O. Flinn and Arturo Giraldez, “Cycles of Silver: Global Economic Unity through the Mid-Eighteenth Century,” Journal of World History, 13 (2002): 391–427. CHAPTER 3. CRUCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE 1. Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, CT, 1972). 2. Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik, The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 2nd ed. (Armonk, NY, 2006), 07. 3. Quoted in Andrew B. Appleby, “Diet in Sixteenth-Century England,” in Charles Webster, ed., Health, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1979). 4. David Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge, 1969), 15–16. 5.


pages: 374 words: 114,660

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial exploitation, Columbian Exchange, creative destruction, declining real wages, Downton Abbey, end world poverty, financial innovation, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, illegal immigration, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, John Snow's cholera map, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, new economy, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, structural adjustment programs, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trade route, very high income, War on Poverty

Disease usually came along for the ride, with consequences that reshaped the world. The historian Ian Morris has described how increased trade around the second century CE merged previously separate disease pools that, since the beginning of agriculture, had evolved in the West, South Asia, and East Asia, “as if they were on different planets.” Catastrophic plagues broke out in China and in the eastern outposts of the Roman Empire.25 The Columbian exchange after 1492 is an even better-known example.26 Many historical epidemics started from new trade routes or new conquests. The plague of Athens in 430 BCE was attributed to trade, and bubonic plague was brought to Europe in 1347 by rats aboard trading ships. The cholera epidemic of the nineteenth century is thought to have come from Asia thanks to the activities of the British in India, and its subsequent spread through Europe and North America was speeded by the new railways.

Chang, 2011, “Secular declines in the association between obesity and mortality in the United States,” Population and Development Review 37(3): 435–51. 24. Jim Oeppen and James W. Vaupel, 2002, “Broken limits to life expectancy,” Science 296 (May 10), 1029–31. See also Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, 2011, “A pitched battle over life span,” Science 333 (July 29), 549–50. 25. Morris, Why the West rules; quote on p. 296. 26. Alfred W. Crosby, [1973] 2003, The Columbian exchange: Biological and cultural consequences of 1492, Greenwood; Jared Diamond, 2005, Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies, Norton; and Charles C. Mann, 2011, 1493: Uncovering the new world that Columbus created, Knopf. 27. Phyllis B. Eveleth and James M. Tanner, 1991, Worldwide variation in human growth, Cambridge University Press, and Roderick Floud, Kenneth Wachter, and Anabel Gregory, 2006, Height, health, and history: Nutritional status in the United Kingdom, 1750–1980, Cambridge University Press. 28.


pages: 650 words: 203,191

After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405 by John Darwin

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agricultural Revolution, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, deglobalization, deindustrialization, European colonialism, failed state, Francisco Pizarro, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, Malacca Straits, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shock, open economy, price mechanism, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade

Nor did a technical ‘lag’ create a real disparity between the military capacity of European states and those in the rest of Eurasia. On the contrary. The threat of further Ottoman expansion hung over Europe until the 1690s. In India and East Asia, Europe’s remoteness made its mode of land warfare almost entirely irrelevant. In much the same way, patterns of consumption, codes of social etiquette and notions of hierarchy in the rest of Eurasia showed few signs of being influenced by Europeans’ behaviour. The ‘Columbian Exchange’ between the natural products of the Old World and the New diversified Eurasian agriculture with novel plants like maize and potatoes, but created no dependence upon European suppliers.124 European activity in the Americas aroused little if any interest in the rest of Eurasia.125 Islamic and East Asian cosmology showed no loss of confidence in the face of European learning, or the violent upheaval in European religion and ritual.

For Philip’s ‘messianic imperialism’, G. Parker, Grand Strategy, ch. 3. 122. For the effects of America, see J. H. Elliott, ‘Final Reflections’, in K. O. Kupperman (ed.), America in European Consciousness 1493–1750 (Chapel Hill, NC, and London, 1995), p. 406. 123. See J. de Vries, The European Economy in the Age of Crisis 1600–1750 (pbk edn, Cambridge, 1976), p. 130. 124. See A.W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange (Westport, Conn., 1972);.A.J.R. Russell-Wood, A World on the Move (New York, 1992). 125. See B. Lewis, Cultures in Conflict (Oxford, 1995) for Ottoman indifference to the Americas. CHAPTER 3: THE EARLY MODERN EQUILIBRIUM 1. J.B. Brebner, The Explorers of North America (pbk edn, New York, 1955), p. 255. 2. Ibid., p. 255. 3. Ibid., p. 299. 4. The classic study is J. Baker, History of Geographical Exploration (London, 1931). 5.


pages: 436 words: 140,256

The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond

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agricultural Revolution, assortative mating, Atahualpa, Columbian Exchange, correlation coefficient, double helix, Drosophila, European colonialism, invention of gunpowder, invention of the wheel, invention of writing, out of africa, phenotype, Scientific racism, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, the scientific method, trade route, V2 rocket

Keegan, Emergent Horticultural Economies of the Eastern Woodlands (Southern Illinois University, Carbon-dale, 1987); and B.D. Smith, 'Origins of agriculture in eastern North America', Science 246, pp. 1566-71 (1989). Three pioneering books point out the asymmetrical intercontinental spread of diseases, pests, and weeds: William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (Anchor Press, Garden City, New York, 1976); and Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Greenwood Press, Westport, 1972), and Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986). Chapter 15: Horses, Hittites, and History Two stimulating, knowledgeable recent books summarizing the Indo-European problem are by Colin Renfrew, Archaeology and Language (Jonathan Cape, London, 1987), and J.P.


pages: 476 words: 148,895

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

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biofilm, bioinformatics, Columbian Exchange, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, dematerialisation, Drosophila, energy security, Gary Taubes, Hernando de Soto, hygiene hypothesis, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, microbiome, peak oil, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker, women in the workforce

New tools of genetic analysis indicate that this hearty lager strain contains genes from a distantly related species of Saccharomyces, called Saccharomyces eubayanus, that has been traced to Patagonia, where it is found on the bark of certain trees.* Researchers hypothesize that, shortly after Columbus’s voyages, this cold-tolerant yeast found its way to Europe, perhaps in a shipment of lumber, or in a barrel that was then used to brew beer. So it appears that lager, like the tomato and the potato and the chili pepper, is yet another gift from the New World to the Old, tendered as part of the Columbian Exchange. S. cerevisiae has demonstrated remarkable ingenuity in exploiting the human desire for alcohol, particularly in finding ways to transport itself from one batch of the stuff to another. Some strains get themselves passed on by colonizing the vessels in which alcohol is fermented, or the wooden tools used to stir the pot. “Brewing sticks” are prized possessions in parts of Africa, believed to inaugurate the miracle of fermentation when used to stir a mash—and so they do, much like Sister Noëlla’s wooden paddle.


pages: 479 words: 144,453

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

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23andMe, agricultural Revolution, algorithmic trading, Anne Wojcicki, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Deng Xiaoping, don't be evil, drone strike, European colonialism, experimental subject, falling living standards, Flash crash, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, glass ceiling, global village, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, mutually assured destruction, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, too big to fail, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, ultimatum game, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

‘Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2013’, Lancet, 18 December 2014, accessed 18 December 2014, http://www.thelancet.com/themed/global-burden-of-disease; Stephen Adams, ‘Obesity Killing Three Times As Many As Malnutrition’, Telegraph, 13 December 2012, accessed 18 December 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9742960/Obesity-killing-three-times-as-many-as-malnutrition.html. 6. Robert S. Lopez, The Birth of Europe [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1990), 427. 7. Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1972); William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1977). 8. Hugh Thomas, Conquest: Cortes, Montezuma and the Fall of Old Mexico (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 443–6; Rodolfo Acuna-Soto et al., ‘Megadrought and Megadeath in 16th Century Mexico’, Historical Review 8:4 (2002), 360–2; Sherburne F.


pages: 395 words: 116,675

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

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affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, altcoin, anthropic principle, anti-communist, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Corn Laws, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of DNA, Donald Davies, double helix, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Snowden, endogenous growth, epigenetics, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, falling living standards, Ferguson, Missouri, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, George Santayana, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hydraulic fracturing, imperial preference, income per capita, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, land reform, Lao Tzu, long peace, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, Necker cube, obamacare, out of africa, packet switching, peer-to-peer, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, price mechanism, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, smart contracts, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, women in the workforce

As the technology expert Steven Johnson has argued, the unintended consequences of historical events can be far-reaching. Gutenberg made printed books affordable, which kicked off an increase in literacy, which created a market for spectacles, which led to work on lenses that in turn resulted in the invention of microscopes and telescopes, which unleashed the discovery that the earth went round the sun. In 1493, his magnificent account of the great Columbian exchange that followed contact between the eastern and western hemispheres, Charles Mann shows how again and again the forces that truly shaped history came from below, not above. For instance, the American Revolution was won by the malaria parasite, which devastated General Charles Cornwallis’s army in the Carolinas and on the Chesapeake Bay, at least as much as it was won by George Washington. I say this not as a bad-loser Brit seeking excuses, but on the authority of the distinguished (American) environmental historian J.R.