An Analysis of Alfred W. Crosby's The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

An Analysis of Alfred W. Crosby's The Columbian Exchange

Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 1st Edition

By Joshua Specht, Etienne Stockland

Macat Library

83 pages

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One criticism of history is that historians all too often study it in isolation, failing to take advantage of models and evidence from scholars in other disciplines. This is not a charge that can be laid at the door of Alfred Crosby. His book The Columbian Exchange not only incorporates the results of wide reading in the hard sciences, anthropology and geography, but also stands as one of the foundation stones of the study of environmental history.

In this sense, Crosby's defining work is undoubtedly a fine example of the critical thinking skill of creativity; it comes up with new connections that explain the European success in colonizing the New World more as the product of biological catastrophe (in the shape of the introduction of new diseases) than of the actions of men, and posits that the most important consequences were not political – the establishment of new empires – but cultural and culinary; the population of China tripled, for example, as the result of the introduction of new world crops. Few new hypotheses have proved as stimulating or influential.

Table of Contents

Ways in to the text

Who was Alfred W. Crosby?

What does The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 Say?

Why does The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 Matter?

Section 1: Influences

Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context

Module 2: Academic Context

Module 3: The Problem

Module 4: The Author's Contribution

Section 2: Ideas

Module 5: Main Ideas

Module 6: Secondary Ideas

Module 7: Achievement

Module 8: Place in the Author's Work

Section 3: Impact

Module 9: The First Responses

Module 10: The Evolving Debate

Module 11: Impact and Influence Today

Module 12: Where Next?

Glossary of Terms

People Mentioned in the Text

Works Cited

About the Authors

Dr Joshua Specht completed his PhD in History at Harvard in 2014, working on the Environmental History of the cattle trade in nineteenth-century America. He is currently a lecturer in History at Monash University.

Etienne Stockland is researching a PhD in Environmental History at Columbia University.

About the Series

The Macat Library

Great Works for Critical Thinking

Making the ideas of the world’s great thinkers accessible, affordable, and comprehensible to everybody, everywhere. 

With a growing list of over 180 titles across a broad range of subject areas, Macat works with leading academics from the world’s top universities to produce new analyses that focus on the ideas and the impact of the most influential works ever written. By setting them in context – and looking at the influences that shaped their authors, as well as the responses they provoked – Macat encourages readers to look at these classics and game-changers with fresh eyes.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General