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, although diseases initially caused precipitous declines in the numbers of indigenous peoples of the Americas. 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 in soils that otherwise would not produce large yields.Template:Citation needed
The term was first used in 1972 by American historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange. It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known.