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BEFORE YOU WATCH: The Columbian Exchange

Use the “Three Close Reads” approach as you watch the video below.
Use the “Three Close Reads” approach as you watch the video below (next in the lineup!). If you want to learn more about this strategy, click here.

First read: preview and skimming for gist

Before you watch, you should skim the transcript first. The skim should be very quick and give you the gist (general idea) of what the video is about. You should be looking at the title, thumbnails, pictures, and first few seconds of the video for the gist.

Second read: key ideas and understanding content

Now that you’ve skimmed the video transcript and taken a quick peek at the video, you should preview the questions you will be answering. These questions will help you get a better understanding of the concepts and arguments that are presented in the video. Keep in mind that when you watch the video, it is a good idea to write down any vocab you read or hear that is unfamiliar to you.
By the end of the second close read, you should be able to answer the following questions:
  1. What effects did the Columbian Exchange have on the global biological landscape?
  2. What were the demographic effects of the Columbian Exchange in the Americas?
  3. In what context were Europeans able to take over Aztec and Inca lands?
  4. How did animals from Afro-Eurasia impact the Americas?
  5. Out of the four categories discussed—disease, animals, plants, and people—which had the biggest effect on Afro-Eurasia, according to John Green? What were some of those cultural and demographic effects?
  6. Initially, the Columbian Exchange led to the decimation of the population of the Americas, mostly as a result of disease. How did this pattern of demographic decline change over time?
  7. By the end of Era 5, what were the principal global effects of the Columbian Exchange?

Third read: evaluating and corroborating

Finally, here are some questions that will help you focus on why this video matters and how it connects to other content you’ve studied.
At the end of the third read, you should be able to respond to these questions:
  1. While the Columbian Exchange arguably made the world more similar and connected, its effects were unevenly felt in different parts of the globe. Use evidence from this video to think through these Era 5 Problems: How did changes in the environment, demographic changes, and new forms of coerced labor affect some regions of the world more than others? What were the impacts of the Columbian Exchange for people living in different regions and social classes around the world? Why and how were the impacts similar and different?
  2. At the end of the video, John Green poses the question: “Are longer, healthier lives for more humans worth the sacrifice of an impoverished biosphere? And most importantly, how will your conclusions about those questions shape the way that you live your life?” How might the patterns and trends presented in the video have importance for other studies, later history, or your life more generally?
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to watch! Remember to return to these questions once you’ve finished watching.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user Sherly  Bonilla
    In your opinion, are longer, healthier lives for more humans worth the sacrifice of an impoverished biosphere? Why or why not?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user ealmaguer
    In your opinion, are longer, healthier lives for more humans worth the sacrifice of an impoverished biosphere? Why or why not?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user