- Alex Carr
Cross-Cultural Exchange was a fundamental part of the development of societies. Through this form of exchange, societies were able to acquire knowledge from one and other, and upon doing so enrich their own cultures through studying abroad. When looking at the effects of cross-cultural exchange, there are many different aspects of study. Some of these aspects include, new foods being brought to different continents, cultures being shared, the use of old world traditions in new places which haven’t seen the likes of such before and the rise of empires through expansion.
When looking at the spread of knowledge and culture throughout Europe, it is evident that this is very much a two-way process. One of the first examples of cross-cultural exchange, though not entirely out of choice to one culture, is the slave trade. Through the slave trade, there is for the first time, blacks in parts of the world which have never seen people of this colour before. Screens painted in Japan can be seen as another example of cross-cultural exchange, as these provide a glimpse of the first contact made in Japan by the Portuguese. Another major exchange of culture would of course be the spread of various religions throughout Europe, America, Asia and Africa. Christianity is the largest religion and has been spread by influential figures. The largest example of this would be the spread of Christianity over the Roman Empire when Constantine became Christian which happened in 313, so although this was very early in world history, nonetheless it was the foundation for Christianity in Europe. Christianity itself was founded in about 30 AD and was followed according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Through the decline of the classical form of government which in empires was a monarchy, several factors contributed to the spread of the religions that can be seen throughout the world today. As previously seen throughout history most religions were regional, rather than national because it was much harder to travel, and spread the word of these religions unless preached by missionaries and such. Buddhism spread throughout India and Hinduism spread to several other areas of India. Hinduism had a profound influence on Southeast Asia. Christianity had the ability to grow in the Roman Empire and even beyond, it even found its way into the Middle East, and North Africa. Religion was, and still is possibly the most influential part of cross-cultural exchange, as it can bring nations together, or even apart.
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One of the most profound effects of cross-cultural exchange may very well be the introduction of different foods to all different parts of the world through the trade of different cultures’ foods. One of the most evident examples of this would be when Columbus returned from Spain in 1493, bringing with him things never before seen in Europe, such as horses, pigs, wheat, chickpeas, vegetable seeds, and fruit trees. This event sparked the trade between different continents, which allowed exotic foods to be imported. The exchange of different foods is an essential part of life, as these caused drastic changes in the usual staple foods of different countries. An example of this is tomatoes in Italy, now a staple food but once only found in the valleys of Mexico. Another major example of how essential the exchange of food is would be corn. Corn was originally from Cuba, there Columbus discovered its many uses, and corn spread through the world. Corn became the main source of food on slave ships. Another crop that quickly became a very prominent food in the European diet was the potato. They were grown on land not suitable for other crops, and cheap to grow. They quickly became cheap food for inmates and other impoverished areas. One major way that foods are spread throughout different countries is of course through immigration. This is very evident in Canada, because the country is so ethnically diverse; there can be foods from all over the world seen in Canada. Canada is a very good example of cross-cultural exchange because of the diversity that is there which has been created through their very open immigration system, which does not discriminate according to race. Many different religions are seen in Canada, foods from all over the world, a vast number of different races, all living together in one place, all because of cross-cultural exchange and more specifically immigration.
The expansion of empires in the western world was a very good example of cross-cultural exchange, as the colonies were heavily influenced by their homelands. As these new colonies were formed, religion once again played a major role in the formation of these colonies. The religion was once again of course Christianity. Early Christian philosopher St Augustine once preached “regardless of colour, all people were God’s creation.” This is an interesting quote, as history proves that blacks were clearly exploited, and not created as equals. There is also the use of old world traditions in new colonies, some of which aren’t still popular in their countries of origin, but still to date find their daily use in the colonies now formed into independent countries. An example of this would be an old tradition which is that women whose husbands have died must wear black to mourn dates back to at least the Roman Empire. This tradition was brought from the Roman Empire into America and other countries and is a tradition which is still used on a daily basis to date. This is just one example of how cross-cultural exchange had such a large effect on the world, dating back to the Roman Empire, and still in effect today. Another prominent example is Quebec, which was originally a colony of France. Quebec became a colony of France as early as 1608, and remained so until 1867 when it joined confederation. Quebec is a French speaking province and holds many traditions brought over from France. The French that is spoken in Quebec itself is not the same as in France, but is actually slightly skewed, this is an example of how there is cross-cultural exchange. Although settlers came from France, the culture is slightly different because although old traditions were inherited, new ones were also formed, according to the new lifestyle that was being lived in Quebec. The French culture in Quebec is still very heavily preserved to date and even to such a degree that Quebec does not feel a part of Canada and would like to separate from Canada. Colonialism very much ties in with the expansion of empires, because colonialism is basically the spread of nations into new countries. Colonialism is a good example of cross-cultural exchange because when new colonies are founded, they bring not only the traditions and culture from their homeland, but also bring new cultures from immigrants of other countries, which helps to build a much more culturally diverse country ultimately.
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Through the spread of exotic foods, traditions of old countries newly expanded empires, and new insightful religions cross-cultural exchange has proven to be an essential part of the development of the modern world. Without the profound effects of cross-cultural exchange the current world, as diverse as it is may not exist. Cross-cultural exchange has taught the civilization of earth many lessons about all aspects of life, most of which have been learned from and help the world to progress in a positive direction.
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