WHP Lesson 26: The First Global Age

The first truly Global Age—full of both prosperity and tragedy—forever altered the course of human history. The already massive, complex trading systems within the Americas and Afro-Eurasia became linked by the Columbian Exchange, creating a network that could carry goods, people, ideas, and germs from one point on Earth to almost any other point.

Driving Question: How did the first global age alter the course of human history? 

  • Connecting the Americas to the Afro-Eurasian network, which brought together two large networks, created the first global network ever. This connection of networks, called the Columbian Exchange, resulted in enormous amounts of change. The creation of overseas empires, the Atlantic slave trade, mass migration, dramatic changes to what people ate and what they believed in were all brought on by the Columbian Exchange.

Word of the Day: Columbian Exchange

  • Definition: The name we give to the movement of people, goods, technologies, ideas, and species when the American and Afro-Eurasian networks connected beginning in the late fifteenth century.
  • The Columbian Exchange was significant as it connected two previously isolated regions of the world. The transfer and exchange of plants, animals, and diseases between these regions had dramatic effects on the biosphere of both. In particular, the Transatlantic slave trade had a massive impact, which you’ll learn about later this week.


  • Watch the Era 5 Overview in Lesson 5.0 on Khan Academy
  • While you’re watching this video, think about how the Columbian Exchange changed things for Manila. Then think about how different people and regions may have experienced the Columbian Exchange in different ways. Were the changes the same for everyone? How did these changes help to form our modern world?

Historian’s Journal Prompt

  • Do you think COVID is going to alter human history? Why or why not?
  • Think about potential changes in the future, but also think about what might not change. Those factors are often just as important as those that do change.