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A Free Reading Passage on the Potato for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 4

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The potato is a referenced topic in the Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



potatoes
1918548197/Shutterstock


The humble potato, now a staple in diets worldwide, has a history that spans continents and centuries. Native to the Andean region of South America, the potato was first domesticated by the indigenous peoples of modern-day Peru and Bolivia around 8,000 to 5,000 BC. It thrived in the harsh conditions of the Andes Mountains, becoming a staple crop due to its adaptability, hardiness, and ability to be stored for long periods.


The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in the early 16th century led to European exposure to the potato. Spanish explorers and conquistadors, intrigued by this new crop, brought the potato back to Spain around the late 16th century. Initially met with suspicion and curiosity, the potato was gradually accepted in Spain and across the European continent, particularly by farmers recognizing its nutritional value and high yield per acre.


The impact of the potato on Europe was profound and far-reaching. By the 18th century, it had become a cornerstone of the European diet, particularly among the poor and rural populations. The potato’s introduction helped mitigate the risk of famine, as it produced more food per acre than grain and could be grown in a variety of soils and climates. In Ireland, the reliance on potatoes grew so significant that when a potato blight hit in 1845, it led to the catastrophic Great Famine, illustrating both the vegetable’s importance and the dangers of agricultural dependency.


Beyond nourishment, the potato also indirectly spurred European population growth. The high-calorie content and nutritional benefits of potatoes supported healthier and larger populations, contributing to urbanization and industrialization. As cities grew, the demand for agricultural and industrial workers increased, fueling economic growth and social changes across the continent.


Today, the potato is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. Its journey from the Andes to the fields of Europe and beyond is a testament to globalization and its ability to reshape societies through something as simple as a crop. This story of the potato not only highlights the interconnectedness of our world but also reminds us of the profound impact that a single plant can have on the health, economy, and history of humanity.



PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON THE POTATO

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!



The Potato FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about the potato?







Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest



Period 1


AP U.S. History



the potato



Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 4

1

0

0

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