Paul H. Freedman is the Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale. He received an MLS and PhD in History from University of California at Berkeley, and specializes in medieval social history, the history of Spain, comparative studies of the peasantry, trade in luxury products, and history of cuisine. Since coming to Yale, Professor Freedman has served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in History, Director of the Medieval Studies Program and Chair of the History Department. He also published his third book, Images of the Medieval Peasant (1999) and two collections of essays: Church, Law and Society in Catalonia, 900-1500 and Assaigs d'historia de la pagesia catalana (writings on the history of the Catalan peasantry). More recently Freedman edited Food: The History of Taste , an illustrated collection of essays about food from prehistoric to contemporary times. His book on the demand for spices in medieval Europe was published in 2008 by Yale University Press; it is entitled Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination .
"I recommend that you consider the contrast between the flexibly nosed tapir of South America and
Photodisc the more extravagantly nosed elephant of Africa." Let us begin with a thumbnail sketch of the biogeography of the globe when Columbus set sail. Everyone in the Americas was a Amerindian. Everyone in Eurasia and Africa was a person who shared no common ancestor with Amerindians for at the very least 10,000 years. (I omit the subpolar peoples, such as the Inuit, from this analysis because they never stopped passing back and forth across the Bering Strait). The plants and animals of the tropical continents of Africa and South America differed sharply from each other and from those in any other parts of the world. I recommend that you consider the contrast between the flexibly nosed tapir of South America and the more extravagantly nosed elephant of Africa. The plants and animals of the more northerly continents, Eurasia and North America, differed not so sharply, but clearly differed. European bison and American buffalo (which should also be called bison) were very much alike, but Europe had nothing like the rattlesnake nor North America anything like the humped camel.