• The terms Old World and New World are used in reference to the Age of Exploration.
  • Old World refers to Europe, Africa, and Asia, while New World refers to North America, South America, and the Caribbean.
    • This system of naming these two different “worlds” is largely Eurocentric. Because there were already people living in the Americas when they were first discovered by Europeans, the indigenous inhabitants of the New World didn’t consider their homes to be newly-discovered parts of the world.
Old World vs New World

Old World

  • The Old World consists of those parts of Earth known to Europeans before the voyages of Christopher Columbus: Europe, Asia, and Africa.
    • Although the interior regions of Asia and Africa were not well known to Europeans at the time, their existence was known, at least as far as Japan and South Africa, so they are considered Old World.
    • Australia and Antarctica are neither definitely Old World nor definitely New World, since the terms “Old World” and “New World” were used before their discovery by Europeans.

New World

  • The New World is one of the names used for the American continents, in use since the 16th century. The Americas were at that time new to the Europeans, to whom the “Old World” consisted of only Europe, Asia, and Africa.
  • Today the terms “New World” and “Old World” are generally used in a historical context when talking about the European discovery of the Americas, as in discussions of Spanish exploration, Christopher Columbus, et cetera. The term is also used to refer to evidence of biological organisms: organisms of the Americas are considered “New World,” and organisms of Europe, Asia, and Australasia are considered to be “Old World.”
  • Notice that while the Americas are always described as “New World,” Australasia can be described as either “Old World” or “New World,” depending on the topic of discussion.
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