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Other titles in the California Studies in Food and Culture series:
California Studies in Food and Culture #17: The Spice Route: A History
Synopses & Reviews
The Spice Route is one of historyand#8217;s greatest anomalies: shrouded in mystery, it existed long before anyone knew of its extent or configuration. Spices came from lands unseen, possibly uninhabitable, and almost by definition unattainable; that was what made them so desirable. Yet more livelihoods depended on this pungent traffic, more nations participated in it, more wars were fought for it, and more discoveries resulted from it than from any other global exchange. Epic in scope, marvelously detailed, laced with drama, The Spice Route spans three millennia and circles the world to chronicle the history of the spice trade. With the aid of ancient geographies, travelersand#8217; accounts, marinersand#8217; handbooks, and shipsand#8217; logs, John Keay tells of ancient Egyptians who pioneered maritime trade to fetch the incense of Arabia, Graeco-Roman navigators who found their way to India for pepper and ginger, Columbus who sailed west for spices, de Gama, who sailed east for them, and Magellan, who sailed across the Pacific on the exact same quest. A veritable spice race evolved as the west vied for control of the spice-producing islands, stripping them of their innocence and the spice trade of its mystique. This enthralling saga, progressing from the voyages of the ancients to the blue-water trade that came to prevail by the seventeenth century, transports us from the dawn of history to the ends of the earth.
"In his latest, author Keay (Last Post) explores the prominent role spices have played in the construction of the modern world, from the development of the word itself to extensive schemes for trading it across continents to the personalities who discovered and disseminated it, noting that 'a taste for spices is responsible for the exploration of our planet.' The resulting volume, culled from historical commentaries and records, is a colorful and detailed portrait of the astonishing impact man's love for flavor had on the earliest stages of globalization. The route by which Keay's narrative travels is seasoned with facts and anecdotes, ranging from ancient historians' fantastic reports of men with 'pendulous upper lips' and the heads of dogs-or none at all-to the Muslim invasion of India and the Islamification of Malaysia. There is a surprising mythology surrounding the spice trade, and Keay does this angle ample justice, citing figures such as Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta and Roman playwright Plautus. Although Keay ends his book with the grim conclusion that the forces of globalization are to blame for the demystification and downfall of 'spice,' the work itself is nothing short of zesty." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A well written, general history of the spice trade.
About the Author
John Keayand#8217;s recent books include Sowing the Wind: the Mismanagement of the Middle East 1900and#150;1960 and Last Post: The End of Empire in the Far East.
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