‘A tale of kings and conquests and high-sea adventures … A must-read for those interested in the history of spices.’ – Shrabani Basu, author of Victoria and Abdul and Curry: The Biography of the Nation’s Favourite Dish
Humans have crossed the oceans and traversed the unknown in search of spice and flavour for thousands of years. Mustard has been found at Neolithic sites in Iran, Germany and Denmark; the Romans’ love affair with black pepper was insatiable; pepper, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, galangal and grains of paradise were ordered in large quantities for Richard III’s coronation feast; and vanilla was credited as helping 342 eighteenth-century men become ‘astonishing lovers’.
Although the Romans had imported black pepper, and Eastern spices had trickled through to the West for centuries, it was only after Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape that huge quantities of spices were brought back from India and the Far East, starting vicious trade wars between the Portuguese, Dutch and English as they established their colonial empires. Spices came from the West too: when Columbus reached the Americas in the fifteenth century, he brought back chilies to Europe, and from there they spread rapidly across the globe.
The History and Natural History of Spices looks at spices from both a botanical and historical perspective, from their uses and classification to their influence on trade, war and global events. Both comprehensive and entertaining, it is the story of how our passion for spices helped to change the world.