Summer Banquet Blog Hop~The Spice Trade Changes the World’s History


summer-banquet-hop-copyWelcome to the last day of Summer Banquet Hop Giveaway. Like always to be eligible to win one of the three books I have listed below, leave a comment on the post or Tweet or Share the post on Facebook and Twitter. Winners will be drawn by at noon (EDST) on Sunday, June 9. Also, visit the other authors who are participating in the Blog Hop for additional opportunities to win fabulous books and prizes.

Spices have played a role in many of history’s most famous events from the discovery of new countries to the vanquishing of powerful rulers. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, spice is a noun from the early 13th Century. It is from Old French espice, from Late Latin species (plural) “spices, goods, wares,” from Latin “kind, sort.” Early druggists recognized four “types” of spices: saffron, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. Figurative sense of “slight touch or trace of something” is recorded from 1530s. Spice-cake first attested in the 1520s.

Using herbs dates back to primitive people used aromatic leaves to wrap and enhance the taste of their food. Spices and herbs were used to disguise the taste of some foods and, much later, to keep food fresh.

Those in power coveted their spices. According to legend, Queen Sheba offered King Solomon “120 measures of gold, many spices, and precious stones.” According to McCormick’s online resources, “A handful of cardamom was worth as much as a poor man’s yearly wages, and many slaves were bought and sold for a few cups of peppercorns.”

The first spices to come to European ports came via Arab trades. The Phoenicians controlled the 14th Century spice trade. The easily maneuvered their ways across the Mediterranean, as well as the Indian Ocean.

The Roman Empire brought the world’s notice to the use of spices. It is said that Cleopatra seduced Caesar with enchanted spices. The Roman spice of choice was pepper. The Romans used pepper in a fish-based sauce called “garum.” Garum was prepared from the intestines of small fishes through the process of bacterial fermentation. Fishermen would lay out their catch according to the type and part of the fish, allowing makers to pick the exact ingredients they wanted. The fish parts were then macerated in salt, and cured in the sun for one to three months. The mixture fermented and liquefied in the dry warmth, with the salt inhibiting the common agents of decay. Garum was the clear liquid that formed on the top, drawn off by means of a fine strainer inserted into the fermenting vessel. The sediment or sludge that remained was allec. Concentrated decoctions of aromatic herbs might be added. Flavors would vary according to the locale, with ingredients sometimes from in-house gardens.

The Three Kings brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Frankincense and myrrh were rare spices and were quite expensive. The prophet Mohammed used his roots to a merchant tribe to spread his message and to sell spices. It is said that the Romans celebrated Nero’s entrance into the city by strewing saffron upon the streets.

The Crusades renewed the European interest in the spice trade. Italian ships delivered Oriental spices to the courts of Europe’s most powerful kings and queens. Spiced wines from Spain and Italy became very popular in the Middle Ages, and spices made appearances in market towns. Pepper has been used as a spice in India since prehistoric times. Pepper is native to India and has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2000 BCE. Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good, often referred to as “black gold” and used as a form of commodity money. Until well after the Middle Ages, virtually all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa traveled there from India’s Malabar region. The Ancient History Encyclopedia has a wonderful history of pepper article.

Again from the McCormick’s website, we find, “In court, litigants bribed judges with spices. A prototype of sugared almonds, some spices were covered in honey in order to disguise them as candy. Their culinary and medicinal uses overlapped, and grocers and apothecaries often worked in the same companies. Besides traditional black pepper, some of the other prized spices of the era were long pepper from Sumatra, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and galanga (a ginger-like spice from Southeast Asia).”

Even before Christopher Columbus, Portuguese geographers had advocated the exploration of the African continent. The hope of following the African shoreline to open new routes to India and its spice trade became an obsession for the Portuguese and Spanish courts. Vasco de Gama arrived in India in 1498, after crossing the Cape of Good Hope. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and British empires traded positions in the saga of the spice trade. At one time, the British East India Company held a monopoly on all trade with India.

Columbus, of course, did not make it to India, but he did explore the Caribbean islands. He and those who followed into the Americas brought back to their respective courts such common everyday spices as vanilla, allspice, and red pepper.

According to History of Spices, “But the economic value of these products declined as farming sites increased. The Dutch jealously protected access to the Moluccas [Islands in Indonesia] for fear of seeing their clove and nutmeg trees exported to other regions, which would have ruined their monopoly. Thievery of this sort was punishable by death. After many attempts, a few pepper and nutmeg trees were successfully transplanted on Mauritius Island. This eventually led to a dispersion of plant production sites across Dutch, English, and French colonial empires, which involved spices in addition to coffee, cocoa, and many other plants. The tight reins on the industry were loosening.”

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, America’s sleek clipper ships dominated the world trade. “So many pepper voyages were undertaken from New England to Sumatra that the price of pepper dropped to less than three cents a pound in 1843, a disastrous slump that affected many aspects of American business.”

Please visit my website for an introduction to all 17 of my titles (

Leave a comment below to be eligible for my giveaway. On Sunday, June 9, 2013, I will draw a winner for each of these titles from my catalogue. This giveaway is open internationally. 

I will present a winner for each of these three titles…

His: Two Regency Novellas; A Touch of Mercy (Book 5 of the Realm Series); and Christmas at Pemberley


Other Participants in the Blog Hop…

Maria Grace

David Phillings

Gillian Bagwell

Violet Bedford

Anna Belfrage

Debra Brown

Allison Bruning

P.O. Dixon

Heather Domin

Grace Elliot

Yves Fey

Lauren Gilbert

Tinney S. Heath

Evangeline Holland

Helen Hollick

Regina Jeffers

Sharon Lathan

Cora Lee

Diane Scott Lewis

Sue Millard

Donna Russo Morin

Ginger Myrick

JL Oakley

Sally Smith O’Rourke

E. M. Powell 

Laura Purcell

Kim Rendfeld

Shauna Roberts

Julie Rose

Margaret Skea

Shannon Winslow

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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2 Responses to Summer Banquet Blog Hop~The Spice Trade Changes the World’s History

  1. Janet T says:

    Frankincense is still pretty high. It has many wonderful healing properties as well.
    Enjoyed your post!

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