Fact: India produces 86% of the World's Spices;
amounting to 1.6 Million tons anually
“He who controls the spice, controls the universe.” Such were the words uttered by the main character of the movie Dune based on the Frank Herbert science fiction epic of the same name. In the story, the spice was the lifeblood of a vast empire. For the leaders of this empire, it was essential that at all times ‘the spice must flow.’
The spice trade of the Dune movie was no doubt inspired by the historical trade in aromatics from ancient times to the present. At various periods in history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”
The Spice Route is one of history'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, travelers' accounts, mariners' handbooks, and ships' 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.