The Spice Route: A History

John Keay, Author University of California Press $40 (288p) ISBN 978-0-520-24896-0
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.
Reviewed on: 07/17/2006
Release date: 07/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-520-25416-9
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-0-7195-6805-3
Hardcover - 286 pages - 978-0-7195-6199-3
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 308 pages - 978-0-520-94145-8
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