Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2009
This book well exceeded my expectations. I thought I would be learning a bit about nutmeg and the islands where it grows, when in fact, I understood how colonialism and the British Empire began. Another fact suddenly hit me when reading this book: When I was a kid, I thought than marine explorers such as Magellan were setting up on their years long journey simply pushed by the desire to go where no (white) man has ever been, to discover and push themselves just like an Everest climber would do. Well, if you thought that too, think again. Most people in marine exploration were driven by trade and gain. A single cargo of spices and nutmeg brought back to London would repay the whole expedition and bring immense profits to those in charge.
Nathaniel's Nutmeg tell the story of the decades long struggle between the fledging British East Indian Company and the Dutch East Indian Company set up by merchants in the 16th and 17th centuries. I felt a bit sorry for the British who constantly suffer from lack of fire and manpower. In fact, I felt I could not give the full five stars to the book (I would easily give 4.5), because this long struggle at such a disadvantage for the British is almost unbearable, and wore me down little by little.
Fortunately, the author kept a gold nugget in store for us at the end. The sacrifice of our hero Nathaniel Courthope was not made in vain, for the Dutch eventually agreed to exchange Run, the last English Nutmeg producing Island (on paper only) for the island of Manhattan (New Amsterdam), which was to be renamed New York. If only these men knew at the time how they were changing the world!
The book is very readable and well illustrated with maps of the world, and the spices islands. I felt this was extremely helpful and left me asking for even more maps and illustrations! Alltogether, a must read!