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on 26 August 2007
As can be determined from the title, this book represents a fairly brief history of the spice trade and also serves as an introduction to the age of discoveries, recounting the exploits of De Gamma, Columbus et al. I found this all very interesting but would have preferred to read more coverage of the recent history, e.g. Dutch 'colonisation' of the east Indies, than is included.

Unfortunately, as with the other titles by Keay that I've read, I found the writing style needless elaborate, e.g. "Herodotus, who was born at about the time of Darius' death, well knew the facts of its provenance, though still disinclined to forgo the chance of embellishing them..." This does become tiresome. The text also contains one or two niggling errors, for example the author seems unaware that coriander can be both spice and herb.

'Spice Route' is one of those books that teaches a 'little about a lot' and for that reason I'd recommend it to others, particularly as it is not overly long at ~250 pages of, albeit small, text.
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on 18 May 2011
I bought this book because I wanted to understand a bit more about where spices came from.
As I started to read it I found it so fascinating that it was hard to put down, a truly riveting read and quite inspirational.
It is a factual account of how, when and who brought spices to this country, the origin of these spices and the wars over them.
This is not the kind of book that once you have read it you never pick up again, I often use it to cross reference other areas of interest.
This is a quality, superbly written book about the fascinating history of everyday kitchen spices that we have all grown up with.
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on 4 April 2015
This book has lots of interesting facts - I know it does.The style is unnecessarily convoluted, meandering sentences and parenthesis after parenthesis that make the whole thing confusing to read.
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on 19 January 2009
John Keay has written a brilliant, amusing and readable account of the spice trade from pre-history to the 1800's.

Keay as always is irrerevent, his gentle and humourous mocking of the more fantastic elements of the accounts of for example Pliny, Herodotus, Marco Polo,etc are enlightening and amusing, always a pleasant combination. He charts the vagaries of the Spice Route, the changes to it over the centuries and the reasons for those changes succintly and with plenty of clarity.

He is particularly effective in portraying the European incursion into the Indian Ocean and points further east from the late 15th Century and doesnt shirk from describing the more brutal and frankly monstrous aspects of this. Raiding rather than trading would be the more appropriate term for say the Portugese visits to the west coast of India, or the Dutch in Sumatra and the Spice Islands proper.

There are also some beautiful colour plates of people and places related to the Spice Route and a number of maps from different periods in which the development of geographical knowledge is given eloquent expression.

Thoroughly reccomended. As is John Keays The Honourable Company: History of the English East India Company which covers in particular the British involvement in Asia up to 1857.
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