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.