Spices and the Medieval Imagination
Yale University Press
Ginger, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ambergris, Galangal, Spikenard, and Zedoary. Spices—some familiar today, others much more exotic—are well known to have been in enormous demand in medieval times. Their widespread appeal fueled an active trade; they were carried from Asia and India to the marketplaces of Europe where they were sold at exorbitant prices.
While this supply side of the medieval spice trade is well documented, what is little appreciated is what sparked and sustained the enthusiasm for spices. No consumer product has had a greater impact on the course of world history. What was it about these aromatic products that created the first globalized commodity and inspired expeditions to explore, and colonize, distant lands? In Out of the East, Paul Freedman explores the “back story” of the spice trade and in so doing sheds new light on what was the first consumer fad—albeit a very long lived one.