'To write a book that makes the reader sit in a trance, lost in his passionate desire to pack a suitcase and go to the fabulous place - that, in the end, is something one would give a sack of nutmeg for' Philip Hensher, The Spectator
In 1616, an English adventurer, Nathaniel Courthope, stepped ashore on a remote island in the East Indies on a secret mission - to persuade the islanders of Run to grant a monopoly to England over their nutmeg, a fabulously valuable spice in Europe. This infuriated the Dutch, who were determined to control the world's nutmeg supply. For five years Courthope and his band of thirty men were besieged by a force one hundred times greater - and his heroism set in motion the events that led to the founding of the greatest city on earth.
A beautifully told adventure story and a fascinating depiction of exploration in the seventeenth century, NATHANIEL'S NUTMEG sheds a remarkable light on history
Exotic spices such as nutmeg, mace and cloves were treasured in the kitchens and pharmacopoeias of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Nutmeg was even believed to be an effective remedy against plague. Small wonder, then, that traders of the time ventured to the ends of the earth to secure it. With high drama and gracefully integrated research, Milton (The Riddle and the Knight) chronicles this "Spice Race," profiling the leading participants and recording the ruthless violence with which this very real trade war was conducted. The maritime powers of Europe sent companies of adventurers to the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia), each nation intent on establishing a monopoly and reaping the stupefying profits that the spice trade could produce. The book concentrates on the competition between the Dutch and English East India Companies to control the spice trade nearly 400 years ago. In 1616, Nathaniel Courthope led an English expedition to occupy the Spice Island of Run, a few square miles of land thickly forested with nutmeg trees. As Milton explains, Courthope's assertion of English ownership of Run Island was rejected by the Dutch, who besieged the island for four years before ousting the English (and killing Courthope). However, Courthope's apparent failure led to an unexpected benefit for his country when, in 1667, a treaty confirmed Holland's seizure of Run but, in exchange, validated England's seizure of another piece of land on the opposite side of the world--the island of Manhattan. Sprinkled with useful maps and illustrations, Milton's book tells an absorbing story of perilous voyages, greed and political machinations in the Age of Exploration.