Spices, scents and silks were at the centre of world trade for millennia. Through their international trade, humans were pushed to explore and then travel to the far corners of the earth. Almost from their inception, the earliest great civilizations – Egypt, Sumer and Harappa – became addicted to the luxury products of far-off lands and established long-reaching trade networks. Over time, great powers fought mightily for the kingdoms where silk, spices and scents were produced. The New World was accidentally discovered by Columbus in his quest for spices.
What made trade in these products so remarkable was that the plants producing them grew in very restricted areas of the world, distant from the wealthy civilizations of northern Africa, Greece and Europe. These luxuries could be carried from mysterious locations on the backs of camels or in the holds of ships for months on end and arrived at their final destination in nearly perfect condition. Once the western world discovered the intoxicating properties of these products, their procurement became a dominant force in the world economy. Nothing else compared with their possible profit returns.
In Spices, Scents and Silk, eminent horticulturist and author James Hancock examines the origins and early domestication and culture of spices, scents and silks and the central role these exotic luxuries played in the lives of the ancients. The book also traces the development of the great international trade networks and explores how struggles for trade dominance and demand for such luxuries shaped the world.
Recommended for academics, students and general readers with an interest in crop and agricultural development, world trade, economic botany, history of food, and global economics and public policy, Spices, Scents and Silk offers a fascinating and insightful history.
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Origins of Scents, Spices and Silk
Chapter 3. Exotic Luxuries in Antiquity
Chapter 4. Ancient Mediterranean Trade Links
Chapter 5. Land of Punt and the Incense Routes
Chapter 6. Origins of Spice Trade in the Indian Ocean
Chapter 7. Silk Route Beginnings
Chapter 8. Silk Route Connections
Chapter 9. Ancient Southeast Asian Maritime Trade
Chapter 10. Golden Age of Byzantium
Chapter 11. Pan Islamica
Chapter 12. Spice Trade in the Dark Ages of Europe
Chapter 13. The Eastern Roman Empire and the Rise of Venice
Chapter 14. Medieval Shifts in the Balance of Power
Chapter 15. Monsoon Islam
Chapter 16. Portuguese Discovery and Conquest
Chapter 17. The Portuguese Build an Empire
Chapter 18. The Spanish Build Their Empire
Chapter 19. The Dutch and English Conquest of South East Asia
Chapter 20. Age of Expansion
Chapter 21. The Ottoman and Safavid Silk Trade
Chapter 22. End of the Spice Era
James F. Hancock is a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University. He received his BS in Biology from Baldwin Wallace College (Berea, Ohio), an MS in Botany at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and a PhD in Genetics at the University of California, Davis. After a short stint in the Biology Department at the University of South Carolina, he moved to Michigan State University (MSU) as an assistant professor of Horticulture, where he was for over thirty years, being promoted to Professor in 1986. He was the Director of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Program at MSU from 2004 to 2009. The emphasis of his research has been on the breeding and genetics of blueberries and strawberries, and he has published prodigiously in these areas. His previous books have been The Strawberry, The Blueberry (with Jorge Retamales), Plantation Crops: Power and Plunder, Evolution and Exploitation and Plant Evolution and the Origin of Crop Species. He has also edited Temperate Fruit Crop Genetics: Germplasm to Genomics, and Environmental Biosafety (with Rebecca Grumet, Karim Maredia and Cholani Weebadde). He is a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Wilder medal recipient of the American Pomological Society, a former Fulbright Fellow to Chile and received the Technology Transfer Achievement Award from the Innovation Center of MSU for his blueberry cultivar releases.
"James Hancock, Professor Emeritus, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, pinpoints the worlds leading spices used since antiquity as frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cloves, saffron, nutmeg, and mace. Hancock divided this broad subject into readable stand-alone chapters, each with its own list of references,eliminating a need to search through a long alphabetical bibliography at the end of the book. Hancock traces the quest for profits from trade in spices, scents, and silks that motivated ancient peoples to explore the world in search of exotic luxuries from distant lands, while competing for long-distance trade dominance. There is plenty here to satisfy general readers with an interest in the global economics of the spice trade through history."
– Dorothea Bedigian, Plant Science Bulletin