East Indies —- Book Review
When you read East Indies by Ian Burnet, you can almost smell exotic spices over salt spray and wet wood of the ships that transported the goods back to Europe.
Following on from his previous book, Spice Islands, in which Ian documented the history of the spice trade in the Maluku and Banda Islands in Indonesia, where two very important and highly sought spices – cloves and nutmeg – originated, East Indies looks at the impact of the European explorers and traders.
When Vasco da Gama’s fleet rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, it was a game changing moment. Over the next 100 years, the Portuguese concentrated on growing their monopoly in the Eastern Seas from Goa in India as far east as the Moluccas and Timor in Indonesia, and as far north as China and Japan, trading in spices, sandalwood, silks, gold, silver, porcelains and other exotic oriental goods.
Things began to get more complicated when the Dutch East India Company and English East India Company began to challenge Portugal’s monopoly. Wars were fought. Cities were bombarded and captured. Gunboat diplomacy reigned. The English gained prominence in the tea trade over the Dutch and, of course, they were not above leveraging the illegal sale of opium to ensure their supply of tea from China remained uninterrupted.
Ian has once again researched his topic thoroughly, and East Indies is beautifully illustrated, filled with gorgeous maps and pictures evoking the age of sail.
Limelight Book Reviews