Giles Milton - Nathaniel's Nutmeg

Nathaniel's nutmeg: how one man's courage changed the course of history - Giles Milton

There was a time when people killed and died for nutmeg. Imagine that! Stinking nutmeg! Not even oregano or at least cinnamon. I must say on my list of things I would be willing to die for nutmeg is somewhere at the bottom, right before marmite. 

Nonetheless, The Dutch and the English and the Portuguese would fight relentlessly over the access to nutmeg. Apart from successfully killing the smell and taste of rotten meat, nutmeg was also known for curing just about anything from the plague to impotence. In the beginning of the 17th century nutmeg was in. Maybe one day people will laugh at the lengths we go now to get access and control over the oil resources. 

Interestingly enough, nutmegs grew only on a few small remote islands that form part of today's Indonesia. For about two hundred years no one had the brilliant idea of taking some seeds and planting them somewhere else, it seems. Instead, the English and the Dutch fought like maniacs over Banda islands that had very little except for nutmeg. Of course, Giles Milton sympathises with the poor natives who got paid very little for their nutmeg which fetched astronomical prices in Europe. But I'd like to believe that the natives were thinking they were conning the Europeans selling them all that useless nutmeg and getting things like knives and clothes in return. They probably thought: "What in the hell are you doing with all that nutmeg, you crazy white man?". 

Long story short, thanks to nutmeg New York is called New York and not New Amsterdam and we are not all speaking Dutch. If you want to know what that has to do with the price of the fish, read the book. You will also learn that the English are good and the Dutch are bad (it is not quite clear why, but apparently the English were more gentlemanly when doing the pirate stuff). Another thing, Nathaniel doesn't appear until towards the end of the book and doesn't do all that much before dying but he makes for a nice title. 

This is a book for people who want to know how people found places before the Google Maps and how weird it was when information would travel from one place to another for two years, rather than 0.2 sec. Good God, people used to be patient back then.