The Spice Route: How spices changed the world

Published on: 01/04/2024

Artistic presentation of ancient port in Muzris

Photo title: Artist's impression of a port on the Malabar Coast

|

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Spices are an integral part of flavouring a meal, but some spices have been part of history and changed the world. Did you know that it was the spices from India that led to the creation of the modern-day Stock Exchange? Or that nutmeg has an intrinsic connection with New York? And you may not have known that it was a spice trade that led to the creation of the richest company in the planet. Well, the common thread that binds these three facts is spices and India’s deep-rooted connections with the same. 

Spices like cardamom, clove, and cinnamon, were mainly grown in India, including Coorg, and parts of Asia from ages. From the ancient Greeks to the Romans spices from India were in great demand in Europe. So how do these spices get to Europe? “The Arabs, who were the early traders, picked up the spices, from the Malabar Coast of India and took them to the Middle East by sea and by the land route from Istanbul and transported it to Europe. But in the 1400s, there was a change of guard in Turkey. The new rulers, the Ottoman Empire did a blockade of trade from Asia to Europe, leading to a shortage of spices in Europe, making the Europeans, extremely desperate. This is when a lot of European royal families started to fund voyages to find the promised spice land, India”. 

In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain sponsored Christopher Columbus who set sail to India and in his pursuit for spices took the wrong turn and ended up finding America. But the country that eventually found the sea route to India, with the Portuguese with Vasco de Gama who came to India in 1498 through the tip of Africa. And the Portuguese wasted no time in monopolizing the spice trade. However, in the late 1500s, Spain, invaded Portugal and cut off the supply of spices to Netherlands. As the Dutch had to find their own way to get to these spices. And that is when they decided to make their own voyages to India. But there was a problem as these voyages were extremely expensive as it involved building massive ships with a large crew and associated supplies. And even if you got all of them right, they lost a lot of these ships in journey.

portuguese-carrack-ships-14186

Photo title: Portuguese ships on the spice route

|

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In 1602, a group of Dutch merchants came together to form a company called Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) which in short was the Dutch East India Company. This company came up with the novel idea to raise money and for the first time in history, they introduced a concept of a stock, which is nothing but a piece of paper. When exchange for money, it promised a part ownership in the company and a part of future profits. “They floated this idea to the people of Netherlands and raised 6 million guilders which is approximately 360 million dollars today. And that made VOC the first company ever to issue stocks. And to ensure that the people could trade in these stocks, they set up the world's first ever stock exchange in Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange,” explains Parameswarappa. This innovation changed the world forever and today stocks and stock exchange are the cornerstone of modern-day capitalism. And all this had its origin in, well no prizes for guessing, spices. And if you are wondering, whatVOC did with all the money that they raised, they funded a series of voyages to India and Asia for the spice trade and had a strict monopoly on the state for about 200 years and raked in huge profits. At its peak, it was worth more than 7.9. trillion which is more than the top 20 companies of today. And that is how profitable the spice trade was.

In fact, during the 1600s, nutmeg was in great demand in Europe because it was believed to be a cure for the bubonic plague. Incidentally, in the 1600s, the Dutch had bought a swampy island in America which they named as New Amsterdam, but they were keenly eyeing, a tiny island in Indonesia, called Run as it was one of the ten islands in Indonesia which was the sole producer of nutmeg in the world. The British and the Dutch then came to an agreement and decided to exchange these islands. The Dutch ended up transferring New Amsterdam to England in exchange for Run, which give them a complete monopoly on the nutmeg trade. The British wanting to make New Amsterdam their own, decided to call it New York, the financial capital of the world. So, the next time you are in a crowded Spice Market and are caught in the riot of colours and strong aroma of spices spare a thought for how spices changed our world!

Bindu

Bindu Gopal Rao

Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bengaluru, who believes writing provides a unique opportunity to meet a variety of people while exploring new places. She has a keen eye to learn about offbeat, unusual and local angles when she travels. Her work is documented at www.bindugopalrao.com

Bindu Gopal Rao

Photographer

Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bengaluru, who believes writing provides a unique opportunity to meet a variety of people while exploring new places. She has a keen eye to learn about offbeat, unusual and local angles when she travels. Her work is documented at www.bindugopalrao.com

the people option 4 1 of 1

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.Quis ipsum

the people option 2 1 of 1

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, maecenas accusman lacus vel facilisis

coffee spice more option 1 1 of 1

STORY TITLE GOES HERE

the people option 3 1 of 1

STORY TITLE GOES HERE

Coorg Home Filters

portuguese-carrack-ships-14186

The Spice Route: How spices changed the world

1

Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight

DSC 0951b

THE UPSIDE-DOWN WORLD OF THE HANGING PARROT

10685477 803891233006240 6938362231288327194 n

The Virajpet Clock Tower

50F04A79-BB6B-4212-9678-F7C8BA4D5D59a

A Coorg Bride’s Trousseau

Greenish-Warbler

The World of Warblers

DSCF5447

What’s Cooking: A Day with the Chef

DSC 8539

Barbet Battleground

Img1642

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vazhachundum Thoran

Img1550

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Mezze Platter

Img1613

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Grilled Pork Ribs

Img1722

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pazham Puzhungiyathu

Img1601

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Peppercorn chocolate mousse

Img1583

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kabsah Laham Bis

Img1669

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vazhakanda Thoran

Img1767

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Banana Bajji

Img1732

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pazham pori

Img1692

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Joojeh – e – Koobideh
 

Img1474

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vegetable Kurma

Img1495

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Idiyappam

Img1780

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Appam

Img1521

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kadamputtu

Img1507

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pandi Curry

Img1548

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kerala Fish Curry
 

DSCN6057

Nalknad Palace – off the beaten track in Coorg

1 (2)

Mother Goddess Kaveri

Red-whiskered Bulbul

(Not) The Garden Variety Bulbul

3. Pandi Curry

Pandi Curry – the Emperor of Kodava Cuisine

GSC 5425

Under the veil of rain and darkness

 MG 0010

Kodava Brides – keepers of tradition

Coffee Museum

Designing the Sidapur Coffee and Culture Museum

JTR1 DSC 0095

Special Ingredients of Kodava Cuisine

The purple liquid

The Purple Elixir – Maddh Thopp

01

Chikka Veerarajendra of Coorg and his Thirteen Wives

DSC 2068

Kodava Cuisine – Festive Food of Coorg

2 Duotone Geometric patterns kadaga

Kodava Jewellery – Design Deconstructed

Bitter orange Wikimedia Commons

Kodava Cuisine – Seasonal Food of Coorg

IMG 5851

The Architecture of Ainmanes: Form follows Function

Kaimada

Kodava Ainmanes – the heart of the Kodava Clan

Lingarajendra shown engaged in hunting a drawing by Thippajappa of Shimoga

Shikar with Raja Lingarajendra

Wikipedia commonsWatercolor guest house of the Raja of Coorg by John Johnson

A Guest House for the British

Orange-County-Article-A-Photographers-Guide-to-Coorg-part-II-by-Prathap-Photography-001

A Photographer’s Guide to Coorg – 2

Orange-County-Article-A-Photographers-Guide-to-Coorg-by-Prathap-Photography-004 a

A Photographer’s Guide to Coorg

Malabar Gliding Frog evolveback 1

The Enchanted Woods!

312959-1345036410 sourced from web

Princess Victoria Gowramma of Coorg – 2

Veerarajendra Gowramma in London - 1852

Princess Victoria Gowramma of Coorg

Orange-County-Article-The-Mesmerizing-Monsoons-in-the-Magical-Coorg-by-Prathap-Photography-006

Of Clouds and Waterfalls

Orange-County-Article-The-Mesmerizing-Monsoons-in-the-Magical-Coorg-by-Prathap-Photography-002

The Mesmerizing Monsoon of Coorg