The Role of Spices on the Expansion of Europe Essay

The Role of Spices on the Expansion of Europe Essay

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Within the development of Europe, one would think that religion and politics played the key roles in shaping the regions, in which they did, but many individuals don’t realize the true impact of the role spices played in the evolution of the economy and expansion of Europe. Food alone represented a vast field of human experience and shaped peoples’ beliefs and values, aesthetics and most importantly their social attitudes toward one another. Spices contributed to these attitudes, providing a potential window for the individual to change their understanding of the political and social life of certain cultures and nations. The main question that the author, Paul Freedman poses within the text is, why did the Europeans and the Romans before them, maintain such a high demand for spices for almost a millennium?
The first few chapters are devoted to the culinary side of the spices, particularly regarding the specific seasonings: pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and most importantly saffron. Spices were a common good used within households, being used in large amounts not just within food but even drinks; as Freedman put it, “thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, spices appear in 75 percent of the recipes.” . The types of spices used varied with each region; the English preferring cubeb while the French opted for long pepper. The cuisines of both regions in accordance to the wealthier classes both “represented the triumph of virtuosity over simplicity”. The primary sources researched by Freedman were immense, mainly from originating from cookbooks of that era efficiently providing a better understanding of the prominence of spices within dishes and the differing styles.
Although spices were very common, the amount consumed var...


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...ition of spices into the market during the Middle Ages not only created an economic boom but also led to the change in social, political, and religious outlooks of society. The vast importance of the spice trade opened the doors for nations to expand and create new relationships with neighboring regions, but most importantly it allowed individuals such as Columbus, Da Gama, Polo and other explorers to be able to discover new domains that eventually led to the colonization of the Americas today. Paul Freedman’s book does an excellent job in enlightening the reader of how meaningful spices were throughout the centuries and with the help of numerous primary sources, the message was clear just after reading the first chapter. The book allows us to have a better understanding of the fundamental importance spices played in shifting the medieval times into the modern era.

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