Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton

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I don’t often review non-fiction books for you guys here, so I thought it was a good time to share this one with you. It’s called Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, which is a bit of a misnomer, as the Nathaniel in question, although quite heroic, is not the main focus of the book.

The book is about the European spice trade, and how the need for Nutmeg and Mace led Holland and England to the brink of war with each other over some tiny islands where these products grew. It led to a great many deaths, massacres, torture, piracy and great wealth, great ruin, as well as the creation of the very well known East India Company. And most interestingly, the fight for the island of Run, with it’s wealth of Nutmeg, led to the British obtaining what would become New York.

The 1500 – 1600’s do not always make for easy reading, and there’s a few gruesome depictions here of colonial arrogance, violence and ignorance, as well as torture, but it’s a fascinating look at the time period and the intricate history of the region and the spice trade, as well as the lives of people who ventured out in ships to discover the world. It’s written in such a way that although it’s non-fiction and full of facts, it’s never dry and moves quite quickly.

The title refers to the last stand of Nathaniel Courthope, a young man who waited and held the isle of Run from the Hollanders on the neighboring islands, and withstood them against remarkable odds before being betrayed and coming to a sad end. It takes up only one chapter of the book, but it’s a remarkable story of bravery all the same.

Read It If: you like historical books, particularly about explorers, and discovering the New World, it’s fascinating and sometimes shocking reading.



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