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CompleteMartialArts.com - Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History
List Price: $15.00
Our Price: $6.99
Your Save: $ 8.01 ( 53% )
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Manufacturer: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 338.17383
Format: Bargain Price
Label: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Manufacturer: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 400
Publication Date: 2000-07-01
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)

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Editorial Reviews:

The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago--remote, tranquil, and now largely ignored. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, Run's harvest of nutmeg turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a fierce and bloody battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and a small band of ragtag British adventurers led by the intrepid Nathaniel Courthope. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland, but in return was given another small island, Manhattan.

A brilliant adventure story of unthinkable hardship and savagery, the navigation of uncharted waters, and the exploitation of new worlds, Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a remarkable chapter in the history of the colonial powers.

"An exciting account of the dangerous voyages, bizarre transactions and desperate battles of the Spice Wars."--The Washington Post

"Fascinating . . . an epic tale, told superbly . . . There is plenty of gore, chance, and piracy to the story."--The Wall Street Journal

"A rousing historical romp. . . a tale of courage, treachery, endurance, cowardice, greed and derring-do."--The New York Times Book Review


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: Atrocious editing--why the English lost the war w/ the colonies
Comment: I give the author 2 stars for taking on an interesting topic and having done exhaustive research in a difficult area (very few documented narratives, and many of those destroyed at sea or over time). After getting through half the book, I skipped to the later parts and put it away. It is a linear timeline of voyages by English entrepeneurs to get a piece of the spice trade that was dominated by the Dutch and Portuguese. Each voyage begins with a brief introduction of what was known about the captain, ship and crew, then describes what went wrong during the voyage (and usually things went very wrong). There is a quaint quote from someone's journal along the lines of "nearley the entyre crewe dyed frome the bloody fluxe". The book's title character doesn't get introduced until around page 200 (out of 375 pages) and doesn't dominate the narrative until p. 240.

I think there was a good book in this material, but apparently Mr. Milton's editor couldn't get up the nerve to ask for a re-write. There isn't really much of a theme here, except to reiterate how lucrative the spice trade was at the time. From what I can tell, the author's intent is to give example after example of British pluck, moving forward against daunting odds and all that. That's why the English lost the war with the colonies (among other reasons), and why I'm so disappointed with this book.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: A Connecticut Nutmegger
Comment: I call it 'Connecticut Nutmegger' because like the nutmeggers, who were peddlers from Connecticut who would sell small carved nobs of wood shaped to look like nutmeg to unsuspecting customers, Milton tries to sell us his book as a special look at an interesting piece of 'history.'

Here is a story that should be fascinating. (One of my favorite books is "Salt: A World History"). Milton's inept handling of the writing makes it a long and boring read. It seems to be one sea voyage following another. Milton likes to end every paragraph with quotations from the original reference, in the difficult language and grammatical construction of the time; complete with the strange spelling. This slows the reading down considerably. It took me several tries to understand that by 'Pooloway' and 'Poolaroone' he was talking about Pulau (Indonesian for Island) Ai and Pulau Run.

While we don't learn anything about how native populations responded to the European conquerers or what the natives thought of them, we do get a true feeling for the evil and sadism of these colonists, both British and Dutch.

Why the book is called "Nathaniel's Nutmeg" is a bit of a mystery, except that a British factor spent several years on Run Island fighting the Dutch. He seemed to have very little to do with the discovery, cultivation, or promotion of the spice, but Milton chooses him as the hero of this story. We don't even meet Nathaniel Courthope until half way through the book and he is a rather pitiful hero, who admittedly steals from his own company. It is true hyperbole to try to convince the reader that Nathaniel is a 'spice trader who changed the course of history."

All in all, with good editing this book could have been written in 200 pages. It is a hodge podge of information about European sea voyages to the South Pacific looking for spices and why economically they mattered so much. Milton covers the venality of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) and British East India Company extremely well. But he never proves his case that Courthope was someone who changed the course of history.

Still with all this fascinating data at hand, Milton forces the reader to suffer through his poor writing style. A style, which detracts from the immensely interesting story of the 17th century spice trade.

I have added an extra star to my review; because, had I not read this book, I would never have known of the little island of Run.



Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Enlightening, gripping
Comment: An energized look into the harrowing spice race of the seventeenth century.
Spices were a valuable commodity during this time period, especially nutmeg which was allegedly the panacea for the plague and other medical ailments. Nutmeg grew only on one tropical island and it was called Run.

The author diligently takes the reader through the cut-throat competition between the English and Dutch for possession of not only Run but also other Spice Islands. Some chapters are very descriptive of torture and mistreatments of prisoners and may not be for the squeamish. Nonetheless, the rivalry between these two countries is taut, fierce and intricately detailed.

I, like a few reviewers, fail to make the connection between the author's leading character Nathaniel Courthope and the ultimate land exchange fifty years later of Manhattan for Run Island. Maybe it is a declaration of Courthope's courage and determination to quell Dutch uprisings for four years which eventually led to the land swap five decades later (?)
A good read, and above all a most informative study of these contested times.


Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Full of information!
Comment: It's a short book jam packed with characters and voyages. I have to say though that I could have used a time line in the begining to help me keep things straight. Reading this book takes focus (not the kind of thing you can read when you're tired or watching TV at the same time) but I enjoyed learning so much about the spice trade!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Making History Appreciated Again
Comment: I am not into history books and I find many are filled with lousy presentation of facts - making it a very dry read. It is not the case here. Milton had successfully made reading history fun and helps you grow an appreciation for the things and people around you and beyond. This book will make you laugh, cry, and cetainly, appreciate the spices in your kitchen :)



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