15 Jul 2011

The coming of the Europeans

The coming of the Europeans

The wealth of the islands of Indonesia – the East Indies – was well known to Europeans from Greek and Roman times onwards, both by reputation and by such indirect trade as took place via the Middle East. It was, indeed, the riches of the ‘Spice Islands’ (Maluku, or the Moluccas) that drew the Portuguese and Spanish, sailing in different directions around the world, to the archipelago in the first place. The spices of the region were then, in the 16th and 17th centuries, integral both to European cuisine and to European medicine, and commanded very high prices.

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