Nathaniel's Nutmeg Michael Burgin Book Lovers

book Nathaniel’s Nutmeg

reviewed by Michael Burgin

Published in Issue No. 42 ~ November, 2000

Giles Milton’s well-researched history provides an in-depth study of the battle between European nations – particularly the English and the Dutch – for access to and control of the East Indies spice trade. In reading Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, I only had two quibbles. First, the story being told is so complex (with prominent players and events occurring in numerous locations and times around the globe) that some sort of appendixed timeline would have been of immeasurable value. Second, around page 200, one realizes that what seemed a patient and scholarly build-up to the promised “True and Incredible Adventures” of Courthope is actually the principle story. The story of Courthope himself is comparatively brief and hampered by a lack of relevant documentation – there just isn’t much material extant. This said, such wispy quibbles matter little next to the solid and fascinating account of the myriad voyages and captains who strove to reach and establish a foothold in the Spice Islands. Milton’s documentation is meticulous, his extrapolations reasonable, and the reader leaves the tale with a new appreciation for how the course of nations can turn on the most insignificant pebble of geography. If you wonder how an isolated, chart-forgotten isle called Ran directly affects New York City, or if you just enjoy history well-told, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg won’t disappoint.

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Living in Nashville, TN, Michael Burgin edits for a monthly business magazine and annotates television scripts for syndication abroad. He likes writing bios in which he talks about himself in the third person.