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The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade Hardcover – February, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The spice trade of Southeast Asia was hotly contested among European powers between the 16th and 19th centuries and was at the heart of the early colonization competition among them. Centering first on the cloves, nutmeg, and mace of the Moluccas, it rapidly expanded to other spices grown throughout the region. Corn, an American travel writer, has assembled a remarkably seamless narrative of the trade, stringing together Portuguese, Dutch, British, and, finally, American efforts. Especially well done is the final section describing the pepper trade that flourished briefly between the island of Sumatra and Salem, Massachusetts. Much is published about our trade problems with Asia today; this book provides some needed historical perspective to show that it was never an easy matter. The result will appeal to both history buffs and armchair travelers, and Corn's "notes and sources" will please area specialists.?Harold Otness, Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For those for whom the Spice Islands conjure romantic visions of South Seas paradise, intrigue, and piracy, this book will not be a letdown. Covering the age of exploration, it is an informal history of the European invasion and the islanders' futile resistance, ending with the U.S. presence in the islands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Corn (Distant Islands: Travels across Indonesia, 1991) takes the reader from the founding of Malacca by Sumatran refugees right through the successive waves of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English invasions (the first English colony in the world, on the tiny island of Pulau Run, gave them a presence in the area, which they relinquished in 1667 at the Peace of Breda in exchange for Manhattan). Corn details the roles of such figures as Magellan, Francis Xavier, the infamous Jan Pieterszoon Coen, and Francis Drake. But this book is more than a chronicle of voyages and invasions as Corn endeavors to show how the spice trade was the catalyst of the expanding world economy, the bridge between feudalism and capitalism. Frank Caso
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha America (February 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568362021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568362021
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,862,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Great history. Too many errors. On page xxi,Corn writes "rose in value one hundred percent each time they changed hands-----they changed hands hundreds of times". Impossible! He probably means,'increased in value hundreds of times'.Even if you start with one penny per pound and increased it 100% just 30 times,you would have ONE BILLION PENNIES! Also 3 different dates relating to same incident. Page 134,line 11,states 1608 Page 135,line1 ,states 1609 Page 137,4th line from bottom,states 1509. This should not be multiple choice. Corn writes about building a fort "on the other side of the river",what river? These and other shortcomings interrupted the normal flow of reading. Otherwise,quite informative and exciting story.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't like this book. In fact, it was so annoying that I didn't finish it. The writing is at times ridiculously fancy - e.g., "as exotic as the plumage of a bird of paradise." YUK! The documentation is worthless. For example, in the preface the author claims that Europeans didn't know how to transplant trees and plants until the late 18th Century. I found this claim hard to believe and tried to look up the reference in the bibliography. When I got to the bibliography it was just a couple of pages of notes for the entire book. None of the references corresponded to pages in the text, not even to chapters, but rather only to Parts I, II & III. In the bibliography the author says things like, "So and so's book is very informative on 17th Century English commerce." That just won't do - even for popular history. The sloppy documentation just made the many distracting bursts of baroque verbiage unbearable. I made it through the first 100 pages, then couldn't stand it any longer. In sum, I feel for this author. A good editor could have corrected many of these problems before the book went into print.
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Format: Hardcover
In "The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade," Charles Corn weaves a compelling story of adventure, betrayal and greed which shaped global economies, and drove the discovery of nations. He breathes life into historical figures, describing how they overcame tremendous odds but also succumbed to common human failings. All the while, the reader inhales deeply of the heady descriptions of clove, mace and nutmeg.

In this book, spice, once relegated to infrequent and uninspired use in American cooking, is imbued with the passion and intrigue that propelled the early explorers. As Americans take interest in the Far East, they have been re-discovering the flavors indigenous to that area of the world. Restaurants that serve Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Malaysian cuisine have been proliferating. With Indonesia so often in the news these days, Corn's book gives the current state of affairs and interest in the Far East a tumultuous historic backdrop. This is the story behind the intriguing aromas that drove the development of the global economy.

I agree with other reviewers here, it could have used one more edit. But overall, a fascinating read. I was transported.
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Format: Hardcover
After years f living in Indonesia, this book remains our favorite on the history of this archipelago. Disappointing that it was not reprinted.
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By A Customer on September 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating subject made even more so by the author's skillful writing. I was totally drawn into the book and recommend it to anyone interested in the history of this area ... or man's early obsession with spices.
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