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Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination Paperback – March 3, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Freedman shows that spices are central to understanding the Middle Ages—they motivated the whole trading system of the Mediterranean world.”—Christopher Dyer, University of Leicester
(Christopher Dyer)

“This is a magical book. With scintillating learning and imagination, Paul Freedman has conjured up a medieval Europe shot through with the magic of strong tastes and smells. He has uncovered a craving—a craving for spices which would eventually drive Europeans to the edges of the world in their pursuit. Freedman has done more than uncover the taste buds of a forgotten Europe. He has rewritten a fateful chapter in the history of the world.”—Peter Brown, Princeton University
(Peter Brown)

“Like the spices—flavors, perfumes, and medicinals—so urgently sought by medieval populations, Out of the East is a consummate delight. I loved Freedman’s droll account of the debate over the precise geographical location of paradise (off the Atlantic? Northeast of India?), and of the tireless travelers who helped bring the spices of the East to European tables. At last, the voyages of Columbus make perfect sense. Spices!”—Marion Nestle, New York University
 
(Marion Nestle)

“Paul Freedman combines his formidable scholarship with story-telling skills to offer a unique history of spice. He has taken our ancient fascination with spice as offering the taste of paradise, and as an elixir of life to paint a rich canvas of life in medieval Europe, dispelling in the process many commonly held myths. Out of the East is a riveting story of many adventures launched in the quest of spice and how it shaped European social life. Freedman serves history as a delectable banquet.”—Nayan Chanda, author of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization
(Nayan Chanda)

"[An] absorbing new history, in which [Freedman] uses food to get and keep our attention."—Corby Kummer, Yale Alumni Magazine
(Corby Kummer, Yale Alumni Magazine 2008-03-01)

"Written in an approachable style with intriguing images and inset quotes from primary sources, this scholarly work will also appeal to general readers. . . . Recommended."—Choice
(Choice 2009-03-01)

"Meticulously researched but wearing its erudition lightly."--Sharon Kinoshita, Speculum--A Journal of Medieval Studies
(Sharon Kinoshita Speculum - A Journal of Medieval Studies) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Paul Freedman is Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, Yale University. His previous books include Images of the Medieval Peasant, The Origins of Peasant Servitude in Medieval Catalonia, and Food: The History of Taste.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2.1.2009 edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151350
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Professor Freedman examines Medieval Europe and its metamorphosis into Modern Europe from the perspective of spices...as condiments, as medicine, as perfumes, and as stimulants to world exploration. This fascinating book provides some novel historical perspectives - Genghis Khan as a facilitator of European travel to East Asia, for example. Its description of medieval cuisine will surprise most readers by how very unfamiliar medieval taste would be to contemporary Europeans. This is a very enjoyable read. I recommend it highly.
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By P. Stern on October 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a learned book, and a pleasure to read. Freedman succeeds admirably in describing and explaining Medieval Europe's passion for spices. But the most interesting part of the book is his analysis of Europe's voyages all over the world to obtain spices for domestic consumption. It's an ambitious project, and he pulls it off in a style that is lucid and also fun.

I also very much enjoyed another book on food that Freedman recently edited, "Food: The History of Taste" (University of California Press, 2007). The essays in the book are consistently insightful and entertaining. Here's to more academic work on the history of food!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book with all the background you could ever need about the Spice Trade. Really great overview of how it shaped our modern world. I learned a lot that I don't think I would have come across had I not read this book. There are some very cool spice-laden recipes from the Middle Ages in the pages that I would love to try. It's interesting to see how they progress from being very heavily spice-laden to more light on the spices as we get closer to modern times.

There's a lot of links between different historical events and the spice trade in this book that really open your eyes to how things in history are interconnected. For that I'll recommend this to any novice historian that wants to get a good idea of how history is shaped by a web of events and not a straight line. The only issue is that is drags a bit in places, but it doesn't happen often.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best cross-over books (appealing to both academic and lay audiences) that I've ever read. It unobtrusively explodes many myths about the "unsophisticated" Middle Ages while providing a well informed picture of medieval food and economic practices. It is a genuine pleasure to read. Freedman is an engaging writer who never wastes his reader's time (no academic jargon here). A wonderful book.

A little quibble: Why is his name listed as "Professor Paul Freedman"? Yes, he is a professor, but so are many authors, and that professional fact does not usually get registered as part of an author's name; this makes it sound like his first name is "Professor."
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