The Spice Trade’s Big BANG! A Time Line of How it All Got Started.

Scientists agree that our “species” of humans has been walking the earth for at least 100,000 years. And that civilization, as we know it, goes back at least 6 thousand years.

And, not so coincidentally, that’s just about the time of “The Big BANG!”

Of spices that is.

Before that big bang, trees were just trees, bushes just bushes, and no one had any clue, or interest, or knowledge, about just how valuable the bark, leaves, berries, flowers or roots of these plants really were.

Then, for whatever reason, BANG! Humans suddenly discovered their amazing virtues, and we’ve never looked back.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for that pepper to end up in your peppermill.

The spice trade has been part of life, and unfortunately, death.

It’s brought wealth to nations, and it has started wars.

To understand a little bit more about how we got from there to here, below is a snapshot of some of the more important and interesting sign posts along the spice trade path.

Important Dates and Events Along the Spicy Journey to Your Cupboard

When          Where                                          What


5000               Middle East               Evidence of spices being used. Among the first are cinnamon,                                                                     cassia, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric.

4000               Asia/Middle East      The “Silk Road” becomes the most important trade route in the                                                                     world, connecting Asia and the Mediterranean spice Meccas.

3000               Egypt                          Spices used for embalming. Frankincense and myrrh are popular.

Frankincense resin in olive scoop

2000               Arabia                         Monopoly of the spice trade for 2000+ years.

1750               Mesopotamia             Clay tablets found with recipes using garlic, cumin, and coriander.

1000               Palestine                    Use of spices in anointing oil and incenses.

Incense holder with burning charcoal, incense resin, and myrrh

992                 Arabia                         Queen of Sheba brings spices to King Solomon.

500                 Greece                       Importance of spices in diet as a medicine.

200                 China                          Cloves imported from the Spice Islands.


1st Century   Rome                          Extravagant use of spices and development of sea-trade with India,                                                              which lasted 3 centuries.

330                 Constantinople          Becomes a trading metropolis, Nutmeg and cloves brought to                                                                        Europe for the first time from Moluccan (Spice) Islands

500                 Arabia                        Controlled spice trade until the Middle Ages.

1100               Europe                       Crusades stimulated interest in spices.

1200               England                     Guild of Pepperers established; merged with the Spicers.

1250               Europe                       Spices regarded as aphrodisiacs.

1300               Italy                            Marco Polo’s book stimulates interest in Oriental spices.

1350               Europe                       Spices used as medicines & fumigants during The Black Death.

1350               Italy                           Venice and Genoa now begin to control the spice trade.

1400               England                     The Spicers’ Guild becomes the Grocer’s Company.

1450               Turkey                        Controls spices; forced other sea route discoveries.

1450               Spain                         Columbus finds spices in the Caribbean islands.

1500               Portugal                     Controls spice trade after Vasco da Gama sails to India.

1500               England                     It’s said that dockworkers now paid bonuses in cloves!

1500               Holland                      The Dutch and English East India Companies come on the scene                                                                and compete with Portugal for world spice trade dominance.

1521               Spain                          Magellan’s expedition circumnavigates the globe.

1525               Italy                            Venice’s spice wealth helps finance the Renaissance.

1550               England                     Drake circumnavigates globe; imports spices to England.

1600               Holland                      Gradually takes the Spice Islands from Portugal in an attempt to                                                                  monopolize spice trading.

1600               Spain                         Competes for spice trade.

1650               Holland                      Controls spice trade from East Indies.

1700               Ceylon                        Coffee trees planted; later, grown in Brazil.

1700                Europe                       Coffee, chocolate and tobacco favored over spices.

1750               Holland                      Destroys spices to try and create price increases.

1800               England                     Takes over the Spice Islands, briefly.

1800               America                     Pepper trade with East Indies makes millionaires in Salem, MA.

1850               Europe                       Spices decrease in significance a sugar becomes favored flavor.

1900               World                         Dietary fashions change; spices decrease in cost and importance.


Sources: UCLA History & Special Collections Library, CABI Digital Library (The Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture).


Of course, nowadays you don’t have to form an army, or live a privileged life to afford or have your choice of the huge variety of herbs and spices available to you at the Red Goose Spice Company.

You don’t even have to own a ship; we’ll ship them to you!

Simply pick up the phone and give us a call.

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