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Pepper: A History of the World's Most Influential Spice
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Pepper: A History of the World's Most Influential Spice

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  112 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Filled with anecdotes and fascinating information, "a spicy read indeed." (Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World)

The perfect companion to Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, Pepper illuminates the rich history of pepper for a popular audience. Vivid and entertaining, it describes the part pepper played in b
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Matthew Daniels
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The first 30-40% percent of this book was eminently enjoyable. The remainder, however, dragged unpleasantly on. Though each paragraph was well-written, I had difficulty finding a cohesive thesis to bind the work together; each page seemed to be a self-contained historical accounting, sorted thematically and chronologically by the book's chapter structure, but without causal relation to its neighboring passages. As a result, making progress became a chore of enduring yet another story about some ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it
One of the many food related books my uncle gave me....
War is bad.
History books glamorize colonization - there is nothing glamorous about it.
I learned more about the history of pepper than I ever expected. And I enjoyed learning it.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Among my Christmas gifts, were a couple of books I received from my brother and sister-in-law here in Winnipeg. Both of these were books of food history. I’ve just finished the first of these, called Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice. In it, author Marjorie Schaffer details the history of pepper and in particular it’s influence in the development of European colonial history, and modern global trade, The book also opens and closes by looking at pepper’s medicinal qualities. ...more
An okay book. But it dragged in parts and it could have been a lot better. It was quite detailed around the trade of pepper. And it did have one interesting chapter on current medicinal exploration. But I would have liked to have seen a more detailed analysis of the plant itself. And a discussion of the varieties of pepper sold today and the differences. And more pictures of pepper. And more discussion of the manufacturing process.
Michael Blackmore
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, herbalism
I was torn between 2 and 3 stars personally. Not a bad book, in fact in some ways a fairly interesting book if you weren't familiar with the subject already.

Despite the title most of the book is not so much about the history of Pepper but more about Europe colonialism and the spice trade. All interesting stuff but material I was pretty familiar with having done a lot of undergraduate/graduate work in East Asian and Latin American history.

Most of the sections weren't so much specific to pepper
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Whew. Learned a lot. This was very heavy on the history of the trade of pepper. Not so much the pepper plant itself. And I could have done without the bits of torture. Gah! A bit dry at times but worthy of the time spent reading it.
Not the best book, for me anyhow. I realize it's called "A History" for a reason, but to me there was actually too much history. The sea voyages from the Dutch East India Company/VOC, English East India Company. Portuguese ships, Chinese ships, American ships, etc. to India and Sumatra all ran together to me. I would have preferred a little or even a lot more science. Like, what is pepper? How is it grown? How is it cultivated? How is it harvested? How is it packed for shipment? (I realize that ...more
Zohar -
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice by Marjorie Shaffer is a non-fiction book tracing history through the trade of black pepper. Ms. Shaffer is a business reporter and science writer.

This is an interesting book about this culinary delight. The book journeys through the ages and the competition between the Dutch, English and Portuguese merchants. A nod towards the end of the book to 19th Century American pepper traders ties up the history nicely.

The most interesting part of th

I got through page 185. The most common types of pepper come from the species Piper nigrum, a vine which is native to southern India and was spread to southeast Asia by Moslem merchants by about 1400. Sumatra was an important source during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Romans were partial to Indian long pepper, Piper longrum and betel nut, whose leaves are chewed, is also a member of the pepper genus (Piper betle.)

Obtaining pepper was one of the most important reasons for Europ

Alexandra Sundarsingh
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Highly readable, this history of pepper explores the perverse effects of its popularity as curative and commodity from early modern history to the present day. Shaffer is blunt about the ways that European mercantilism meant the death of cultures and societies that grew pepper, and about the translation of the violence over pepper into the modern day relations between nations that grow and nations that buy (albeit analysis on this modern set-up is less plentiful than the history of those places) ...more
Jun 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Very informative. I gave this book a bit lower rating than Salt by Mark Kurlansky, because I felt the author didn't stay as focused on the topic as I might have liked. There was an awful lot of military history in there, and while that was certainly a huge part of the history of pepper, I didn't want to read about quite this many battles. On the other hand, I might have a more negative view of the book simply because pepper's history of colonialism is simply horrifying.
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars. Really interesting premise and as the author notes, the academic research on pepper has not previously been popularised (at least I haven't seen any other easily accessible book about it). I was very interested in all the colour plates in the middle describing the different relatives of pepper.

However, I have returned it to the library without finishing it as I felt it was getting repetitive.
This book is really more about the history of the early pepper trade/trading route around Sumatra, as well as the Spice Islands, involving the East India Trading Company and the Dutch India Trading Company. I was hoping there would be more history on pepper, its usage throughout time, and uses today, but it really was more on how the trading of pepper influenced history. There was one great chapter on the current medicinal uses of pepper.

It was very interesting but not what I expected.
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
The narrative of the pepper trade seemed to drag without making the connections to modern day that I was looking for. The last third of the book was mare interesting to me. The description of the possible medicinal properties of pepper at the end of the book was interesting but seemed to bed added on as an after thought.
Tommy Buttaccio
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Currently reading this... The author can make some broad over generalizations on some of the info in this book and kind of insists upon itself. But, it has some interesting facts on spices. on page 70/250
Mar 03, 2014 added it
Shelves: 2014
Packed with info on black pepper, mostly a historical perspective about the pepper trade and the Dutch and English East India trading companies. Interesting enough if you're after a history of trade in the Spice Islands with a focus on pepper.
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Pepper is probably my favorite spice, but I knew little of the history and the violence behind it. This was a fascinating book with larger-than-life characters and an exciting story. Marjorie Shaffer's history reads much like a sprawling novel. Try it; you'll like it
Rod Meyer
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I was actually reading this book to help my son with a book report. The book starts strong and is very interesting but then begins to read too much like a history book and gets a little dry and boring. It finishes up strong with some of the current and future possible uses of pepper.
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Surprising story of our now common spice. Who knew its history was so filled with adventure? Nice illustrations.
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
The facts are there, they're just not organized very well. It's as if it were written by a teenager with undiagnosed ADHD.
Dec 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Heavy on information (much of it repetitive), light on story
Cheryl Williams
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have newfound respect for pepper and what a crazy history it endured to make it onto my plate!
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Everything you always wanted to know about pepper and then some.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Unfortunately this history begins only when the europeans are part of it.
David Szatkowski
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about the the spice pepper. The way this single spice influenced geo-political history is incredible.
rated it really liked it
Jan 29, 2017
rated it liked it
Jun 19, 2015
Vianney Trujillo
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Jul 24, 2015
don peterson
rated it really liked it
Apr 08, 2018
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Oct 29, 2015
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