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Nathaniel's Nutmeg


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The extraordinary adventure-filled story of how England came to own Manhattan in the seventeenth century

Promotional Information

The extraordinary adventure-filled story of how England came to own Manhattan in the seventeenth century

About the Author

Giles Milton is a writer and journalist. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications and specialises in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East.


The rocky islet of Run, two miles long and half a mile wide, lies amidst the Banda Islands in the remote Pacific. In the 17th century it was distinguished by the precious nutmeg tree that grew there in wild profusion "so that the whole countrey seemes a contrived orchard." In 1616, the Englishman Nathaniel Courthope took possession of the island for the East India Company, holding it for three years against vastly superior Dutch forces. In 1620, Courthope was ambushed on an expedition to a neighboring island; fatally wounded, he threw himself over the side of his boat. In the 1660s, the English gained possession of Run one last time, but the nutmeg groves were gone, uprooted by the Dutch. In one of history's ironies, England finally ceded ownership of Run to the Dutch in exchange for another Dutch island: Manhattan. Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a pleasant historical trifle, but Milton (The Riddle and the Knight, Allison & Busby, 1998) needs, and lacks, a focal event or figure. Not a necessary purchase.ÄDavid Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

'A magnificent piece of popular history...This is a book to read, reread, then read again to your children.' -- Nicholas Fearn, Independent on Sunday 'Beautifully touching...To write a book that makes the reader, after finishing it, sit in a trance, lost in his passionate desire to pack a suitcase and go, somehow, to the fabulous place - that, in the end, is something one would give a sack of nutmeg for.' -- Philip Hensher, Spectator 'Giles Milton tells his adventurous and sometimes grisly tale with relish...The thoroughness and intelligence of his research underpins the lively confidence with which he deploys it.' -- John Spurling, Times Literary Supplement 'Milton has created a truly gripping tale of jingoistic pride, atrocious cruelty, avarice and double-dealing!His research is impeccable and his narrative reads in part like a modern-day Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Once embarked upon the journey of the book, one is loath, sometimes unable -- as were the characters within it -- to turn back and abandon it.' -- Martin Booth, Sunday Times

Exotic spices such as nutmeg, mace and cloves were treasured in the kitchens and pharmacopoeias of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Nutmeg was even believed to be an effective remedy against plague. Small wonder, then, that traders of the time ventured to the ends of the earth to secure it. With high drama and gracefully integrated research, Milton (The Riddle and the Knight) chronicles this "Spice Race," profiling the leading participants and recording the ruthless violence with which this very real trade war was conducted. The maritime powers of Europe sent companies of adventurers to the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia), each nation intent on establishing a monopoly and reaping the stupefying profits that the spice trade could produce. The book concentrates on the competition between the Dutch and English East India Companies to control the spice trade nearly 400 years ago. In 1616, Nathaniel Courthope led an English expedition to occupy the Spice Island of Run, a few square miles of land thickly forested with nutmeg trees. As Milton explains, Courthope's assertion of English ownership of Run Island was rejected by the Dutch, who besieged the island for four years before ousting the English (and killing Courthope). However, Courthope's apparent failure led to an unexpected benefit for his country when, in 1667, a treaty confirmed Holland's seizure of Run but, in exchange, validated England's seizure of another piece of land on the opposite side of the worldÄthe island of Manhattan. Sprinkled with useful maps and illustrations, Milton's book tells an absorbing story of perilous voyages, greed and political machinations in the Age of Exploration. (May)

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