The Medieval Spice Trade

Paul Freedman

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Medieval Spice Trade


Europe's insatiable demand for spices in the late Middle Ages (1200-1500 AD) is a remarkable example of dramatic historic change triggered by consumer preference. The spice trade is important to the history of food not only because of the trade routes and speculation about how to expand them, but also because of the reasons for the heavy demand in the first place. Tropical spices are not an essential ingredient of modern European cuisine. This article documents the spice trade during the medieval period. It first considers the ubiquity of spices in medieval gastronomy and medieval pharmacology. It then turns to the health benefits of spices to medieval food, the origins and imagined origins of spices, spice trade routes, and prices of spices.

Keywords: spices; spice trade; Middle Ages; cuisine; gastronomy; pharmacology; trade routes; medieval food; prices; health benefits

Article.  8170 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »