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The story Burnet tells of the Spice Islands is both romantic and exotic ... All Australians should know about the Spice Islands - they are our neighbours and their history is the history of European exploration in our region.
— Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age
This book is highly recommended and should be a welcomed acquisition on bookshelves of public and private libraries. One would be tempted to say buy this book for its excellent prose of a fascinating story, to appreciate a suite of colourful historical
maps and other images and to appreciate and enjoy the aroma of cloves wafting through its pages. Experience the addiction!
— Viv Forbes, The Globe


Cloves and nutmeg are indigenous to the Spice Islands of Eastern Indonesia, this book tells of the many uses of these exotic spices and the history of their trade over a period of more than 2000 years. It follows the Silk Road across Central Asia and the Spice Route over the Indian Ocean and describes how the spice trade came to be dominated by Middle Eastern and Venetian merchants.

Backed by the Crowns of Portugal and Spain, explorers such as Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Magellan dreamed of capturing the this trade by sailing directly to the Spice Islands, driving the maritime exploration of the world known as ‘The Age of Discovery’. Much of the story is told through the lives of these historical characters, as well as Sir Francis Drake, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Pierre Poivre and others who are lesser known but equally important.

The story also revolves around the intense rivalry between the Sultans of Ternate and Tidore and their relationship with the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English, who at different times occupied the Spice Islands.

The book follows the growth of the Dutch and English East India Companies, the world’s first joint stock and multinational companies, which were founded to profit from the spice trade and their efforts to monopolize that trade. It finishes as the Dutch East India Company goes into bankruptcy and the once splendid Sultanates sink into obscurity.

Spice Islands by Ian Burnet is a well-researched and entertaining history of the Maluku Islands and Banda Islands in Indonesia which for many centuries were the world’s only sources of cloves and nutmeg.
The spice trade is ancient; archeologists in Syria have unearthed cloves that have been dated to around 1721BC, almost 4000 years ago! Ian’s research into the spice trade routes that existed from ancient times, transporting goods halfway around the world, is fascinating. After travelling the Silk Road, Ian moves on to the era of the explorers from different nations and their attempts to open up the lucrative trade routes by sea.
The political and power struggles that surrounded the highly profitable trade are covered richly, including the ruthlessness of the Dutch East India Company who, to keep their monopoly, imposed a death penalty on anyone smuggling seedlings out of the Spice Islands.
Spice Islands is beautifully illustrated, filled with gorgeous pictures from botanical illustrations, to portraits and pictures evoking the age of sail. And if you are a fan of old cartography, you will definitely love this book.

— Melanie Ryan, Limelight Book Reviews
If you were to be questioned about what Zheng He, Christopher Columbus, Vasco Da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Francis Drake had in common, you might first answer that they were all extraordinary sailors of their time, who explored the world beyond what their own historians and geographers told them was possible. But there is a closer, more intriguing answer that ties them all together.
Throw in Marco Polo, The Dutch, English and French East India Companies and numerous Portuguese, Spanish, Venetian, Arabian and other sailors and traders and what melds the lot is the story of cloves and nutmeg and their unique origin and habitat of the Spice Islands. It is the story of how these noble spices came to the world to become more valuable than precious metals and gemstones that Ian Burnet sets out to relate in his 2011 published Spice Islands.

.... Ian Burnet has captured its romance in his very readable and interesting book, Spice Islands
— Paul Talbot, AFLOAT Magazine
What Ian Burnet’s concise tasty history contributes to this literature is to make an epic tale digestible. He garnishes it with colourful illustrations and charts from all the ages, adding a sprinkle of quotes from key players and observers. He stirs in a personalised treatment of the figures who created the globalized world that we have inherited – among them Marco Polo, Zheng He, Columbus and da Gama, d’Alberquerque and Magellan, Drake, Houtman and the cruel, cold Jan Pieterszoon Coen. And importantly, he relates the Indonesian side of the story as we meet sultans and regents and princes whose names are far less familiar even though it was their islands, their livelihoods and lives - and, frequently, their spilled blood - that are at the centre of the tale.
Here’s a book to read this summer for a vicarious vacation to those elusive and legendary isles of spice.
— Jeffrey Mellenfont, Signals Magazine, Australian Maritime Museum
This is an excellent book. My thanks to the author for providing so much information in such a clear and interesting way. This book provides an overview of maritime history as well as dealing with the Silk Road and of course spices! So much information that is hard to come by, in such a clear and interesting format.
— Luke Trollope, posted on Amazon