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The Secret Financial Life of FoodFrom Commodities Markets to Supermarkets$
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Kara Newman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156714

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156714.001.0001

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The Spice Route

The Spice Route

(p.17) Chapter Two The Spice Route
The Secret Financial Life of Food

Kara Newman

Columbia University Press

This chapter traces the history of spices and how they have been linked with currency and commerce. Spices, specifically peppercorns, were traded for several decades in the United States commodities markets and continue to trade actively in India today. Without spices, there might not be a financial marketplace in the United States because the pursuit of pungent spices led to the “discovery” of America. The real value of spices in Roman times lies in prestige. Exotic fragrances and flavors announced themselves as luxuries and advertised a consumer's extravagance. Commodity exchanges as we know them today have their roots in this time period. The fairs and marketplaces that sprang up in the Middle Ages were the descendants of the Greek markets and the markets of Rome, which specialized in distributing specific commodities (spices included). Spices were still highly valued during the Middle Ages—long after the fall of the Roman Empire. This chapter also looks at the history of black pepper futures markets and provides an overview of India's spice markets.

Keywords:   spices, commodities market, India, commodity exchange, Middle Ages, commodities, Roman Empire, black pepper, futures market, United States

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