Cover image for Nathaniel's nutmeg, or, The true and incredible adventures of the spice trader who changed the course of history
Nathaniel's nutmeg, or, The true and incredible adventures of the spice trader who changed the course of history
Milton, Giles, 1966-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 388 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
General Note:
"First published in Great Britain in 1999 by Hodder & Stoughton"--T.p. verso.
Reading Level:
1400 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 12 23 Quiz: 22643 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD9211.N883 I55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A true tale of high adventure in the South Seas. The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored. Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg (a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England) turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland but in return was given Manhattan. This led not only to the birth of New York but also to the beginning of the British Empire. Such a deal was due to the persistence of one man. Nathaniel Courthope and his small band of adventurers were sent to Run in October 1616, and for four years held off the massive Dutch navy. Nathaniel's Nutmeg centers on the remarkable showdown between Courthope and the Dutch Governor General Jan Coen, and the brutal fate of the mariners racing to Run-and the other corners of the globe-to reap the huge profits of the spice trade. Written with the flair of a historical sea novel but based on rigorous research, Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a brilliant adventure story by a writer who has been hailed as the "new Bruce Chatwin" (Mail on Sunday).

Author Notes

Giles Milton is the author, most recently, of the critically acclaimed Nathaniel's Nutmeg (FSG, 1999). He lives in London.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Milton takes an aspect of life in the past and with great skill and irony shows how it has affected the world we live in today. In the Elizabethan era, nutmeg was a commodity literally worth more than its weight in gold. Then such spices as nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and cinnamon were used not only for flavoring but as preservatives and cures for ailments as diverse as the plague and flatulence. Spices came from faraway places with tightly controlled access; so finding the routes and acquiring the rights to trade is what drove the age of exploration. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the British, and the Dutch all vied for territory. Milton writes of the explorers who searched for shortcuts--some seeking Arctic passages, some sailing west to go east; some earnest and brave, some cruel and misguided. The hero of this story is Nathaniel Courthope, a British captain who held the tiny island of Run, a major producer of nutmeg, against the Dutch for several years, until he was "cruelly murdered." The events of the Dutch capture of Run lead, through several steps of course, to the British having the diplomatic leverage to take control of another island in the possession of the Dutch, that of New Amsterdam, known today as Manhattan. And the rest, as they say, is history. As exciting as any adventure novel, well researched and well written, this book is a pleasure to read. --Danise Hoover

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. v
List of Illustrations and Mapsp. x
Prologuep. 1
1 Arctic Whirlwindsp. 9
2 Wonderfully Unwholesome Climesp. 41
3 Music and Dancing Damselsp. 66
4 In the Paws of the Lionp. 97
5 'Admiral, We Are Betrayed!'p. 134
6 A Rebel at Seap. 162
7 The Cannibals' Countryp. 190
8 The Banner of Saint Georgep. 219
9 Conflict between Gentlemenp. 245
10 Raising the Blood-Flagp. 271
11 Trial by Fire and Waterp. 309
12 Striking a Dealp. 343
13 Epiloguep. 366
Bibliographyp. 375
Indexp. 379