When Penang became a Spice Island

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The nutmeg fruit.

The lucrative spice trade that led to huge investments of men and money by merchants based in cities along the Atlantic coast of Europe in the 16th and 17th century laid the foundation for the political partitioning in our times of territories in South, South-East and East Asia. Once Portuguese sailors, followed closely by the Spanish, had broken free of the Ottoman and Muslim containment of Europe in the late 15th century, a new world of opportunities and resources opened up to them. Fortunes beckoned to be made for those who dared venture across the endless oceans on rickety ships sailing at the mercy of seasonal winds.


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