This refers to the report, “Reviving an ancient trade route” (Nov. 23), where UNESCO has asked Kerala Tourism to get an inscription done by a team of experts to elicit the cooperation of the 31 countries involved to bring the ancient Spice Route back to life. The initiative is somewhat misplaced. First, Kerala was not the only State that was engaged in the spice trade. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat were very much in the picture, with the latter accounting for trade with West Asia through the Gulf. The important spice-producing and trading countries were Ceylon and Indonesia, with trading done by the Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, Malays, Persians and Africans. This underwent a sea change with the arrival of Vasco da Gama. As the objective was to gain monopoly over the spice trade, it was an era that saw the aggressive pursuit of self-interest, proselytisation and barbaric behaviour towards the vanquished. Like all forms of colonial exploitation, the producer got a pittance while the overseas trader made a killing. This is one shameful aspect of our history that deals with exploitation and subjugation. Perhaps, officials in Kerala and UNESCO should read John Keay’s book, The Spice Route: A History, published by John Murray, London.

R. Nagarajan,



Reviving an ancient trade routeNovember 23, 2013

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