The War of Spice

The War of Spice

Spices have been used since ancient times, used to flavour meals when cooking, used to trade, and used for health, and were considered of extremely higher value for a long period of time which led to wars over different spices and its trade. Starting in the year 1602 a war began between the Dutch and Portuguese. 

This war was the Dutch-Portuguese war but was nicknamed the spice war. The reason for its nickname was because the war was held over the Dutch trading companies, the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, which were expanding into portuguese territory, attempting to expand their trading areas into Portuguese units. The companies had lost their main trading partner to the joining of Portugal and Spain. That had lost them their partner and had interfered with their spice trade as, at the time, that was their main economic activity.

The Portuguese had an economic monopoly. The Dutch and the Portuguese were fighting for trading routes. There was success on each side for a short period of time in the war. The Dutch were slowly taking more land, the territory being from the Portuguese and their trading posts. The Portuguese fought back in 1625 with supplies coming to help and reclaim the land they had lost in which they successfully did so. The Portuguese launched a war and started fighting against the Dutch as they saw their acts as encroachment.

The areas the Dutch had claimed from the Portuguese were too far apart from their reaches and each other for the position of the ports being Dutch to be continued to be held. This led to the Dutch losing the territory they had claimed and losing all of their land in America and Africa.

The war still continued on; in 1638 the Dutch attempted to claim a Portuguese fortress and they succeeded. The Spanish had attempted to intervene, but their resources were too stretched to provide much protection of this area as they were also fighting to keep their own and fighting the Ottoman empire.

The Dutch had been helped many times throughout the war by the British. And finally in 1640, the Portuguese rebelled for their independence once more and restored it. England resumed the peace treaty in which the Dutch also stopped fighting in the agreement. The United Provinces tried to keep the war going but with lack of units in Brazil and Africa they could not do so. The treaty was signed in 1661 and the Portuguese gave the Dutch rights to the Ceylon and the Spice Islands and paid 63 tons of gold.

That was the end of the most commonly regarded war over spice, it’s trade, and access to it. There were also some other wars over spice but the Dutch and Portuguese is the most commonly regarded when it comes to wars over spice. 

Now, next time you reach for your spices, think about how valuable they were and the wars people fought to get more of them. Many things in the kitchen have a story and spices have an interesting one, filled with wars.