The medieval spice trade between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries made Europe wealthy. Black pepper was the most important spice in this trade, and if it was most important because of its piquancy, and the evidence indicates as much, then the discovery of the chile (Capsicum annuum and spp.) would have been an ideal substitute for expensive spices from the East. The medieval spice did in fact decline dramatically about the same time as the discovery and diffusion of the chile. The question arises: did the arrival of the chile in the Old World contribute to or cause the decline in the spice trade? By reviewing the spice trade before the discovery of the New World, the Venetian-Mamluke monopoly on that trade, the role of the Portuguese and Dutch in the spice trade, and the European diffusion of the chile after 1492 this article will argue that the chile played no role in the diminishing of the spice trade and that the chile's arrival in Europe and the decline of the East-West spice trade appear to be coincidental and not causal.
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clifford a. wright; The Medieval Spice Trade and the Diffusion of the Chile. Gastronomica 1 May 2007; 7 (2): 35–43. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2007.7.2.35
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