After reading a fascinating book by Giles Milton entitled 'Nathaniel's Nutmeg'. I learnt of these tiny islands in South-East Asia or the 'East-Indies'.

In the 16th and 17th the spice trade was rocketing, physicians were talking about the benefits of spices and how they could cure diseases such as the Plague. One of the great curing spices happened to be nutmeg now used for christmas puddings and the like. Unfortunately you had to go to the other side of the world to find nutmeg on the tiny Banda Islands. Not an easy voyage.

The Dutch in the novel are portrayed as nasty pieces of work with no room for fun, which may be true however I do not know many Dutch people and so I have no view on the subject. The Dutch were ahead in the spice race and this was due to there excellent captains and, ill luck on the British part, after they had virtually wiped the Spanish and Portugese off Indonesia and such, however there is one set of islands that they can not reach and the British have, the Banda Islands.

The story centres on Nathaniel Courthope, a trusty lieutenant of the East India Company, who took and held the tiny nutmeg-producing island of Run, the smallest of the Banda Islands, in the face of overwhelming Dutch opposition for more than five years, before being treacherously murdered in 1620. Courthope's heroism led to the English taking the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now known better as Manhattan in revenge for the death of Courthope and the loss of Run. The subsequent peace deal between the two nations gave Holland, Run and the British, Manhattan; New York was born. As Milton wittily remarks, although Courthope's death "robbed England of her nutmeg, it gave her the biggest of apples".

While this deal in history was one of Britain's biggest scalps in the end, with the British swapping an island 1 mile wide and 2 miles long, for one of the greatest cities on the planet in the future; they also managed another coup when in th 19th century the British seized the island of Run when the Dutch had not even had the slightest idea of it and while the British held it for seven years in the process before giving it back to the Dutch; seeing that the British needed an ally in a Europe in which Napoleon was ready to conquer. However just as they gave Run back they took most of the nutmeg off the island and shipped it to Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known then. Since this happened the annual amounts of nutmeg on Sri Lanka far superiored that of Run so the island of Run went into the relics of history whence it was forgotten.

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