An essential history of a taste that shaped the world. Spices: for centuries the staple of cuisine, remedies and ritual, they have commanded the highest of prices. To this day, saffron is, per ounce, one of our most expensive commodities. For their sake, fortunes have been made and lost and new worlds discovered. Astoundingly, in the 17th-century more people died for the sake of cloves than in all the European dynastic wars of the period. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depict a merchant fleet sailing to the Horn of Africa and returning with a priceless cargo of cinnamon. Only the story of mankind’s infatuation with precious metals can rival the story of spice; and only the history of silver and gold rivals spice for its improbable and extraordinary combination of discovery and conquest, greed and violence.