A Pound of Cloves

June 30th, 2015 by

One aspect of the expedition that is of interest today might be the economics of the expedition’s financing. There is little doubt that Magellan was a deeply religious man. Even then as now, the project was subject to certain expectations of a return on investment and required a large commitment of financing from investors. The King of Portugal declined Magellan’s’ request to finance the original concept Magellan pitched in 1513. The King of Spain was eventually persuaded to sponsor the expedition for an expected period of two years.

So what exactly was Magellan promised for his efforts? And what did the expedition sponsors and financiers expect?

The entire expedition lasted 3 years and involved 5 ships and 270 men.

The value of the cargo off loaded in Spain at the conclusion was said to be more than enough to pay the original loans back. A single ship laden with cloves from the Spice Islands was all that remained after 3 years. Cloves were worth more than their weight in gold at the time.

Out of curiosity and a sense of research I ordered a pound of cloves from the Amazon web site. For $16.47 I received a package of fresh cloves. Not knowing much else as to what to do with them I put some in a pot of water on the stove and allowed them to fill the air with a fragrance that evoked memories of Christmas and family dinners for me.

I was also made aware from the various health newsletters I receive that cloves and many other spices such as cinnamon and turmeric had medicinal values beyond merely flavoring food and making things smell better.  It seems these medicinal properties for the spices were well known in the middle ages and this knowledge persisted in various forms of folk medicine right up to the modern day.

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