This Indian Copper Spice Set is part of our Trade and Economy Collection.
It dates to around 1885, and originated from Kashmir, India. It consists of the carrying case, five canisters for spices and a small tray that fits into the lid of the box. We are fortunate to have a complete set. The carrying box has a very heavy copper handle, lock, and hinges. It is decorated with a traditional, ornate Indian metalware pricked pattern.
Archaeologists estimate that from as far back as 50,000 B.C. humans used the special qualities of aromatic plants to help flavour their food. Trade in the ancient world included the use of caravans with as many as 4,000 camels carrying treasures from the east such as spices. For hundreds of years, traders also used ships which sailed along the Indian coast, past the Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia, and finally through the Red Sea into Egypt. Trade in antiquity was subject to threats like robberies, storms, shipwrecks, and piracy. Despite the setbacks, however, spices were in such great demand that the profits outweighed the risks.
In 1600, the British East India Company was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, and its major objective was obtaining spice cargoes. The British worked slowly in their attempt to gain the power away from the Dutch, and finally in 1780, England and Holland started a war which severely weakened Dutch power in India. By the 1800s everything that once belonged to Portugal and Holland was controlled by the British, including the lucrative spice trade.