What Is Spice in AP World History?

Spice is a term used to refer to a group of valuable commodities that were traded extensively in ancient times. Spices were sought after for their use in cooking, medicine, and perfumes. The trade of spices played a significant role in shaping the world history as it led to the exploration and colonization of new lands, the rise of empires, and the development of new technologies.

What Are Spices?

Spices are plant products that are used to flavor food, treat ailments, and create perfumes. The most commonly traded spices were pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. These spices were grown in different parts of the world such as India, China, Indonesia, and Africa.

The Importance of Spice Trade

The spice trade was crucial for several reasons. Firstly, spices were highly valued commodities that commanded high prices in the markets. Secondly, the demand for spices spurred the exploration and colonization of new lands as European powers sought to find new sources of these valuable products.

Impact on World History

The spice trade had far-reaching effects on world history. It led to the discovery of new lands such as America and Africa as Europeans searched for alternative routes to Asia. The control of spice trade routes also led to conflicts between European powers such as Portugal and Spain.

The Role of Empires

The control of spice trade was also a significant factor in the rise and fall of empires. The Dutch East India Company became one of the most powerful companies in history due to its monopoly over the spice trade with Indonesia. The British Empire also gained significant profits from its control over Indian spice production.


Spice played an essential role in shaping world history through its impact on exploration, colonization, wars between empires. Today we take these commodities for granted with easy access at our fingertips, but back then these spices were worth their weight in gold. The spice trade was a significant driver of the world economy and remains an enduring legacy of the ancient world.