The social valuation of the spices in the Thirteenth century

In the Thirteenth century, the spices are valuable. Object of negotiations, and intermediaries varied, they are aware of the immense routes from India and China, before arriving on counters of the european, at prices up to 40 times heavier than their purchase price. As early as the Thirteenth century, the spices are valued for their digestive virtues and stimulating : consumed after meals to help digestion, they have, above all, in the Middle Ages a therapeutic function.1

Locked up in boxes and moved with care, the spices are inaccessible to many. Georges Vigarello in History of health practices. The healthy and the unhealthy since the Middle Ages,2 shows that there is a “gradation of social in the consumption of spices” (p38). the beans, the wheat, the wheat are reserved for buyers modest, the merchant or bourgeois can afford spices of the Levant. The noble make repeat purchases and constant of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. It is, as shown in Georges Vigarello, both from a selection by the price (the book of nutmeg (489g) is worth 50 cents, he says, at the end of the Fourteenth century, whereas a cow is worth 42 sub), that by the culture. The spices are a luxury that few people can afford, but this award is also a function of their valuation imaginary.

Garlic is also distinguished : endowed with qualities comparable to those of spice, it is used as a substitute for much less expensive, and reserved for small people. We certify them for use on boats and galleys at the end of the Thirteenth century.

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