European explorers and traders in the 17th and 18th centuries had much the same goal, though the primary traders, the Dutch and English, were much more aggressive. Such commerce didn’t come without a price. Ships could lose a third or more of their crew on the long journeys. Those who survived left a lasting mark on the native people they dealt with — conquest, imperialism, slavery and genocide, as Shaffer details — and the islands they visited, wiping out entire populations of birds, tortoises and other creatures.
Today, pepper is more than a kitchen staple. Researchers are studying its medicinal properties, and it has shown promise in the treatment of a variety of problems. So the Greeks, Romans and Chinese were on to something.