Jack Turner was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1968. He received his B.A. in Classical Studies from Melbourne University and his Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and MacArthur Foundation Junior Research Fellow. He lives with his wife, Helena, and their son in Geneva.
This biography was last updated on 12/28/2010.
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A Conversation with Jack Turner
In the preface of your book, you recall a primary school lesson about the
role of spices in the "Age of Discovery." Have you always been interested in
spices? What inspired you to write a book about their history?
My teacher's remark undoubtedly stuck in the mind, but I'm not sure if there was a single "eureka" moment so much as a gradual snowballing of interest. I have found spices fascinating as far back as I can remember, since the time I was a little kid and my mum prepared marvelous spicy kormas, chutneys and curries (she is a superb cook, so maybe she should take the credit). Spices only became more fascinating as they cropped up all over the place in references I came across at random. At university, where I read Greek and Latin, they appeared in the most unexpected places: a reference to cassia in a poem by Sappho written in the 6th century BC; a Roman poet's sarcastic remarks about pepper. Reading the life of the Venerable Bede I was struck by a reference to pepper in Dark Age England. My early interest was mainly in the logistics of the matter: How on earth did they get it? The decision to pursue the subject further was, I suppose, essentially the ...
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