Social Studies vs. The Spice Trade

Unlocking The Spice Trade

Social studies can be divided into many smaller subjects including climate, geography, politics, economy, culture and many more. In order to fully understand complex events, such as spice trade, we need to look at all of the different subjects.

The climate and geography can affect many aspects of how goods such as spices were produced and traded. The climate dictated where certain spices could grow and where the majority of spices originated. The geography of the land determined where trade routes could be established and how the spices moved from the place of production to the place of consumption. For example, spices such as cinnamon could only grow in hot, moist climates and so cultivation was almost entirely exclusive to areas of South-Eastern Asia. This included India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippians. As the spice trade route map shows, traders often avoided harsh areas such as the Gobi Desert. From the map we can also infer that the reason the trade routes to Italy went across the Mediterranean ocean was due to the fact that it is much easier to travel across water than land. This is how we are able to understand the spice trade through the lens of climate and geography.

Example one showed how physical systems can affected the spice trade. But humans can also have a significant impact on the spice trade. With the wide physical gap between the place of production and the place of consumption, many merchants were needed to act as middlemen. Merchants had to make money so every time the goods exchanged hands the price would increase. For a time this system worked, and everyone was happy except the consumers. But humans have always been a greedy species, and soon this system would collapse as one party or another rebelled. In the early 14oos and 1500s, a majority of spices that were imported from India had gone through many hands before reaching the consumers in various areas of Europe. Europeans soon realized this and in 1602 they sent troops to fight for control of the plantations in India. They soon established a monopoly as one merchant witness reported: “Of the three articles most in demand for European consumption, coffee, pepper, and sugar, the two former are entirely monopolized by the government.” (George Early)  It is clear that a whole new aspect of the spice trade can be unlocked if we look at it and connect the spice trade with politics and economics.

Finally, the traditions and beliefs of the general population can cause the value of goods to fluctuate and directly affect the trade of spices. Different goods are valued differently depending upon many factors. Spices, which would normally not be very valued, were very expensive because of the culture of the consumers. For example, the Europeans valued spices because of their beliefs about its medicinal value and how it balanced the many fluids of the body to improve ones health. Without these beliefs spices may never have been valued so much and spice trade would have been completely different. Thus, understanding the culture of the people involved can be critical in understanding spice trade.

Fully understanding the Spice Trade requires attention to be given to all of the subjects of social studies, not just the ones that seem obvious.


Here is a map showing the routes used by traders in the 1600s. We can see that traders preferred sea routes, disliked deserts and that spices were mainly produced in Southeastern Asia. Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 10.11.53 PM

This is an eyewitness account of the trade monopoly occurring in India, by British merchant, George Early.


Dameresq. “Précis of Intelligence.” Letter. 12 Nov. 1787. British and French Rivalry in India. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

Early, George. (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. inJ.’M.’Gullick,’Adventures*and*Encounters:*Europeans*in*South4East*Asia,’Oxford’ University’Press,’Oxford,’1995.’ N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Trade History of the Silk Road, Spice & Incense Routes.” Silk Routes. N.p., 14 June 2005. Web. 13 Sept. 2015. <>.

Strayer. “Document D.” Bahadur Shah-Azarmgarh Proclaimation 1857(1857): n. pag. Print.

“European Arrival & Spice Wars.” Imperialism in Indonesia. N.p., 14 May 2006. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything

Last quarter we learned about chemistry in science. The first chemistry class we discussed about what we wanted to know about chemistry. Unsurprisingly, the most common question was: How is chemistry important to everyday life. Ever since I have been trying to find a book that is both interesting to read, and explains to you how we are surrounded by chemistry. All the time. “The periodic table of elements is the universal catalog of the physical world, but in daily life we encounter vastly more molecules than elements.” (Gray 3)

I feel that I have finally found a book that explains clearly why chemistry is important to everyday life. This book is simply called “Molecules” and is by a person called Theodore Gray. Theodore Gray is also the author of a few other amazing books, most notably The Elements, Mad Science and Mad Science 2. Theodore Gray also has a cool website which documents his element collection.

Many people believe that all chemicals are evil. If you are one such person, picking up this book may make you die from fear. Below I will show just some of the chemicals that I have learned that we encounter in everyday life.

White Sugar=Sucrose


Ammonium Hydroxide=Bug Bite Treatment


Sodium Hypochlorite=Bleach


Potassium Iodide=Tincture of Iodine


Xylitol=Artificial Sugar


Butane=Lighter Fluid


Potassium Chloride=Salt Substitue


Vanillin=Imitation Vanilla


Boric Acid=Disinfectant


Acetic Acid=Vinegar


Ethanol=Fuel & Disinfectant




Hydrochloric Acid=Toilet Bowl Cleaner




Citric Acid=Lemon Juice


Sodium Bicarbonate=Baking Soda


And our good old friend, Sodium Chloride=Salt


The list goes on and on, but there are just some of the most basic chemical you encounter in daily life. Here is a photo of all the things together.



Mediocre Pages

The resolution for the book City of Ashes was not as exciting as I had hoped. Unlike the ending of the previous book City of Bones, I was not reading each page with excitement. Instead I was reading just to get the book over with. I will explain why below.

In the book City of Bones, Clary starts off as a normal teenage girl. However, she is soon dragged into the world of Shadowhunters, demons, werewolves and the rest. Throughout the previous book there is change in the characters that makes it interesting and dynamic. At first we see Jace as a slightly aggressive person but we soon see that he is in fact a gentle and caring person. Change is good because it makes is so that the reader can be surprised.

Change is an aspect that I feel is missing in the second book, City of Ashes. Clary starts off how she ended last time as a Shadowhunter. Jace is still the person who does all the fighting and saves them countless times. Simon is still the same person who likes Clary but doesn’t want to admit it. At the end of the book Jace still does the fighting. “Jace struggled desperately, trying to grab onto the sword.” (Clare 247) Clary still likes Jace and all of the major characteristics of the characters stay the same. This means that the reader can pretty much guess what is going to happen based upon previous events. The result is that the book is too predictable and not as intense.

This book also lacks the action and suspense of the first book. Through half the book the main topic is about the love triangle between the characters with the occasional small fight where everyone is unscathed. “Are you all right Luke? Asked Jace. I’m fine just a bit tired is all.” (Clare 135) No real battle occurs until the last few pages of the book and even that one is boring and uninteresting. The fight at the end is Valentine trying to fight them on a ship that then gets sunk by Clary. The ending is unclear as to whether Valentine is still alive or who even won the battle. “Is Valentine dead? I have no idea, he sank with the ship.” (Clare 443)

Overall, I think that this book was a decent read but is definitely not as exciting as the first book. Most of the book was filler material that reached an unsatisfying ending. I am considering to stop reading this series and find another series too read. However, I will have to read the first few chapter of the next book before I make a decision.

Love Isosceles


The constant topic in this book is how both Simon wants Clary to like him but Clary likes Jace but Jace only sees Clary as a friend. This results in a secondary conflict besides the main conflict of the Shadowhunters and the demons. This distracts Clary from the main task of retrieving the Mortal Cup and causes the group to lose focus. “We need to stop caring about personal issues and focus on the task at hand.” (Clare 57) I can connect this book to a book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. In the book by John Flanagan, the main character is named Will Treaty and he goes on many adventures with two other female protagonists’ names Cassandra and Alyss. There is another male protagonist named Horace and he loves Cassandra. Will loves Alyss but he still likes Cassandra and is upset by the fact that she appears to solely like Horace. The upset Will never attends the ball and dances because he thinks he will just get even more upset. The truth however is that the more Will avoids Cassandra, the more Cassandra feels upset and the more she wants to avoid Will. This positive feedback loop is eventually resolved when Will marries Alyss and Horace marries Cassandra. Things however, do not go so well in the book City of Ashes.

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The book City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare is the second book in the series The Mortal Instruments. It is a continuation of the first book and explains what happens after they rescue Cassandra’s mother from Valentine.

Clary has changed significantly since the start of the first book. She has accepted the fact that there are otherworldly creatures in this world. She is also involved in a relationship with Simon. It has long been clear from the reader’s point of view that Simon clearly likes Clary but Clary is completely oblivious to the fact until the very end of the first book, where Simon openly tells Clary. This leaves Clary surprised, as she had long believed that she had a friend relationship with Simon. This also occurs right when Jace and Clary are having a relationship and this hurts Simon. In this book, Simon kisses Clary and calls her his girlfriend. But deep down, Clary likes Jace more than she likes Simon. She manages to keep this a secret until she visits the Seelie Court, where she accidentally ingested faery food, and is only allowed to leave if she kisses “the kiss that will free the girl is the kiss that she most desires.” (Clare 169) At first Simon kisses her voluntarily thinking that he might be the one she most wants. “And then he kissed her.” (Clare 170) However that does not free her and the group suggest that she try kissing Jace. At first Clary refuses because she doesn’t want to hurt Simon’s feelings. “You want Jace to kiss you?” (Clare 170) But because they cannot leave, in the end she is forced to kiss Jace, and to their surprise they are freed.” This enrages Simon who runs off once they get out of the Court. “he was staring at her as if he’d never seen her before.” (CLary 174)

This ends in disaster as Simon nearly dies from a vampire attack. The only way to save him was to bury him and transform him into a vampire as well. You can clearly see that Clary still likes Simon because of her attitude and concern towards him why performing the reviving.”They had wrapped Simon’s body in a blanket and it lay on the ground at her feet, as if she were guarding it.” (Clare 198)

Finally, when Clary felt that the time was right to tell Jace about her love for him and start a relationship, Jace refuses the request and says that he will always act like a brother for Clary and will not marry her. This breaks Clary’s heart and she turns from an outgoing person to a person who doesn’t speak with anyone.

Conclusion (Polymer Journal Entry #5)

Joshua and I believe we were pretty successful in achieving the goal of a reusable hand sanitizer. It met most of my criteria such as not sticking to your hand, not sticking to clothing, and being very stretchy without being slimy. The only thing that we feel that could be improved is the functionality of the product. Sure it is cool and all but there needs to be more benefits over normal hand sanitizer, or else no one will buy it.

The main difficulties were getting the consistency and texture of the product right. Our first prototype was way too slimy and also would break into many pieces if squeezed, both undesirable qualities of a hand sanitizer. Our second design was a bit better but would not stretch and could stick to your hands. This would leave your hands dirtier than before you used it. Finally, our last design was perfect. It was the perfect consistency, was very stretchy, was not overly slimy and most important of all cleaned your hands.

The most important final changes that we made were to add borax solution to the polymer. Before it was a useless goop that was way to runny and sticky to be of any use. We tried adding borax and guar gum to two separate batches. They both solidified the polymer, but the guar gum removed some of the important characteristics such as stretchiness. This is why we decided to use borax for our final design. One of the challenges we faced when developing the infomercial were time constrains. Because we only had one class to film the video, we could only do one take and that was it. Also, I had world scholars’ cup competition during the weekend so I could not help Joshua as much.

Being part of the dream on panel was very interesting and fun because we got to evaluate our peers. Some of the difficulties when evaluating was the fact that the score sheet only went up to 4 and so were hard to give groups an accurate score. I feel it would have been better if the scores went up to 5 or even to 10, if this was the case, there would not have been a three-way tie.

I feel that this was a very fun project, and we got to learn about polymers in a creative and fun way. One thing that I suggest is to include more chemicals to make the polymers because with the ones provided it was really hard to make something not resembling slime.


We Have Succeeded! (Polymer Journal Entry #4)


Today we finally managed to make a product we liked. We used the boogers recipe but added an extra 5ml of the starch and 15ml of ethanol. This resulted in a product that was very liquid so we added a further 2ml of borax. This solved the problem perfectly and we ended up with a polymer that was not sticky, slightly wet, cleans well and is soft and malleable. The only problem with our first project shown below is that we added two much food colouring. The dropper of the blue food colour was stuck so we had to unscrew it. But I accidentally poured too much into the cup so every time you rubbed it on your hand your hands would turn a shade of blue. We made a second batch with less colouring and the problem was fixed.

Reflecting on a Stamp

Final Reflection

“Cultural Un-Barriers”

This unit we learned about cultural identities and how they were important to you as a person. We began by making an idea web of things that are part of our cultural identity. We made a small practice print on a piece of foam to learn about positive and negative space. To get some practice on using Adobe Illustrator we made a cartoon ice cream cone. Then we started our final print design and took a full body photo of ourselves. After that we used Adobe Illustrator to make a cartoon version of ourselves based on the photo. While all this was going on, we made a background for our portrait using printing ink. Finally we used printmaking techniques to print our foam stamp design onto the background to create an interesting pattern for our cartoon portrait to go on top of.

The aspects of my cultural identity that is represented in my stamp design are the countries that I most associate with as well as my love of science. It is important to who I am because my culture has been mostly influenced by these two countries and science is the thing I spend most of my free time on. I chose a periodic table as the outline for my stamp. I then symbolized my love of science and my association with China by writing the word “China” with element symbols. (Carbon, Hydrogen, Iodine, Sodium). I chose two stamps that all had connections to the place I have spent the majority of time, China. They all had very interesting shapes and so I chose them.

I have learned a lot of new things such as the importance of peer reviewing. Sometimes you just need another person to look over your work to take you out of your perspective. Another thing that I learned is the fact not all art has to be hand drawn. Sometimes art can be made on the computer such as using Adobe Illustrator. For years I have struggled with hand drawing things and I really is great to use a computer for art.

The most challenging thing for me was coming up with an idea for my final stamp design. I drew many ideas that I had and were not happy with the result. Either the result was too complicated or I didn’t think it represented me well enough. I finally made a break through when I saw the simplified periodic table for the “Alien Periodic Table” assessment. I had always had an idea for representing China with chemical symbols, but always thought it would be too complicated to draw the whole table. When I realized all the elements that were needed were included in the simplified version, I instantly knew that was the design I was going for. The thing that I enjoyed the most was being able to use digital technology to create a work of art. What I enjoyed least was all of the brainstorming and learning about cultural identities.

Danger! Work In Progress (Polymer Journal Entry #3)

Today, Joshua and I continued work on our reusable hand sanitiser. From our testing last class, we decided that our base would be goobers because it would not stick to the container it was in, nor would it stick to your hand. Our recipe for our first experimental polymer:

We used the goobers recipe except we substituted 10ml for hand sanitizer for the water. The problem was that the sanitiser made the goobers too sticky, as well as made it dry out extremely quickly. To solve this problem, we moved on to using the boogers recipe:

We used the boogers recipe, except we added an extra 8ml of hand sanitizer to the mix. This turned out to be too runny and so we split it into two test groups. In one we added about 1 gram of borax, to the other one we added 3ml of starch. The borax one didn’t turn out so well but the one we added starch to was actually the right consistency to be the perfect hand sanitizer.

Below is an example of what we want ours to fell like.

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