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COLUMN EIGHTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

LETTER FROM NASHVILLE:
THE ORIGIN OF DRUGS


Nashville, TN--- Back in The Netherlands' Golden Age, a short period of time which lasted from a little before 1600 to a little after 1650, during which the money which forms the basis of the leading families' wealth was made, the Dutch were heavily involved in the spice trade. Going throughout the Eastern world, Dutch ships would return to Amsterdam laden with spices, most of which the Dutch have no use for.  

Your basic Dutchperson will use salt, pepper, cinnamon, a little nutmeg perhaps. Except for the Indonesian and Surinamese food incorporated into the cuisine mostly after the Golden Age, the Dutch diet remains rooted in North Sea herring, produce from truck farms, and dairy, with the occasional meat, wursts leading the pack. So the Dutch didn't bring these spices back for their own consumption, but for warehousing and subsequent re-sale.

Anyway, spices: In order to be kept from spoiling, spices must be dried. Most of the spices coming into port had been dried at their points of origin, making them easier to transport since they did not weigh so much when dry. But they picked up some moisture on the trip back, which meant they had to be re-dried. So, the Dutch in Amsterdam developed a technology to handle just that.

Now, when we think of spices, we think of cinnamon, peppers, curry, those sorts of things, which the Dutch sailors brought back in large quantities for re-distribution. And this sea-trade formed the basis of much of the wealth of today's Netherlands. Among the items brought back was---no surprise---opium, which also had to be dried.

There were a lot of privateers in those days. Pirates. English pirates, Spanish pirates, Dutch pirates. And this was the deal: if a privateer agreed to turn over a substantial amount of his booty to them, governments were willing to shelter them while they made needed repairs to their vessels, and came ashore swiving wenches and saying "arrgh? a lot.

The Dutch got real good at the privateering game. So good that the Spanish--- who were enslaving the populations of the Americas while ripping off aboriginal gold to ship back to their Royal Person---began to feel the pinch. The Dutch had to fight an eighty-year war to get their own back. There was a lot of religiosity thrown in there, too, as the Spanish were Catholics and the Dutch---at least in the North---were protestants.

And in point of fact, much of the war with the Spanish was fought during the Golden Age. It was fought, though, in the inland provinces and to the south of the Maritime Provinces, which are those that include North Holland, South Holland and Zeeland, where the Golden Age economic action was.

Well, during this time the Spanish were brought into actual more or less honest seafaring, including the spice (and dope) trade, having pretty much depleted South America of its Incan gold.

The Spanish picked up some Dutch terms in this process. One of these terms was the Dutch root word for the process of drying spices. The Dutch word for "dry" is "Drogen", which later became the Spanish word for dope, "Drogas". And of course which later would become our word for dope, "Drugs".

Just thought you'd be mildly interested...  ##

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