Rice and Spice

LESSON 5: Spice, rice and the economic histories of Southeast Asia

This lesson plan introduces students to the spice trade and trading routes that linked Southeast Asia and the external world and served not only as thriving hubs for commercial activities and for the exchange and diffusion of knowledge, ideas and cultural influences.

Subject History / Social Studies
Topic The spice trade in Southeast Asia: A connected world and societies transformed, fifteenth to sixteenth
Key idea The spice trade in Southeast Asia illustrated different types of connections, between countries; between trade
and politics, society and religion; between island and mainland Southeast Asia; and between Southeast
Asia and the world. Southeast Asian societies and economies were transformed by these encounters and
Key concepts Cash crops
Cosmopolitan centres
Hinterland and coastland
Influence / Diffusion: cultural and religious
Maritime trade
Theravada Buddhism
Level Lower secondary
No. of periods / lessons 2 periods (1 period is approximately 50 minutes)
Facilities needed Sources and handouts for distribution
Prerequisite knowledge No prerequisite knowledge is required.

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. Identify the major spices from Southeast Asia traded on the world markets, explain why these spices were much sought after, and identify the early trade routes between Southeast Asia, Europe, China, India and
    the Middle East.
  2. Identify the major maritime and mainland ports in Southeast Asia.
  3. Describe the interdependence between Southeast Asian cities and the connectedness  Southeast Asia had with
    other parts of the world, and explain how Southeast Asian societies were transformed by such connections and interactions.
  1. Read sources to understand how the spice trade connected Southeast Asia to other parts of the world, and think about how Southeast Asian societies  were transformed due to these connections.
  1. Realize how Southeast Asian countries were connected to other parts of the world through the spice trade.
  2. By examining the linkages between Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, students appreciate Southeast Asia as a dynamic region that is  vibrant, multicultural and constantly evolving.


Download the lesson plan for details on the talks and activities suggested below.

1. Pre-lesson preparation

The teacher prepares sets of local spices.

2. Hook activity: Explore the spices

Students touch, small and discuss the use of spices. This activity helps students establish links between the topic and their daily lives.

3. Teacher talk

The lecture runs through all sections of the lesson. It gives an overview of the early stages of the spice trade: the interactions within South-East Asia and with other parts of the world. This introduction explains why spices were so important.

4. Group work: Source analysis

Students analyze sources to discover how the spices were used by different groups of people. They share their findings with the rest of the class.

5. Teacher talk

The short talk summarizes how many groups from within and outside Southeast Asia participated in the spice trade.

6. Discussion

Students discuss how the spice trade transformed Southeast Asia.

7. Teacher talk

The teacher explain that with the next activity , the students will learn more about how interconnected Southeast Asia became due to the spice

8. Gallery Walk

Through the analysis of sources, students identify what were some of the possible political, economic, social, cultural changes that occurred in Southeast Asia due to the movement of people and goods.

9. Teacher talk

The lectures spice shows that trade gave rise to a ‘Malay world’ of commerce in islands in Southeast Asia. It stimulated urbanization and introduced new religions in the region.

10. Conclusion

The teacher summarizes the main points of the lesson. Students fill in an exit pass.