A cellar door creaking open in the middle of the night, or a hand slipping quickly into a trench coat - the most compelling transactions are surely those we never see. Smuggling can conjure images of adventure and rebellion in popular culture, but as this fascinating book shows, it has also had a profound effect on the geopolitics of the world. Shining a light onto seven centuries of dark history, it illuminates a world of intrigue and fortune, hinged on furtive desires and those who have been willing to fulfil them.World-changing contraband has ranged from silk, spices and silver in the Age of Exploration to gold, opium, tea and rubber in times of empire, as well as drugs, people and blood diamonds today. Guns and art have always been smuggled, as have the most dangerous of all contraband - ideas. Central to this story are the (not always) legitimate forces of the Dutch and British East India Companies, the luminaries of the Spanish Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Nazis, Soviet trophy brigades and the CIA, all of whom, at one point or another, have made smuggling part of their business.
In addition, Simon Harvey traces out the smaller-time smugglers, the micro-economies of everyday goods, precious objects and people, drawing these stories together into a map of a subterranean world criss-crossed by smugglers' paths.All told, this is the story of an unrelenting drive of markets to subvert the law, and of the invisible seams that have sewn the globe together.