Week 12: Nov. 12 and Nov. 14

Assignment: check the assignments for this week, and complete by Monday Nov. 11, 5pm.

Reminder: username and password for PDFs is on the Canvas Homepage

On Tuesday: the registrar will visit our FYS

She will demonstrate how you will register for your classes, starting on Nov. 15, and show how to prevent some of the most commonly encountered problems, and will also answer your questions to ensure a smooth registration for your Spring 2020 classes.

Tue. Nov. 13: Assam in the British Empire of tea

Early in the nineteenth century the British began to look for ways to cut their dependence on China for their supply of tea. One possibility was to find ways to cultivate tea elsehwere. We already saw how Robert Fortune was part of that effort, by smuggling tea plants out of China. Then the British found out there was another variety of camellia sinensis growing in the Assam region of India, now known as camellia sinensis var. assamica. (The Chinese version is in full camellia sinensis var. sinensis.) There was a lot of debate about the question if this was tea, or not, and if it was, whether it was of superior or inferior quality compared to the tea from China.

In this week’s classes we look at the main problems surrounding the commercial cultivation and production of tea in Assam: should plantations try to grow Chinese tea, or work with the Assam variety? Should plantation owners import Chinese laborers who were thought to be superior tea growers? Should they use local laborers or import “more industrious” workers from elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent? We look at one tea planter’s opinions, and a secondary study of the history of “indentured labor” in Assam.

  • Money, Edward. The Cultivation and Manufacture of Tea. Fourth edition. London: Witthingham and Co, 1883. (webpage)
          • Annotate with hypothes.is in the group “teaglobalhistory“: questions, sections you find remarkable (and why), points to discuss in class,…
          • Guiding questions: This was a tea planter (i.e. plantation owner): how does that influence his views on the relationship between planters, laborers, and the government? What would a similar description of the situation look like from the laborers’ point of view?
  • Varma, Nitin. Coolies of Capitalism : Assam Tea and the Making of Coolie Labour. Work in Global and Historical Perspective, Volume 2. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2017. (PDF)
          • Chapter 2: “Tea in the Colony”
          • Notes: coolie is an older word for “indentured laborer“; the author uses the word “Chinaman/-men”  few times, which is now widely considered a derogatory term. Please don’t follow their example. Also note that there are a few wonky sentences in the text, I have marked a few but reader beware: missing verbs make for hard reading. (Let this be an incentive to proofread carefully before submitting your assignments, lest you confuse your reader.)
          • Guiding questions: How does this account of increasing reliance on “outside labor” (i.e. indentured labor) compare with Money’s view? How does the British attempt to cultivate tea in Assam set in motion a series of events with many consequences? Try to track the effects on economy, policy, ecology etc. as documented in this chapter, and you can add further questions you see emerging (but not yet answered).
          • Bring your reading notes and questions to class.

Thu. Nov. 16: Grand perspective on tea and Britain in the nineteenth century

In this session, we will finish up working with Tuesday’s texts, but also work towards a more comprehensive understanding of the massive set of issues and their connections between one another, using a basic form of “systems thinking”. This is the equivalent of the analytical writer’s “so what?”/”why?”/”why does this matter?” question, by asking “what are the impacts? What is this connected to?”. Read the following two pieces: