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The Empire of Tea

Alan Macfarlane

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ISBN 13: 9781585674930
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From Darjeeling to Lapsang Souchon, from India to Japana fresh, concise, and world-encompassing exploration of the way tea has shaped politics, culture, and the environment throughout history.

From the fourth century B.C. in China, where it was used as an aid in Buddhist meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when its destruction became a rousing symbol of the American Revolution, to its present-day role as the single most consumed substance on the planet, The Empire of Tea explores the effects of the humble Camelia plantboth tragic and liberatingin the history of civilization. Incorporating research from a wide range of sources, renowned cultural anthropologist Alan MacFarlane recounts the history of tea from its origins as a wild plant in the Eastern Himalayas, and details its past and continuing effects on culture, art, politics, and environment around the world. He explains, among other things, how tea became the worlds most prevalent addiction, how tea was used as an instrument of imperial control, and how the cultivation of tea has led to the invention of machines and technology during the industrial revolution and beyond.

The Empire of Tea also incorporates personal stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their contact with the global obsession with tea, including the elegantly detailed account of Iris MacFarlane about her life on a tea estate in the Indian province of Assam, the worlds center of tea cultivation.

Both an absorbingly written narrative history and a fascinatingly tour of the worlds great tea culturesJapan, China, India, France, the United Kingdom, and othersThe Empire of Tea brings into sharp focus one of the forces that have shaped history.

Praise for The Empire of Tea
A vivacious discussion of tea . . . the entrancing and sinister story of how a mildly comforting beverage affected taste, class, colonization, and consumption. Paul Freedman, Times Literary Supplement

Brief but affecting A good primer on a resonant and endlessly stimulating subject.Boston Sunday Globe

A fascinating picture of teas impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.Publishers Weekly

Alan MacFarlane combines a historical and anthropological background, which inclides thirty years of experience in the Himalayas (Nepal and Assam), and research on British and Japanese history. He is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and was the principal social expert on the television documentary The Day the World Took Off.

Iris MacFarlane lived on an Assamese tea garden for twenty years and has written on India and Assamese history.

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