Tea and empire

James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon

By Angela McCarthy and T Devine

Tea and empire
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  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526119056
  • Publish Date: Jul 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • ISBN: 9781526123398
  • Publish Date: Jul 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1905-6
    • Pages: 272
    • Price: £25.00
    • Published Date: July 2017


    This book brings to life for the first time the remarkable story of James Taylor, 'father of the Ceylon tea enterprise' in the nineteenth century. Publicly celebrated in Sri Lanka for his efforts in transforming the country's economy and shaping the world's drinking habits, Taylor died in disgrace and remains unknown to the present day in his native Scotland. Using a unique archive of Taylor's letters written over a forty-year period, Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine provide an unusually detailed reconstruction of a British planter's life in Asia at the high noon of empire.

    As well as charting the development of Ceylon's key commodities in the nineteenth century, the book examines the dark side of planting life including violence and conflict, oppression and despair. A range of other fascinating themes are evocatively examined, including graphic depictions of the Indian Mutiny, 'race' and ethnicity, migration, environmental transformation, cross-cultural contact, and emotional ties to home.


    'Since this book is published in England by the University of Manchester, its contribution to international appreciation of the history of Ceylon tea is significant. It will have greater impact in promoting Ceylon tea worldwide than the local commemorations of the current sesquicentenary. If you ever want to buy a book on Ceylon tea, it's doubtful you would find one as intriguing and detailed as this.'
    Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

    'This work is full of interesting detail, meticulously and thoroughly researched, and casts a new light on a forgotten part of the story of the Scottish diaspora.'
    Scotland on Sunday

    'Every so often a book comes along which makes you sit up and take notice, not just because the story is so compelling but also because it offers an entirely fresh approach based either on virgin evidence or on a new way of addressing the subject. Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine's account of the life and career of James Taylor is just such an enterprise and very good it is too. . It is to the authors' credit that they have rescued him from unnecessary oblivion in this hugely enjoyable and expressive account of a life well lived.'
    Trevor Royle, The Herald

    'With the publication of this beautifully produced book, the man described, at the time of his sad and unexpected death, as 'the father of the Ceylon tea enterprise,' regains the recognition he should never have lost.'
    Andrew Hook, Scottish Review

    '[T]he authors' research in a whole variety of archives and libraries is immensely impressive . they bring to this research a variety of skills, including a good deal of work on aspects of migration, on the Scottish diaspora in particular, and on significant cultural and psychological dimensions of the migrant experience.'
    John MacKenzie, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, vol. 107, no. 1 (2018), pp. 114-116.

    'McCarthy and Devine are to be thanked for bringing Taylor and his letters to our attention and for providing this useful reminder of the varieties of imperial experience in the nineteenth century.'
    Katherine Haldane Grenier, The Citadel, Interdisciplinary Journal of Scottish Studies, Vol XL, 2018



    Shortlisted for Saltire Research Book of the Year Prize 2018


    1. Before Ceylon
    2. The rise and fall of 'King Coffee'
    3. Transition to tea
    4. Globalising Ceylon tea
    5. A Scottish effect?
    6. A planter's life
    7. Cross-cultural contact
    8. Times to home
    9. Triumph and tears: last years and legacy


    Angela McCarthy is Professor of Scottish and Irish History at the University of Otago

    Sir Tom Devine is Sir William Fraser Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh

    Tea and empire

    By Angela McCarthy, T Devine

    Hardcover £25.00 / $36.95

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