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A Brief History of Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

Roy Moxham

4 Reviews

Rated 0

Brief Histories, Prose: non-fiction, History: specific events & topics

From tea's first discovery in China to the present day, the story of a great world obsession

'Absorbing and sometimes shocking' - Literary Review
'A masterful historical study' - The Good Book Guide

Behind the wholesome image of the world's most popular drink lies a strangely murky and often violent past. From its first discovery to the present day, this is an extraordinary story of a great world obsession.

When tea began to be imported into the West from China in the seventeenth century, its high price and heavy taxes made it an immediate target for smuggling and dispute at every level, culminating in international incidents like the notorious Boston Tea Party.

In China itself the British financed their tea dealings by the ruthless imposition of the opium trade. Intrepid British tea planters soon began flocking to India, Ceylon and Africa, setting up huge plantations; often workers were bought and sold like slaves.

Roy Moxham's account of this extraordinary history begins with his own sojourn in Africa, managing 500 acres of tea and a thousand-strong workforce. His experiences inform the book and led him to investigate the early history of tea - and the results of his researches reflect little credit on the British Empire, while often revealing a fascinating world story.

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Praise for A Brief History of Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

  • Absorbing - and sometimes shocking. - Literary Review

  • Very well written . . . enlightening. - Financial Times

  • A masterful historical study. - Good Book Guide

  • This book is a fascinating mix of personal experience, a passion for the subject and an enthralling history. - Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

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Roy Moxham

Roy Moxham is the author of Tea - Addiction Exploitation and Empire (2003), The Great Hedge of India (2001) and The Freelander (1990). Born and brought up in Evesham, Worcestershire, he went out to Africa in 1961 as a tea planter in Nyasaland, later Malawi. He spent 13 years in Eastern Africa before returning to London to set up a gallery of African art.

Subsequently, Roy Moxham qualified as a book and paper conservator. After working at Canterbury Cathedral Archives he became Senior Conservator of the University of London Library. Following retirement in 2005 he devotes his energies to writing and giving talks. He spends half his time in London and the other half travelling, principally in India.


The Great Hedge of India
'Both scholarly and funny - a rare combination. It surprised me and I hugely enjoyed it.' Eric Newby

'Moxham has written a parable at once light-handed and melancholy about the cruelty and folly of Empire.' Sunil Khilnani, Financial Times

Tea - Addiction, Exploitation and Empire
'A very well-written book and enlightening on all aspects of the desirable shrub.' Financial Times

'A masterful historical study.' Good Book Guide

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