22 May 2017

The Trade That Made A Nation (3)

When told that I was writing a book about the Ceylon tea trade, the first question many socially-aware friends asked me was ‘What are you going to say about the estate workers?’ A pertinent question: the status of Sri Lankan plantation workers and their treatment at the hands of estate owners, the general public and the State are heavily fraught and controversial subjects. My answer – that I would deal with the workers and their troubles as truthfully and fairly as I was able – was often met with a sceptical smile. Wasn’t my work being sponsored by the tea trade – the putative oppressors themselves? I could only counsel my friends to wait and see.
       This, the third in a series of extracts from Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made A Nation, begins the story of the plantation workers. The tale commences not in the age of tea but in the coffee-planting era that preceded it. From here, the story is carried through the rest of the book, becoming one of the principal strands out of which the narrative is woven.

11 May 2017

The Trade That Made A Nation (2)

The Great Depression of 1929-39 added to the already considerable troubles of colonial Ceylon. The country’s vital tea industry was severely tested as world prices plummeted and production restrictions were imposed on estates. This second excerpt from my forthcoming book Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made A Nation deals with some of those impacts, and the impetus they gave to tea marketing in the Thirties.

An early achievement of the Tea Propaganda Board: Song of Ceylon,
directed by Basil Wright and narrated by Lionel Wendt

The Slump & The Song

07 May 2017

The Trade That Made A Nation (1)

It is slightly over a year since I began work on a history of the Sri Lankan tea industry, which will be published next month as part of the celebrations being held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that industry, which falls in 2017. The book will be titled Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made A Nation.
     The publishers of the book, the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association, have given me permission to post selected excerpts on this blog in advance of publication. Below is the first of these excerpts, taken from a chapter that describes the early maturity of the industry, around the end of the nineteenth century.