Final Project: Tea is the most important substance of the 1700’s

While other consumables were very important in Western Europe in the 1700’s, tea was the most important economic, political, and cultural motivator at the time.

Section 1: History of Tea

History of Tea pre-England
China was the first to consume tea, dating as far back as 1000 BC.
Tea spread all over the east, from Japan to Vietnam and Cambodia, to India, to the Middle East.
Tea comes to England in 1662, replaces wine, ale, and spirits as the court drink
Initially branded as a medicinal cure

Section 2: Economy of Tea
Tea was not economically interesting until 1720, when it replaced textiles as the primary import from China.
Tea became taxed in 1676.
Tea was a popular item to smuggle to avoid tariffs.
The East India Company became a trade powerhouse due to their trade connection with India and China, eventually holding a monopoly on trade with the East.

Section 3: Politics of Tea
In 1676, King Charles II attempted to ban coffee (tea) houses, public uprising forced him to reconsider
The East India Company had a huge influence on the politics surrounding tea. They had massive armies to conquer distant lands and the government could own no shares in the company.
British colonialism begins due to demand for tea. The British (and other world powers) would go on to have colonies all over the world, shaping the politics of the areas forever.
Taxes on tea would spark conflict nearly everywhere in the world.
In America, the Boston Tea Party happened in 1773 and sparked the American Revolution.

Section 4: Culture of Tea
Initially, coffee (tea) houses were male-only businesses. Women were not allowed inside.
Catherine of Braganza’s use of tea opens the doors for social acceptance of women drinking tea
Tea became more popular than chocolate and coffee due to patriotism; it was more patriotic to use commodities produced by British colonies (coffee came from Arabia and chocolate came from Spanish and Portuguese colonies)
In the early 1800’s, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford launched the idea of having tea in the late afternoon, as opposed to later in the evening.
Tea becomes the standard for British culture.


4 thoughts on “Final Project: Tea is the most important substance of the 1700’s

  1. Adam,
    It seems as though you have broken down and outlined your ideas. I do have a few initial questions: How will you execute this project? Will it be a paper? Will it be a power point? A pamphlet study? How will you take your research and transform it into a final product?

    My second question is largely one of context. In your outline you collapse the eighteenth coffee house with the tea house. I think that this might be something that really needs to be contextualized in your project as I know that the emergence of coffee led to changes in public spaces that were distinct from the use of tea prior. So I would want to see as a reader some attention to this distinction and explain why coffee emerged as a public beverage where tea had previously been consumed primarily in homes.

    I look forward to your work!

  2. I think you have a great foundational idea here, but I am concerned that this paper doesn’t tie in the readings from this semester. While the professor could provide more direction on this, I am certain that critical thought about texts we have read will play a key part in the grading rubric. That being said, I think there is a lot you can do with the topic that relates to the text.

    My advice would be to compact some of your arguments into the first section of your paper to establish the foundation of your thesis, and then move to a literary analysis of the importance of tea in texts we have read. I would then answer two questions:

    1. What is the significance of tea’s role in a literary work? Why does that change how impactful it is?

    2. Is there any other commodity that could be seen as more important? What is it, and why is tea more important?

  3. You have done a great job of outlining your final project. I think it is a paper, but I could also see this as a powerpoint project or something like that. In your first section, I would focus on the aspects of the history of tea in the East that have more direct implications for eighteenth-century Great Britain. Another concern I have is that various people, events, etc. will inevitably have some bearing on more than one of your section subjects, so you need to find a way to deal with those without being overly repetitive. Lastly, I would like to see some focus on the role of tea in eighteenth-century literature. This could maybe come during the section on culture, or you could write about how tea alludes to economic, political, and cultural issues within some of the books and various other pieces we have read this semester.

  4. NAKI8788 has offered a very valuable critique here. It is not necessary that this project be a ‘close reading’; as this is a historical context course it is absolutely valid that you choose to study the history of an object. That said, it will still be incredibly valuable to offer connections to the works of the time that demonstrate how this contextualization brings new light to the works that we have studied. You can do this by utilizing the texts as examples of tea in culture, or by utilizing the novels and literature as anecdotes that articulate your point of view.

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