For All the Tea in China

22 February, 1784: The first American trade ship to China weighs anchor in New York City. The history of trade between China and the West is fraught with conflict and cultural complications, as demonstrated by the audacious 19th-century attempt by the British to steal China’s tea crop and transplant it to its own plantations in India. The caper is recounted in Sarah Rose‘s FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA.

In the dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage ever committed, Sarah Rose recounts the fascinating, unlikely circumstances surrounding a turning point in economic history. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British East India Company faced the loss of its monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China, forcing it to make the drastic decision of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India. Fortune’s danger-filled odyssey, magnificently recounted here, reads like adventure fiction, revealing a long-forgotten chapter of the past and the wondrous origins of a seemingly ordinary beverage.

22 February, 1784: The first American trade ship to China weighs anchor in New York City. The history of trade between China and the West is fraught with conflict and cultural complications, as demonstrated by the audacious 19th-century attempt by the British to steal China's tea crop and transplant it to its own plantations in India. The caper is recounted in Sarah Rose's FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA: http://bit.ly/Zn5SltIn the dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage ever committed, Sarah Rose recounts the fascinating, unlikely circumstances surrounding a turning point in economic history. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British East India Company faced the loss of its monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China, forcing it to make the drastic decision of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India. Fortune's danger-filled odyssey, magnificently recounted here, reads like adventure fiction, revealing a long-forgotten chapter of the past and the wondrous origins of a seemingly ordinary beverage.
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Celebrating Charles Darwin Day

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Tattoo inspired from Darwin’s notebook around July 1837 that showed his first sketch of an evolutionary tree.

Today people around the world celebrates the 204 Anniversary of Charles Darwin birth.  To me this day is special and I celebrate the life and work of this great man by sharing with you the WHY he is history’s most important thinker.

Throughout his life, Darwin’s work resulted in the most enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, ever contributed to the advancement of humanity.  Darwin gave us the research and opened the doors for human inquiry by founding the unifying theory of Biology: Evolution. He was the first to present convincing evidence of it and its major driving force – natural selection.

The general idea of evolution preceded Darwin, and he shied away from making the explicit and incendiary claim that even humans were evolved from other creatures. But his explanation of natural selection as a mechanism that made evolution plausibly able to explain the origin of species without reference to a creator up-ended the contemporary orthodoxy. It set a new course that no subsequent scientific work could ignore. And according to the eminent late evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, “Eliminating God from science made room for strictly scientific explanations of all natural phenomena; it gave rise to positivism; it produced a powerful intellectual and spiritual revolution, the effects of which have lasted to this day.”

Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr wanted to celebrate Darwin’s lifelong spirit of curiosity and bring the message to kids with their new graphic novel.

Remembering J’accuse

“It is a crime to poison the small and the humble,

to exasperate passions of reaction and intolerance,

while taking shelter behind the odious antisemitism…”

J'accuse

A day like today in February 07 1898 the Émile Zola was brought to trial for libel for publishing J’Accuse in the L’Aurore a literary, liberal, and socialist newspaper published in Paris, France   J’accuse is in my opinion one of the most important historical essays ever written because it brought to public opinion an honest and objective critic against the ruling elite’s injustices.

In his letter, Zola addressed President of France Félix Faure, and accused the government of antisemitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to penal servitude for life for espionage.  Further, “Zola pointed out judicial errors and lack of serious evidence. The letter was printed on the front page of the newspaper, and caused a stir in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to England, returning home in June 1899.”

Zola’s intention was that he be prosecuted for libel so that the new evidence in support of Dreyfus would be made public (“Correspondence Between Emile Zola and Imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus”. Shapell Manuscript Foundation.) The case divided France deeply between the reactionary army and church and the more liberal commercial society and its ramifications continued for many years. On the 100th anniversary of Zola’s article, France’s Roman Catholic daily paper, La Croix, apologized for its antisemitic editorials during the Dreyfus Affair. As Zola was a leading French thinker, his letter formed a major turning-point in the affair.

Zola’s powerful letter included a direct conversation to the President of France to whom he address as a honorable and rightful man,

And it is to you, Mr. President, that I will proclaim it, this truth, with all the force of the revulsion of an honest man. For your honor, I am convinced that you are unaware of it. And with whom will I thus denounce the criminal foundation of these guilty truths, if not with you, the first magistrate of the country?

And by doing this, he requested the President to be truthful to Justice.

Lets have this letter as a memory of which is our truthful right and obligation as citizens of our States.  Let us remember that We MUST always Accuse the wrongdoers and Demand justice to prevail.

Audio (French) – J’Accuse – Lettre ouverte d’Emile Zola

Access to the French Original version available here via Archive.org

Here you can find the English translation of the letter: “I Accuse…!” By Émile Zola

Terracotta vase in the form of a lobster claw

Visiting history museums is one of my favorite activities.  There, one of the things that I appreciate the most is learning about the paintings they have in vases and other pottery utensils from Ancient Greece. Why? Because of its relative durability, pottery comprises a large part of the archaeological record of Ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it (some 100,000 vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum), it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society.

Take a look to this wooooonderful work that I found in the website of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta vase in the form of a lobster claw
Attributed to the Class of Seven Lobster-Claws

Period: Classical
Date: ca. 460 B.C.
Culture: Greek, Attic
Medium: Terracotta
Dimensions: Overall: 2 3/4 x 2 7/8 in. (7 x 7.3 cm)
Other: 6 1/4in. (15.9cm)
Classification: Vases
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1923
Accession Number: 23.160.57

Today January 27 is International Holocaust Memorial Day

Let us never forget,

“Selektion” on the Judenrampe, Auschwitz, May/June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chamber. This image shows the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia, many of them from the Berehov ghetto. The photographer was Ernst Hofmann or Bernhard Walter of the SS. Image by Yad Vashem.

Holocaust Memorial Day Documentary

Tribute to holocaust victims – We shall never forget!

Will History (and people) love Barack Obama?

In a new 538 post, the author Nate Silver spends a lot of energy proving the unsurprising: that presidents who serve longer, and win larger re-electoral margins, are better regarded by history—or at least by historians.  If this is truth I suppose that the reelection of Barack Obama will confirm it.  The President of the U.S. is about one of the most loved Presidents we have had in the last decades and its correlated hate is also one of the highest.  In the time previous to his election I read hundreds of comments in my Facebook profile explaining how the “World as we know it was going to end if he got the reelection”.  Luckily, the world is still going on and chances are that the ideas of Obama & Co. will continue reigning and being popular.

Contemporary History (specially if read through the American lenses) is quite ridiculous.  Their exceptional-ism is impressive and how they read and understand history is also ludicrous.

More interesting is to read the article by Mr. Silver (whom many consider to be THE professional in his field).  Feel free to continue reading it and prepare yourself to laugh.  The world may not end with Barack Obama… it will just get a little sadder…

The rankings I will refer to here come from a composite of the four most recent surveys in which presidential scholars were asked to rank the presidents. (The surveys were conducted between 2008 and 2011). I’ve averaged the rankings among the four surveys and then re-ranked the presidents from 1 to 43 accordingly. (Ties are broken by the best median ranking; Cleveland is counted only once for these purposes.)

We might divide the presidents into three basic groups: good (those who rank in the top 15), poor (those in the bottom 15) and average (everyone in between).

(Continue reading this article…)

Article recommendation: Twentieth Century Flick: Business History in the Age of Extremes

I apologize for posting much these last weeks.  I have been quite busy reading journals on Global Value Chains, Deviant Capitalism, Black Market Trade and theories on Global Political Economy.  While this has driven me nuts… it has also made me pay attention to the field of Business History.

Business history is not the history of Capitalism and it is also not the history of entrepreneurship.  The research in this field is mostly controlled by an European institutionalist approach.  And in the latest decades, it has gained more insights from economic and business studies that are highly afflicted by neo-marxist approaches of the 20th Century.  So, if you are interested in learning about this particular area of research here is the info for a good article on the topic that may get you also interested, and provide you with further bibliography.

Twentieth Century Flick: Business History in the Age of Extremes
Priemel, Kim Christian (2012)
Journal of Contemporary History vol. 47 (4) p. 754-772

.Full Text (PDF)