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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Conference: Global History of Agrarian Labor Regimes, 1750 to 2000 (Harvard University)

My interest in Agrarian Labor Regimes was first awaken in my research on Opium trade in India. Since then, more readings have made me realize the complex structures behind the history of agrarian labor in a global context.

If you are also interested in the topic, the *Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH)* at Harvard University is planning a conference for *April 2013* that is focusing on changing labor regimes within global agriculture.

As posted by Blog de la AMHE by Manuel Bautista, they are interested in exploring the diversity of labor regimes, the paths along which they changed, and—most especially—the connections between these changes in different parts of the world. We are interested in work that explores the connected histories of propertied farming, sharecropping, wage labor, slavery, *cultures obligatoires*, and other such forms of labor, and how they have been connected to the spatial and social spread of capitalism.We are seeking proposals from historians, political scientists, economists, sociologists, and anthropologists at all stages of their academic career, including graduate students. We encourage proposals from those in relevant career paths or institutions outside the university. We are particularly interested in forging a global discussion of these topics, and therefore welcome especially contributions from outside North America and Europe.

The conference will try to balance broad comparative papers and revealing case studies. The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History is a newly created center that responds to the growing interest at Harvard in the encompassing study of global history. The Initiative is committed to the systematic scrutiny of developments that have unfolded across national, regional, and continental boundaries as well as to analysis of the interconnections—cultural, economic, ecological and demographic—among world societies. For further information about WIGH as well as the conference, please consult our website at http://wigh.wcfia.harvard.edu.

Proposals should include an abstract of no more than two pages and a brief curriculum vita. Please email your submissions to Jessica Barnard ( jbarnard @ wcfia.harvard.edu ) before *November 30, 2012*. Travel expenses as well as accommodation will be covered.

Holger Droessler hdroessl @ fas.harvard.edu

Afghanistan during the 50s vs Today

A friend in Facebook posted yesterday an interesting link that read Afghanistan of the 50s-60s”. The description of the website read that “having seen the title of the post, many probably thought that it would be about a wild, backward, medieval country with even worse living conditions…”  However, the photographs in the link failed to “demonstrated” that Afghanistan pre-1950s was some type of a paradise before the Socialist invasion.

While the images show a “decent and civilized” view of Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s they are only a glimpse of the reality of the Asiatic region and of many other European colonies around the globe.  It is a fact that the great majority of the people during colonial times lived in worse conditions than during the Cold War.

As a result of centuries of this mix, Afghanistan was one of the poorest and most illiterate countries in the globe by 1950.  The life expectancy for both men and women was of only 29 years and the average GDP/per capita inflation adjusted was of only $800.00.

By 1970, Afghanistan was still one of the poorest countries managing to increase the life expectancy to only 33 years and the average GDP/per capita to $833.00  Today, Afghanistan has some of the lowest rankings of health, education and economic growth on Earth even after decades of investments done in infrastructure by the Soviet Union during the Cold War’s competition vs the United States.

Soviet investment during the 50s in Afghanistan

 What caused this economic and social stagnation vs the rest of the World?

Afghanistan is a complex historical mix of:

  • Centuries of imperialistic control (Mongol, Mughal, British, Soviet, American) +
  • autocratic tribalism +
  • religious intolerance  +
  • control of the economy by the state +
  • regional oligarchies +
  • disrespect for individual rights

The previous only kept increasing and by 1973, Afghanistan was what some would define a modern democratic state with free elections, parliamentary ruling, civil rights, women’s rights and universal suffrage that failed to improve the life of its inhabitants.  Becoming a democratic state with a parliamentary ruling is of no help when the ruling philosophy of a country and of its ruling elite is based on the principle of freedom to violate individual rights.

The past was not necessarily better than the more recent past or the present. Afghanistan is a good example of this last sentence. Whenever  individual rights are sacrificed for the interests of national of foreign groups of interests the positive outcomes will always result in detriment of the individual.  It has always been groups of interests who benefit from the illiterate masses and historical examples explain this plentifully.

The images in the link mentioned above are inaccurate historical accounts. I consider that the following cartoon is very clear in explaining the complex and unfortunate story of the country and I invite you to study it,

Did Empire Matter? Indian Migration in Global Context 1834-1940

Bombay Fort
Image via Wikipedia

Prof. Adam McKeown from Columbia University did an online conference a couple weeks ago (November 08, 2011. University of Pittsburgh. World History Center.).  The title was “Did Empire Matter? Indian Migration in Global Context 1834-1940” as a continuation of the Global Migrations Discussion.  I have uploaded a summary of that lecture’s content and here’s the link to the pdf,

McKeown - Migrations

You can still watch the tape of the online conference in this link: LIVE Conference (taped)

Prof. Adam McKeown, is a leading figure in world-historical interpretation, has shown the value of migration studies in clarifying global patterns. He is author of studies including, Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders /(2008), and he is writing a history of globalization since 1760. He co-directs the International and Global History graduate track at Columbia.

Journal Reco: Globalization and Global History in Toynbee

ArnoldToynbee1961
Image by cesarharada.com via Flickr

Abstract

This article traces the intellectual history of Arnold J. Toynbee. It centers on early twentieth-century British social thought and its synthesis of idealism and evolution. Toynbee used this framework to interpret imperial and international affairs, and, like his mentors, he focused especially on the unprecedented, progressive possibilities of global integration. With the failure of the Paris Peace Conference, however, Toynbee began to regard globalization as a contradiction between social unity and spiritual disjuncture. A Study of History, his endeavor to bring historical writing into its global present, followed from this opposition, which he sought to explain and hoped to resolve. By the mid 1930s, world events finally overwhelmed Toynbee’s commitment to the old conceptual synthesis. He returned to such thinking after World War II, but his brief declaration of methodological limitations illuminated for historical study the antinomy of the global scale.

Universal history must be construed and denied.

To many world historians today, Arnold J. Toynbee is regarded like an embarrassing uncle at a house party. He gets a requisite introduction by virtue of his place on the family tree, but he is quickly passed over for other friends and relatives. For much of the twentieth century though, Toynbee was perhaps the world’s most read, translated, and discussed living scholar. His output was enormous, hundreds of books, pamphlets, and articles. Of these, scores were translated into thirty different languages. In 1947, Time magazine considered his historical significance to be on par with Marx.2 Among intellectuals, response to his work was de rigueur. Indeed, the critical reaction to Toynbee constitutes a veritable intellectual history of the midcentury: we find, for example, Aron, Frye, Huxley, Kennan, Kracauer, Kroeber, Morgenthau, Mumford, Niebuhr, Ortega y Gasset, Popper, Ricouer, [End Page 747] and Sweezy, as well as a long list of the period’s most important historians, Beard, Braudel, Collingwood, and so on.

A survey of these responses consistently reveals odd contradictions between positions. In recent historical work, for example, Reba Soffer aligns 1930s-era Toynbee with Britain’s “radical right,” while Christopher Brewin describes his politics of the same period as “progressive liberal.”3 In Toynbee’s own time, two of the most sustained attacks came from E. H. Carr and Pieter Geyl, each in a certain way the inverse of the other. Carr translated the Marxist critique of bourgeois moralism into his study of international relations; he assailed Toynbee’s “utopian prescriptions” as so many alibis for British national interest. And as in Marxism, spotlight on the furtive particular in turn revealed a sturdier universal, in this case, what Carr called “the nature of politics.” Geyl, on the other hand, read Toynbee’s “impossibly universalist system” not as façade for a specific concern, but as its disintegration; he deemed Toynbee’s world history as an attempt to “escape” the uniqueness of the West. Toynbee’s “passion for unity,” Geyl wrote, was “fundamentally antagonistic to history, the guardian of the particular.”4 So which was it: the camouflage of self-interest or an ecumenical hallucination? And which was the corrective to Toynbee’s grand failure? Naturalism or historicism? Siegfried Kracauer shook his head: “There is something schizophrenic about Toynbee.”5

One approach toward understanding this contradiction can be found in Karl Löwith‘s brief comments on Toynbee in Meaning in History. All modern temporality, according to Löwith, was an “inconsistent compound” of ancient Greek cyclicality and a Christian theology of history. In addition, the latter’s eschatology endowed the historical process with “universality,” evoking above every smaller narrative the single, imagined identity of “mankind.” With this broad phrasing, Löwith fittingly characterized the two-sidedness of Toynbee’s thinking,[End Page 748] but he left unattended Toynbee’s struggle against a categorical universalism.6 Löwith’s high degree of abstraction offers little to the historiographer assessing world history and the varied circumstances that have contributed to its diverse formulations. My own reading stays considerably closer to the text. For in understanding Toynbee, philosophical generalization, like a quick dismissal, misses the struggles and contradictions in his attempt at world history. These break points help elucidate the history of the field, as well as the history of global thought and twentieth-century intellectual currents more generally. Perhaps too, they present to contemporary world-historical thinking an insight of value, even as Toynbee’s system has long stood in ruins.

The basis for Toynbee’s historical logic, and the source of its core difficulty, derived from a set of ideas which are best described as “evolutionary idealism.” One of the dominant trends in early twentieth-century British social thought, evolutionary idealism sought to combine Darwinian naturalism and teleological purpose, two positions hitherto locked in debate. Writers applied this synthesis to questions of imperial affairs, and it underscored much of the era’s thinking on the globe and its history. From this conceptual framework, Toynbee reckoned that the single most significant feature of his age was world integration, a “unification [that] . . . has caught in its meshes the whole living generation of mankind and all the habitable lands and navigable seas on the face of the Planet.”7 Indeed, Toynbee’s entire career as historian and political analyst can be read as a massive reflection on what came to be called globalization. His earliest such writings fully mirrored the evolutionary idealism of his educators. Yet this outlook faced a serious challenge in the immediate aftermath of World War I. The strains of colonial violence and worldwide turmoil fragmented teleology into a multiplicity of beliefs and interests. Toynbee persistently and loudly emphasized this problem of difference. At the same time, and throughout the interwar years, he remained committed to evolutionary idealism and strained to refashion it for the new, polycentric world. Both his rationale and his method for a history of the globe followed from that effort. The contradictions, however, could not be contained, and by the late 1930s, internal adjustments appeared inadequate. With the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the attendant fiasco at the League of [End Page 749] Nations, Toynbee renounced his previous position. For a brief but significant moment, he neither synthesized nor hybridized the unity of the globe and its diversity of ideals. World integration rendered the universal and the particular into categories at once interdependent and irreconcilable, at once complementary and contradictory. After World War II he returned to the principle of synthesis with ever new and ever unsatisfactory attempts at reconciliation. Across Toynbee’s reception then, as in Carr and Geyl, his key concepts hopelessly chased each other in circles. Yet this indetermination anticipated in a uniquely interrelated way some of the major philosophical and historiographical currents of later years, expressing the irresolvability of postmodernism, the renewed interest in religion, and world history itself.

Read more: Michael Lang. “Globalization and Global History in Toynbee.” Journal of World History 22.4 (2011): 747-783. Project MUSE. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_world_history/v022/22.4.lang.html&gt;.

Article: The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism

Loyalist Arms Factory
Image by Burns Library, Boston College via Flickr

I managed to read this article while having coffee today in a exquisite café in front of the Palace Museum in Weimar. It was very hard to try understanding the author’s ideas while he refuses to accept that the value of a product is the result of an objective theory of valuation done by the consumers and sellers in specific contexts. He gives for granted that labor force is the one deterministic condition behind production and trying to get his point seems quite difficult at points. Nonetheless, this is a great opportunity to understand the mainstream ideas of Karl Marx theories in regard to Globalization and what some of them call “Global Capitalism / New Imperialism”. Here’s the intro and then a link to the article via EbscoHost,

The article discusses the ways in which the growth of the global capitalist labor force has altered the imperialistic nature of global capitalism, as represented by powerful multinational corporations, by negatively affecting wages in both developing and wealthy countries. The authors rely heavily on philosopher Karl Marx’s theories on the industrial reserve army and capital accumulation, which posit that wealth accumulation will invariably lead to increased suffering for the working masses. They go on to explain the exploitative nature of global labor arbitrage, which essentially means a corporation’s benefiting from low wages in developing countries. The process of arbitrage is related to the development of massive global supply chains.
Read more: The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism. (AN 66933797) Academic Search Complete. FOSTER, JOHN BELLAMY; McCHESNEY, ROBERT W.; JONNA, R. JAMILMonthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine; 11/01/2011