(Note to the reader: This article was written in 2013/4)
Introduction – QUICK! BUY SOME BIN BAGS…
Forget the civil war or the restoration. Forget the ‘Abdication Crisis’ and the ‘Year of the three kings’. Infact, it may be quicker just to stand up at once and walk over to your bookshelf, boldly grab each and every title which mentions ‘monarchy’, ‘Britain’ or ‘history’ and hastily throw them in the direction of the nearest bin. Now this may seem like a rather desperate and drastic thing to do but it is essential if you want to truly understand how we got to where we are today.
Inside the very dusty volumes of long forgotten Parliamentary Hansard and other seemingly unimportant documents, lies the truth and it is the job of thousands of historians, archaeologists and beardy researchers to rifle through these cobweb filled pages to find the important detail and the accounts that really mean something to you and me.
But do not weep in despair just yet. Do not feel inclined to burn your many history essays which you have previously slaved over at school from the ages of ten to eighteen. They will still have their own significance because not all history has been mis-reported. A few lone occasions have been spared and it is vital that we maintain this golden information and protect it from a vast deluge of miscalculations and inconclusive accounts as they sweep by every day, attempting to engulf the few scraps of paper which hold some of the only reliable clues to our own past.
This essay is part of a series which aims to establish what really created this country and why various authors, monks and even the public choose to leave many details out of publisher’s reach.
Chapter I – “MILK AND SUGAR?”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CEYLON TEA
(How Britain Began Trading)
England is known for its love of tea. A drink which it appears is impossible to overestimate, seems to actually run the entire nation as its fuel. Clearly, this simple and positively influential beverage pars with America’s lust for oil and has made various international co-operations billions of dollars over the past few years.
Indeed, the true story behind this drink has been relatively by-passed by history as a mere consequence or accident. But THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
Flamboyant explorers such as Drake and Raleigh brought many commodities like sugar, tea, tobacco and silk into the continent for the first time and due to their high social standing, trade routes were finally opened outside the walls of Europe and English society and culture rapidly began to change. Members of the aristocracy bought these items in great bulk as a means to show their class, influence and social standing. This changed the taste of Britain and the result was astonishing.
The second half of Elizabeth’s forty five year reign marked the beginning of the development of the English Navy. The Queen and her courtiers believed that in order to become the single dominating European figure, England would have to form its own military strength at sea. Elizabeth’s father, the great King Henry VIII was the first English monarch to lead an English maritime force of any considerable size. After his death however, successors to his crown had little money from the crown purse to fund his groundbreaking naval development.
After Mary’s death and ‘failure’ to produce issue, Spain and England were no longer tied together in matrimony and were at once, fierce enemies. Religion, finance, trade and sheer politics tore the two nations apart from what was once a rather suspicious relationship. Naval expansion seemed inevitable and with it, the opportunity of empire and business.
The East India Company
Through the might of the East India Company, Britain managed to extend its tea production over the entire east and most notably, to Sri Lanka.
This was all due to the work of James Taylor, a Scottish traveller, who noticed that the intense humidity, rich soil and cool temperatures were perfect for the mass growth and production of ‘Ceylon Tea’ and with the help of a Scottish millionaire, Thomas Lipton, Taylor cleared nineteen acres [827,640 square foot] of woodland and proceeded to plant the first tea fields in the area.
In 1872, Taylor assisted in the construction of the island’s first packaging facility and within three years, the first cargos of ‘Ceylon Tea’ were sold at the London Tea Auction.
When reading this, one seems to gain an extremely glowing view of British trade working at its best with the backing of a very ‘legitimate’ empire. Indeed, over one million Sri Lankan’s were employed in this farming, production and packaging process that immediately boosted economic performance and competition towards the east. Unfortunately, this is not the whole story.
In 1796 the might of the British Empire was thrust against the innocent people of what was then the island of Lanka. Under the banner of England and George III, the newly formed Dutch Republic, which had maintained its control over the island’s people since the 15th century, transferred Lanka’s sovereignty to the British in fear of enemy French forces using the island to patrol the Indian Ocean. Ceylon was yet another nation that had fallen victim to the European game of kingdom building.
“Sign up! Sign up! For the Sovereignty of Ceylon”
By the time the British flag flew above the tropics, the Ceylonese must have been used to invasion. The Dutch forces had originally been asked by the native king to crush any remaining generations of Portuguese that had managed to survive since the south Europeans landed on Sri Lankan shores in 1505.
At first, British rule was deeply welcomed by the island’s people. It was seen as a new beginning, a chance for change and a time for peace. But this was not to be. By 1818, a vast network is islanders joined together and began to rebel against the British. This was the start of a well rooted revolt. A group of twenty thousand men were assembled and began at once to make preparations for war.
The soldiers that were positioned on Lanka began to fly the British banner once again. They too were prepared for a struggle and quickly began a systematic process of burning villages and slaughtering cattle. The redcoats were also prepared to slaughter any resisting islander that stood between an ultimate British dictatorship and domination.
We must recognise therefore, that something as innocent as the investments of Taylor and Lipton grew from Britain’s domination of Ceylonese life. The British aristocracy were fuelling an unstoppable drive for power, land, trade and profit and with time, this simple nationalistic mission turned into something much uglier. Something of an addiction. An addiction at the expense of entire continents and their peoples.