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Chinese tea and the British Empire – part 2


In the 18th century, when Britain was in the early stage of the Industrial Revolution, London was called a foggy city due to the severe industrial pollution of air and water. The Industrial Revolution resulted in a dense population in urban areas, and the pollution of drinking water became a big problem for the first time. Fortunately, the rapid growth of tea consumptioncoincided with the time when the Industrial Revolution began. To some extent, the British people’s fondness of tea is the side product of pollution during the Industrial Revolution.


Tea trading did not only bring huge fortune to the British government, but also improved the health of the British people. Under the circumstances where the medical assistance was limited, the improvement of health and reduction of death rates caused by infectious diseases were closely related with the habit of drinking tea.


McFarland emphasized that the origin of the Industrial Revolution was closely related with tea. In the early stage of industrialization, the functions of machinery in peoples minds were not as important as today. Workers’ manual labor played an important role in the production. Only when the workers kept their energy up could have the output and safety be guaranteed. They needed an affordable food that could refresh them. Tea and bread was one. McFarland pointed out that, the appearance of Chinese tea met with thosedemands of industrialized production, and greatly boosted economic development in Britain.


Someone said that tea was as important as the steam engine to Britain, as it helped Britain bear the crisis and create a new world. Tea drinking was also significant in wars. Before 1720, when tea drinking was popular in Britain, Britain only traded with North America, west Indian colonies, and partially with India and the Far East. However, in the following century, its colonies covered Australia, Canada, many African countries, South America and India, becoming the “Empire on which the sun never sets”. During the wars, tea leaves replaced wines as the necessity of the British soldiers, because people believed that drinking tea could keep you healthy and enhance battle effectiveness. By the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface. Some people even said at that time that, Britain was unlikely to become the empire without tea.

有人说,“茶叶在英国的作用如同蒸汽机一样重要,它帮助英国人度过危机并创造了一个新世界”。 饮茶对英国工业革命的意义已如上述,对战争的意义也非常重大。在1720年代英国人广泛饮茶之前,英国仅有北美、西印度殖民地及部分对印度和远东的贸易,而在此后的一个多世纪里,英国的殖民地不仅囊括了澳大利亚、加拿大而且还拥有了非洲的很多地方及南美洲、印度等地,真正成为日不落帝国。期间,茶叶代替酒类成为英军重要的必需品,因为人们已经确信,饮茶能保证战士的身体健康,增强其战斗力。当时就有人说,如果没有茶叶,英国人就根本无法打赢战争,成为真正的日不落帝国。


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