This book brings to life for the first time the remarkable story of James Taylor, ‘father of the Ceylon tea enterprise’ in the nineteenth century. Publicly celebrated in Sri Lanka for his efforts in transforming the country’s economy and shaping the world’s drinking habits, Taylor died in disgrace and remains unknown to the present day in his native Scotland. Using a unique archive of Taylor’s letters written over a forty-year period, Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine provide an unusually detailed reconstruction of a British planter’s life in Asia at the high noon of empire.
As well as charting the development of Ceylon’s key commodities in the nineteenth century, the book examines the dark side of planting life including violence and conflict, oppression and despair. A range of other fascinating themes are evocatively examined, including graphic depictions of the Indian Mutiny, ‘race’ and ethnicity, environmental transformation, cross-cultural contact, and emotional ties to home.