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Tea WarA History of Capitalism in China and India$
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Andrew B Liu

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300243734

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300243734.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

After the Great Smash

After the Great Smash

Tea Mania, Overseas Capital, and Labor Intensification in Assam

(p.115) 4 After the Great Smash
Tea War

Andrew B. Liu

Yale University Press

This chapter describes how, in the late nineteenth century, Indian tea initially thrived not because of its adherence to the ideals of civilization and freedom but precisely due to its reliance on an exceptional system of labor indenture. Behind the curtain of marketing campaigns focused on flavor and hygiene, British planters themselves attributed the rise of Indian tea to lower production costs from indenture. Starting in 1865, officials in India devised a system of regulated labor recruitment and penal contract employment for the Assam tea industry. It featured the restriction of worker movement, constant surveillance, and wages fixed by law rather than by the market. Penal contract laws provided planters both a subordinated migrant workforce and the legal impunity to intensify the production process. By the turn of the century, Indian tea exports had surpassed those of their Chinese rivals, and the industry had become the leader in world production. The chapter thus challenges historiography that has argued capitalist production must, by definition, rely upon free labor and technological innovations. Instead, it resituates the mechanization of Indian tea production within the social dynamics of escalating labor productivity. The chapter then draws out key similarities between the work regimes of Chinese and Indian tea.

Keywords:   Indian tea, labor indenture, British planters, penal contract laws, Assam tea industry, migrant workforce, Indian tea production, Indian tea exports, capitalist production, labor productivity

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