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Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India

image speaker
Dr. Andrew Liu
Department of History
Villanova University

Dr. Andrew Liu (Assistant Professor, History, Villanova University) presents a talk on his book, Tea War: A History of Capitalism In China and India

Presented via Zoom - scan the QR code on the flyer or select the following link to register -

Andrew B. Liu is an assistant professor of history at Villanova University near Philadelphia. His interests include modern China, transnational Asia, and the history of capitalism and political economy.

Tea today remains the world's most consumed commercial beverage. Throughout its modern history, tea has connected the fates of growers, workers, and managers across Asia and the postcolonial world, especially those in coastal China and eastern India. Tea War explores the history of competition between the Chinese and colonial Indian tea industries across the past two centuries, leveraging the story of its production, consumption, and global circulation to offer a fresh and compelling account of capitalist accumulation.

This book challenges past economic histories premised on the technical “divergence” between the West and the Rest, arguing instead that seemingly traditional technologies and social practices were central to modern capital accumulation across Asia. I also show that competitive pressures compelled new forms of abstract economic thinking. Many of our familiar characterizations of China and India as premodern backwaters, embodied in the figures of the "comprador" and "coolie," I argue, were themselves the historical result of new notions of political economy adopted by Chinese and Indian nationalists, who discovered that these abstract ideas corresponded to concrete social changes in their local surroundings. Together, these stories point toward a more flexible and globally oriented conceptualization of the history of capitalism in China and India.

Sponsored by the Department of History and the Center for Asian Studies (CAS)

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