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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Bitter Weed: A Global History of Tea (HIST10409)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
Summary'And if they did really make use of the infusion of any delicious herbs with which the garden of Eden abounded, I dare say, so bitter a weed as tea was not selected'. So thought the English critic Jonas Hanway in the middle of the eighteenth century. Yet his compatriots disagreed, and by this time tea was already well on its way to becoming the world's most widely-consumed drink after water. This course traces that amazing journey.
Course description This Honours-level course examines the production, movement and consumption of tea in a range of cultural and social contexts, from the plantations of southern China to the clippers in Boston Harbour, and from the factories in Assam to the living rooms of Edinburgh. Weekly seminars use specific local contexts to explore wider themes, including gender, class, ritual, material culture, luxury consumption and the domestication of the exotic. Over the course of the semester, students will gain an understanding not only of the various ways in which tea has been produced, consumed and understood in different local settings, but also of what links these apparently disparate practices together. A thematic approach allows us to transcend local, national and regional boundaries, and ask whether it makes more sense to consider tea as part of a wider, global culture of consumption.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, PTs are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503780).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least three History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate command of the body of knowledge considered in the course;
  2. demonstrate an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship;
  3. demonstrate an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of primary source material;
  4. demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers.
Reading List
James A. Benn, Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History (Honolulu, 2015).
Arjun Appadurai, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, 1986).
Piya Chatterjee, A Time for Tea: Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation (Durham, NC, 2001).
Elizabeth Kaniampady, Status of Women Working in the Tea Plantations: A Case Study (New Delhi, 2003).
Robert Gardella, Harvesting Mountains: Fujian and the China Tea Trade, 1757-1937 (Berkeley, 1994).
Markman Ellis et al., Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London, 2015).
Lu Yu, The Classic of Tea, Francis Ross Carpenter trans. (New York, 1974).
Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea, Christopher Benfey trans. (London 2010).
Nahum Tate, 'Panacea: A Poem upon Tea, in Two Cantos' (London, 1700).
Jonas Hanway, An Essay on Tea: Considered as Pernicious to Health, Obstructing Industry, and Impoverishing the Nation (London, 1756).
Frederick Eden, The State of the Poor, or, An History of the Labouring Classes in England (London, 1797).
G. G. Sigmund, Tea; its Effects, Medicinal and Moral (London, 1839).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will help students develop a range of transferable skills, including:

- the ability to manage one's time effectively, work to deadlines and perform effectively under pressure;
- the ability to gather, sift, organise and evaluate large quantities of textual evidence;
- the ability to marshal arguments in both written and oral forms;
- the ability to work independently.
Course organiserDr Stephen McDowall
Tel: (0131 6)50 3754
Course secretaryMiss Lorna Berridge
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