Behind the wholesome image of the worlds most popular drink lies a strangely murky and often violent past. When tea began to be imported into the West from China in the seventeenth century, its high price and heavy taxes made it an immediate target for smuggling and dispute at every level, culminating in international incidents like the notorious Boston Tea Party. In China itself the British financed their tea dealings by the ruthless imposition of the opium trade. Intrepid British tea planters soon began flocking to India, Ceylon and Africa, setting up huge plantations; often workers were bought and sold like slaves. Roy Moxhams account of this extraordinary history begins with his own sojourn in Africa, managing 500 acres of tea and a thousand-strong workforce. His experiences inform the book and led him to investigate the early history of tea and the results of his researches reflect little credit on the British Empire, while often revealing a fascinating world story.
I was born and brought up in Evesham, Worcestershire. After working for a while on a Herefordshire fruit farm, I went out to Africa in 1961 as a tea planter in Nyasaland, later Malawi. I spent 13 years in Eastern Africa before returning to London to set up a gallery of African art.
Subsequently, I went to Camberwell College of Arts and qualified as a book and paper conservator. After a period at Canterbury Cathedral Archives I became Senior Conservator of the Senate House, University of London, Library. I also taught in the Institute of English Studies on a MA in 'The History of the Book.' Following 'retirement' in 2005 I devote most of my energies to writing and giving talks. I spend half my time in London and the other half travelling, principally in India, which I have visited over twenty times and where I have friends from all sections of society.
I have twice been a guest on BBC R4 'Midweek.' I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and have given talks there, as well as at the British Library, the British Museum and many other venues.
My website is www.roymoxham.com