First Advisor

Joseph Bohling

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors




Tea -- Great Britain -- History, Tea -- Social aspects -- Great Britain -- History, British national characteristics, Imperialism




In some regards, drinking tea has always been considered a British pastime. But, where, when, and how did tea take a hold of the nation to such an extent that a once considered Aristocratic luxury import became part of the commoner’s palate? Crucially, empire-building and nation-building have been mutually reinforcing for Britain, and tea is the lens through which one can understand the development of the imperial British nation-state. Tea became an entrenched symbol of British identity on both the national and imperial levels through a multiplicity of forces and actors. This thesis intends to prove that tea, through production and consumption methods, influenced conceptions of Britishness. In addition, this work will reveal the results of Britain imposing capitalism on the world, such as with its India colony, and explain that there are consequences largely unknown to the consumer when markets become separated from the rest of human activity (thus creating a broken 'Wallersteinian' commodity chain. This analysis presents a new approach to understanding the transformational seventeenth to nineteenth centuries which Britons deepened awareness of their roles in the global economy. Overall, even though tea is not such an innocent commodity due to its aggressive production methods, tea significantly contributed to Britishness at home and abroad.


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