From Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon, 1880-1900

An Economic and Social History


In the early 1880s a disastrous plant disease diminished the yields of the hitherto flourishing coffee plantation of Ceylon. Coincidentally, world market conditions for coffee were becoming increasingly unfavourable. The combination of these factors brought a swift end to coffee cultivation in the British crown colony and pushed the island into a severe economic crisis.
When Ceylon re-emerged from this crisis only a decade later, its economy had been thoroughly transformed and now rested on the large-scale cultivation of tea. This book uses the unprecedented intensity and swiftness of this process to highlight the socioeconomic interconnections and dependencies in tropical export economies in the late nineteenth century and it shows how dramatically Ceylonese society was affected by the economic transformation.

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Biographical Note

Roland Wenzlhuemer, Dr. phil. (2002) in History, Salzburg University, is Lecturer and Researcher at the Centre for British Studies, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin. He has worked on the socioeconomic history of British Ceylon and recently on the history of global telecommunication in the nineteenth century.


All those interested in economic and social history, the history of Sri Lanka, colonial South Asia, and the history of agricultural export colonies, as well as scholars working on the British Empire.

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