Much like countries, regions are man-made, prone to arbitrary borders reflecting the priorities of long dead statesmen. In the 19th century, French leaders discovered “Latin America” as they sought to expand their influence in the Western hemisphere. The American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized the “Middle East” in a book that guided generations of naval officers. At the dawn of a multipolar world order, it seems likely that some “new” region might come to embody its anxieties and ambitions. Beyond Liberal Order, a recent collection of essays edited by Harry Verhoeven and Anatol Lieven, offers the “Global Indian Ocean” as the geographical unit ripe with insight for our age.
In 1864-65, it took Gustavus Farley Jr 123 days by ship to reach Hong Kong from Boston, USA, a journey which he diarizes in the last letter in this collection. Although only twenty years old, he already had several sea-miles under his belt. At 17, he had been sent to London from his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts to be apprenticed to the tea-tasting trade under the guidance of his Heard cousins.
Green Tea with Milk and Sugar is, at least at first, a perplexing title: the green teas I grew up with and came to know from China and Japan were taken hot and without any additives. Then again, I consume a fair amount of matcha latte, and if the menus of the local bubble tea shops are anything to go by, adding milk and sugar is quite commonplace, and not restricted to the black teas of British traditions imagined from novels. Historian and author Robert Hellyer has a personal connection to this history of green tea drinking in the US, as both his grandmothers kept green tea for nicer occasions, and a grandfather was actually involved in importing teas from Japan.
When the Taliban took over Kabul in the summer of 2021, I—like many people around the world—kept asking such questions as: How did it all come about? What do we know about Afghanistan other than from a geopolitically inflected perspective mostly dominated by the US interests?
“The Europeans raise all the cattle, but the Chinese get all the milk.” This joke, told in colonial Singapore, was indicative of the importance of the Chinese diaspora throughout Southeast Asia. Chinese migrants were miners, laborers, merchants and traders: the foundation of many colonial cities throughout Asia–while also making sure that their own communities back home benefited.
Globalization is possibly the most important economic phenomenon of the past several decades. Opening borders, increasing trade and deepening integration has transformed our economies, our societies and our politics. Globalization changed establishment politics; the reaction against it transformed those against the establishment.
An English mission to Japan arrives in 1613 with all the standard English commodities, including wool and cloth: which the English hope to trade for Japanese silver. But there’s a gift for the Shogun among them: a silver telescope.