Treasuring Tea: the World’s oldest Wonder

January is National Tea Month, but there is a tea for every season. Too hot? Iced tea. Feeling chilly? Warm up with a chai! What comes to mind when you hear the word tea? A warm, calming brew sipped at the end of a long day? A strongly steeped morning pick-me-up? A well-traveled, world-renowned part of your pantry? England? China? India? Nepal?

 

Afternoon Tea, (oil on panel) by Ronner-Knip, Henriette (1821-1909). Photo © Christie’s Images; Dutch, out of copyright

The Oxford English Dictionary contains over eight definitions for the word tea, ranging from its description as a plant to its use as a noun describing a British afternoon hour. Its current English pronunciation is traced back to approximately 1655, yet it may be historically traced in China as far back as the third century BCE. Centuries of existence and integration into cultures ascribes the fact that in some places it is known as tea whereas in other places it’s known as cha. This informative article by Quartz traces the fascinating etymology of the word. You may further investigate maps located within the UIUC Library, either as an individual item or within monographs, to further trace its place within different cultures. Within the United States, tea dates back to the pre-Revolutionary era, and makes a central appearance in the historical flash point of the Boston Tea Party and the subsequent boycott of the item by the Patriots. From then to now, however, tea has remained a staple of many American households. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., citizens consumed over 3.8 billion gallons of tea in 2016! 

PSA detailing how to reserve sugar and not waste it during daily tea consumption during the WW I era. Farm Home, November 1, 1918, pg 4. 

Due to the longevity of its existence and role within different histories and cultures, tea proves itself an interdisciplinary subject that may find a place in any field of study. There are few categories of tea, which comes from the shrub from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China, northern India, and southeastern Asia. Categories such as black tea, green tea, or oolong, are differentiated by the manufacturing process of the plant. Although there are few categories, there are thousands of varieties of the beverage, which is what arises from blending the plant with various herbs or spices. Celestial Seasonings™ provides a detailed explanation on the characteristics of different categories of tea. From these different categories, there are thousands of varieties available, which has allowed tea to maintain its marketable status. Simply put, there is a tea for just about anyone and for any occasion. 

If this post has inspired you to dust off the tea set and heat up the kettle, or if you would just like to read one or more of the many histories of tea, please consult the further resources below.

Further resources:

A person could dedicate an entire scholarly career researching tea, and indeed, some have. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign contains multiple articles, books, and electronic media pertaining to the subject. Conduct a subject search using terms such as “tea–history” or “tea — cultivation.” Use easy search to locate scholarly articles pertaining to scientific properties of tea, or other articles of interest. Below are a few links to items in the local collection you may find enjoyable.

Cited in this post:

 

New Digitized Newspaper: The Rand Daily Mail, 1902-1985

The Rand Daily Mail was a South African, English language newspaper that became famous in the 1960s for its editorial opposition to apartheid.

It began publication in 1902 as a conservative sheet serving English-speaking whites in “the Rand”—local parlance for the Witwatersrand goldfields near Johannesburg (“rand” is a geological term for an escarpment, so its metonymic use here is similar to the way southern Californians often refer to the San Fernando Valley as simply “the Valley”). South Africa was a country sliced to shreds by conflict: racial, class, and white ethnic conflict. Over five different languages were spoken throughout the nation. Within the Rand, the paper was reliably establishment, though it did occasionally break ranks to support white miners. Continue reading “New Digitized Newspaper: The Rand Daily Mail, 1902-1985″

Changes to Library Printing

Starting January 1, some changes to Library public printing will take effect, when students will have to pay for printing in advance through the Illini Cash system, instead of being billed to their university accounts. OBFS will no longer support processing print charges to student bills. This update will slightly change the process of printing and refunds.

Continue reading “Changes to Library Printing”

New Online Resource: Christian-Muslim Relations

Christian-Muslim Relations Volumes 1 and 2 (CMR1 and CMR2) cumulate all eight volumes published so far in Brill’s serial bibliography, Christian Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History. CMR1 covers the time period 600-1500. CMR2 claims to cover 1500-1914, but like the four previously-published volumes on which it is based, its coverage seems to extend only as far as 1700.

The reference work is organized around historical authors who wrote about Christian-Muslim relations. For each author you will find bibliographies of works by and about that author.

CMR1 is arranged by time period, and then by author. CMR2 is organized more broadly by region, then time period, and then by author.

In both CMR1 and CMR2, each entry begins with a short, biographical essay on the author, and then lists primary sources about the author, followed by secondary sources about the author. The entries then list those works in which the author treated the subject of Christian-Muslim relations, with a separate bibliography for each work. These bibliographies are briefly annotated, and list both unpublished and published primary sources, as well as variant editions, translations, and links to online versions (where available). For each primary work, the bibliographer gives a note on that work’s significance for the study of Christian-Muslim relations, as well as an additional bibliography of secondary sources on the primary work. All entries are signed.

New Online Resources: October 2017 Update

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine: Identifies books, book chapters, and journal articles on all aspects of the history of science, technology, and medicine. It is based on four standard bibliographic tools: the Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science (1913-currrent with expanded retrospective coverage), the Current Bibliography in the History of Technology (1964-current with expanded retrospective coverage), the Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza (1982-2011 with expanded retrospective coverage), and the catalog of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine (1532-current). The Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science began in 1913 as an annual supplement to the journal Isis. The Current Bibliography in the History of Technology began in 1964 as an annual supplement to the journal Technology and Culture. The Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza began in 1982 as part of the Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana. These three bibliographies, along with the catalog of the Wellcome Library, form the core of this database.

Medical Services and Warfare: With an emphasis on the practice of medicine during the Crimean War, the American Civil War, and the First World War, the documents in this collection are organized around several themes: Public Health, Sanitation, Hospital Care, Nursing, Disability, Mental Health, Medical Devices, Rehabilitation, Ambulance Systems, and Women at War. Collection includes hospital records, clinical notes, case studies, medical studies, correspondence, diaries, memoirs, interview transcripts, military records, financial records, government documents, ephemera, pamphlets, periodicals, books, textbooks, manuals, maps, photographs, and statistics.

The Stationers’ Company Archive, 1554-2007: Founded in 1404 to control the London book trade, the Stationers Company received a Royal charter in 1557, which made it the official governing body of the entire British publishing industry, excepting the university presses at Oxford and Cambridge. This collection is a key resource for studying the history of the British book trade, as well as the newspaper industry. The collection is also important for researching the history of copyright. Documents include Royal charters, ordinances, licenses, membership records, apprenticeship records, court records, financial records, copyright registers, and more.

Other new online resources for Fall 2017:

Contact us with any questions or feedback.

‘Tis Time! Sharpen the knives and carve the pumpkins!

 

Halloween 2016 netted retail industries approximately $8.6 billion (CNN). Millions more may be factored into the season when cafes and grocers market many items labeled as “pumpkin spice.” It’s impossible to mention Halloween without invoking images of costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, pumpkin smashing, witches, black cats, etc. Halloween is such a symbolic and long-standing holiday in American culture that it is worth serious consideration by historians, anthropologists, and students of folk-lore. It is the product of the migration of Western Europeans and a fusion of their traditional practices on this continent. Although it is such a historically rich festival, how is it that one of the longest-standing crafts affiliated with All Hallows Eve is that of pumpkin carving? When all is said and done, it seems a tad silly to carve a scary face into a vegetable. Patterns range from happy to scary, from eccentric to mainstream, the patterns reflecting both the skill and the whims of the carver. Why and how did this tradition of pumpkin carving emerge? That annual pilgrimage to a country-side pumpkin patch in order to select the perfect squash canvas? The answer lies with the development of Halloween as an American holiday.

Irish and Scottish immigrants brought many traditions with them as they migrated to North America.  A very old Celtic celebration is that of Samhain, which marked the old pagan New Year. On Samhain, spirits of the dead and the realm of faerie mingled with the regular living. People dressed up in order to confuse or aid spirits in what used to be known as ‘souling’ and ‘guising’ and is now known as trick-or-treating. Women chose this day to participate in divination to identify future spouses, the upcoming harvest prospects, and/or communicate with the deceased. This

Carved turnip. Artifact located at the Museum of Country Life, Mayo County, Ireland.

tradition has continued into the twenty-first century, albeit in different forms, often with the ever-popular Ouija Boards sold for kids ages 8 and up! As for jack-o-lanterns? This too is the result of carried over tradition of turnip carving. Carved turnips sought to confuse and frighten away malicious spirits. The origin story of a jack-o-lantern is equally fascinating: a man who tricked the devil and as a result could neither go to heaven nor hell upon death was cursed to roam the Earth in fiery vegetable form.

Although this lore and imagery principally sustained itself as an ethnic festival within the first Celtic immigrant communities, it began to merge with other autumn festivals in the United States and by the mid to later nineteenth century became cause to celebrate. Celebratory ‘tricks’ in the early twentieth century could be quite destructive, resulting in property destruction, removed gates and fence posts, over-turned outhouses, and going around and spooking individuals just for the heck of it. To counter such ‘tricks,’ popular culture advocated celebrating Halloween in more wholesome ways, friendly to all family. Farmer’s Wife October editions are rife with ideas for party favors, crafts, games, stories, and recipes. Many of the games center on divination utilizing apple peels and decorating using none other than jack-o-lanterns.

Why is it that jack-o-lantern carving of turnips transformed toward that of a pumpkin? The pumpkin plays an interesting role in its significance within US History, which is elaborated upon in Cindy Ott’s book Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Ott frequently reinforces that the pumpkin, although a relatively valueless crop both monetarily and utility-wise, transformed to represent agrarian ideals and the bucolic imagery of a rustic farm life in a rapidly urbanizing period of American history. As more people fled to cities and began purchasing food in cans the idea of picking a pumpkin and using it to decorate or make the hallowed pumpkin pie, allowed for the newly urbanized individuals to reconnect with nature, if anything, through nostalgia for days of yore when a family could live solely off the land (no matter how realistic such a notion may be). Jack-o-lanterns allow the individual to simultaneously connect with nature and celebrate its unpredictability.

Farmer’s Wife, Oct 1, 1910 Cover page.

These ideals and symbolism is still entrenched deep within American culture. As you head toward the pumpkin patch, prep for trick-or-treaters, and ready your jack-o-lanterns, pause a moment to appreciate the significant whimsy of the holiday. If feeling particularly inspired, sharpen the knife a bit extra and carve up a turnip! Consult Cindy Ott’s book to learn more, and peruse October 1 editions of the Farmer’s Wife to enjoy Halloween stories and party ideas from the early twentieth century (hint: bobbing for apples)! In the mean time, stay tuned for our countdown to Halloween recipe posts, coming next week!