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By Sarah Rose

"If ever there has been a ebook to learn within the corporation of a pleasant cuppa, this can be it." -The Washington Post

within the dramatic tale of 1 of the best acts of company espionage ever dedicated, Sarah Rose recounts the interesting, not likely conditions surrounding a turning aspect in fiscal background. via the center of the 19th century, the British East India corporation confronted the lack of its monopoly at the beautifully profitable tea alternate with China, forcing it to make the drastic determination of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to thieve the crop from deep inside of China and convey it again to British plantations in India. Fortune's danger-filled odyssey, magnificently mentioned right here, reads like experience fiction, revealing a long-forgotten bankruptcy of the earlier and the wondrous origins of a likely usual beverage.

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Fortune’s flat-bottomed send made a flip north from the rocky mouth of the river out into the South China Sea. The small wood craft sailed on an early morning wind, her rattan sail complete, patched jointly like a cover and pouching out among bamboo remains. The cabin door burst open, and the breathless captain and pilot started to shout in Fukienese, the dialect of the coast. “Pirates! ” they warned. Haidao! On deck it used to be a scene of chaos, because the captain had all started ripping up floorboards to be able to stash his valuables whereas workforce individuals likewise sought locations to conceal the few items of copper funds they'd controlled to put aside in a lifetime of not easy sea hard work. Fortune took out his telescope and will see 5 ships at the horizon, unmarked, flying no imperial flags. they can in basic terms be pirate ships. because the first enemy craft bore down on them, its team, a few fifty or so powerful, accumulated alongside the gangway and commenced “hooting and yelling like demons. ” “Their nervous yells appear to be ringing in my ears even now, after this lapse of time, and whilst i'm at the different facet of the globe,” Fortune later wrote. Turning again to the workforce of his personal send, he spotted they'd been subtly reworked. the lads had made themselves appear like beggars, as though that they had been at sea for 40 years or extra; they have been now donning simply the recommendation of clothes—torn rags and shreds of rice sacks. With enemies approximately to board, there has been not anything to be won via showing wealthy. Piracy was once the scourge of China. alternate with the West introduced in untold international wealth, leaving the coasts a battleground among the mandarins, who sought to impose authentic regulate over transport, and a mutinous water global of thieves. If existence in a pirate gang was once a frenzy of sodomy, gang rape, torture, and cannibalism, it was once additionally the way to make a residing outdoor the inflexible constitution of Qing society. there has been little revenue in taking a ship as small as Fortune’s, because it could yield just a couple of captives to promote as slaves and a negligible vessel to commandeer or sink—but there has been additionally little or no possibility. The pirate send may perhaps simply outgun, outman, out-maneuver, and usually outclass Fortune’s bulky shipment junk. His workforce now started hauling up baskets of stones from the carry, emptying the rocks around the span of the deck. In peace-time those stones functioned as ballast; in conflict they have been the main rudimentary of guns. although, as Fortune famous, “All the pirate junks carried weapons, and therefore an entire deck load of stones should be of little or no use. ” “Bring the junk around,” one of many team demanded. “Run us again to the cliffs and conceal between them,” one other argued. “Fight! ” cried one. Da! “Flee! ” yelled one other. Zou! The destiny of a Westerner taken through pirates was once usually a bloody one: The brigands may carry Fortune for ransom and torture him. lower than duress he will be compelled to write down letters to the British missions, begging for very unlikely sums to be paid to safe his unlock. One English captive held in such conditions wrote, “I observed one guy nailed via his toes with huge nails, then crushed with 4 rattans twisted jointly, until eventually he vomited blood; and after last your time during this kingdom, he used to be taken ashore and lower into items.

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