We’re going back into the archives to revisit these classic posts by James Norwood Pratt. This post includes two different two-part sequences: “The Advent of Machinery” and “Serendipity”. We have added a link to the end of each one to take you to the next if you would like to read them as a sequence, or you can choose which you want to peruse below. Enjoy!

The Advent of Machinery

To those (and the class is numerous in England), who, possessing but a moderate sum of money, wish nevertheless to maintain the position in life to which they have been educated, to whom trade and the professions are obnoxious, who having no military tastes or nautical tendencies are still anxious to use the energy and enterprise which are said to belong to the British – to such tea-planting offers particular inducements.

Subaltern or junior official, previously employed by the Honorable East India Company

Part One

It was an industry off and running by the time George Williamson retired from Assam in 1859. Scores of private entrepreneurs had learned…(Read more)

Part Two

One day in 1871, a side-paddle riverboat steaming lazily down the Brahmaputra slid to a stop in midstream. It had run aground on one of the shifting sandbars for which the river is notorious, forcing the captain to…(Read more)


Now often is it that men have the heart, when their one great industry is withered, to rear up in a few years another as rich to take its place, and the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as the lion at Waterloo.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Part One

God’s mysterious ways cannot but amaze, yet one wonders how two of the most devastating scourges in agricultural history could occur in the exact same decade. In the late 1860s, a microscopic organism unheard of before started…(Read more)

Part Two

Assam jat has flourished world-wide ever since. After the Dutch finally substituted Assam for China jat in Java and Sumatra, tea quickly became…(Read more)

Photo “Tea Plantations of India” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License to the photographer David Baxendale and is being posted unaltered (source)