Sunday, March 11, 2012
Teas of Empire
If you subscribe to enough email updates of other bloggers then occasionally something will surprise you.
An interesting one is Curatorial Space which is behind the scenes at Manchester City Art Gallery. This led to looking at their online collection of Empire Marketing Board posters. That's one on the left by H.S. Williamson from the 1930's.
As a way of contrast there is a E&SCWS postcard below, from around the same time. The artwork is not as sharp and crisp as the one by the E.M.B. Both shew tea picking by women wearing no shoes and a few bangles, and I'm guessing in Ceylon.
Produce from the Empire wasn't just foreign imports it was highlighted as a selling point of quality and very British to eat. For example Australian tinned fruit, Canadian flour, New Zealand lamb, and bananas from the West Indies.
It is all a bit suspect to modern sensibilities, but for a historian you tell the story of the propaganda of that age without endorsing the values.
The Empire Marketing Board commissioned these posters from 1926-1933 to promote trade and understanding between empire countries, but they are in essence propaganda that sends out a message of industry, nourishment and civilisation as seen from the powers in London. This view persisted until the trading patterns changed with Britain's entry to the Common Market (later called the EEU, now the EU) in 1973.
The English & Scottish CWS appear to have joined in with a series of picture postcards depicting work on the Co-operative's own tea estates.
If you wish to see the E.M.B. posters, and there are at least 200 of them then browse over to the Flickr collection. The quality of the paintings is superb. As a side note there are a four posters about imports and exports with the Irish Free State.