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John McNeil Scott
j.scott@lse.ac.uk

A 'Fussy, Excitable, and Somewhat Self-Important Man': the life of British tea merchant John Dodd (1838-1907)

With Mr Niki Alsford (SOAS)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective|

Date: Thursday 21 February 2013, 6pm-8pm

Venue: TW1.2.03, Tower One, London School of Economics

Discussants: Rev John McNeil Scott (LSE Taiwan Research Programme) and Mr Stuart Thompson (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Abstract

Often regarded as a pioneer of commercial tea production in Taiwan, John Dodd, working as an assistant for Dent & Co., first arrived in Hong Kong in 1859 before moving on to Taiwan in 1864. Following the collapse of Dent & Co. as a result of the liquidation of Overand, Gurney & Co. in 1867, Dodd established his own company, Dodd & Co., and with Li Chunsheng, a merchant from Amoy, both men were able to persuade local farmers to increase the cultivation of tea in the surrounding hills. The semi-fermented Oolong tea was well-accepted by his American clientele and within a short period his business had attracted the attention of other foreign trading companies. As a person, Dodd is described in somewhat colourful terms, being both liked and disliked by the foreign and local communities alike. During his life in Taiwan he fathered two children, issue of a personal relationship with a local Hong Kong girl known only as Taihee. The subsequent lives of his children bring to the forefront important questions surrounding the difficulties faced by Eurasian, or mixed ancestry, children and their subsequent upbringing.

John Dodd’s career in Taiwan is well documented by his contemporaries and the life of Dodd and his family are important references in the local history of both Taiwan and Hong Kong. Attention to this often-overlooked aspect of local social history is not only important for the documentation of the final years of Qing rule over Taiwan, but also as a platform from which one can make sense of an interconnected history of people and their environment. 

About the speaker

Niki Alsford is a Research Fellow at the Centre of Taiwan Studies and a PhD candidate in the department of history at SOAS. He has written quite extensively on late 19th century Taiwan and in 2010 he authored an annotated version of the diaries of John Dodd. He is currently working on an edited volume of early Presbyterian archives for Taiwan as part of a research grant from Shung Ye Museum for Formosan Aborigines. Aside from this, Niki is also on the board for the European Association of Taiwan Studies. 

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