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Sources from the British Library, London

Part 2: China

Here we continue from Part 1 making available the rest of the material on the
China trade, 1596-1840. In particular, Part 2 focuses on the following:

  • Diaries and Consultations of the EIC Councils in China for 1815-1834.
  • Canton Agency, Commercial and Financial Consultations, 1832-1840.
  • Despatches to China, 1829-1832.
  • Letters received from China, 1823-1832.
  • Secret consultations of the China Select Committees, 1793-1832.
  • Consultations of the Superintending Committee, 1792-1794.

This body of evidence allows researchers to assess the development of the

China trade. The fascinating archive includes:

  • Lists of commodities for the China trade - imports and exports.
  • Instructions from the Company to the merchants.
  • Descriptions of business meetings with the Chinese.
  • Instructions to ships and narratives of ships' voyages.
  • Details on competition for market share with Dutch, French, Danish, and American traders, interlopers and other rival companies.
  • Court Proceedings.
  • Maps.
  • Information on Chinese debts.
  • Notes on meetings with local contacts.
  • Lists of ships at Canton.
  • Catalogues of presents given by the Company to the Emperor.
  • Watercolour drawings of harbours in China.
  • Lists of foreign residents in China.
  • Information on the role of supercargoes, the expansion of factories and the impact of the Opium Trade.

"Tea revolutionized the Company's trade in the eighteenth century in the same way that cottons had in the seventeenth. As a result, by 1770 it was the single most important item in the Company's portfolio and the value of the China trade had come to rival that of all its Indian settlements combined.”

John Keay writing in The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company (Harper Collins, 1991).

East Indi Co. Ensign

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