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British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-42 by Michael Greenberg

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By Michael Greenberg

An account of the actions of British retailers in China within the an important years prior to the Treaty of Nanking (1842), which remodeled the kinfolk among the Celestial Empire and the Western 'barbarians' and positioned them upon a footing that used to be to final for a hundred years. Mr Greenberg indicates how this variation was once led to by means of the pressures of the increasing British economic climate of the early 19th century. a lot of the cloth is predicated at the papers of Jardine Matheson and Co., the one enterprise of pre-treaty days to outlive, and the biggest of the British companies then demonstrated in Canton.

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Unlike contemporary England, they had to contend with no rising and ambitious mercantile class striving for control of state policy. Their problem was to devise a system which would both bring in revenue to the receptive ,Imperial coffers and at the same time keep these uncouth alien barbaroi under control. The conduct of the latter was certainly calculated to turn hospitality into 'exclusiveness'. Marjoribanks, who was more unprejudiced than most Old China Hands, admitted 'the early part of our trade with China shows the commerce very ill-conducted and displays the English character to little advantage.

The chief suppliers were John Cox, of Shoe Lane, London, and Francis Magniac, of Clerkenwell. On the death of the former, his son John Henry Cox was allowed to go to China in 1782 to sell off the remainder of his stock. But since many of the Chinese merchants were insolvent, Cox was obliged to take payment in goods. He thus found himself trading at Canton in competition with the Company. Moreover, instead of confining himself to this business of 'singsongs', he began to act as Canton agent for the 'privilege' trade of the Honourable Company's officers and for private British Country merchants in India.

Legally, no private British could stay on. But now a stratagem was devised to force the legal barrier. In 1779 a Scotsman named John Reid, whose service in the Bengal Marine had brought to his notice the possibilities of the China trade, had arrived at Canton with His Imperial Austrian Majesty's commission as Consul and head of the Imperial Factory. 1 The Imperial Austrian Company went bankrupt eight years later and John Reid left China. But the device had worked politically if not financially; it was soon to be taken up by almost every 'private English' merchant.

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