Private Enterprise and the China Trade

Merchants and Markets in Europe, 1700-1750


The open access publication of this book has been published with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

This book examines the European commercial landscape of the early China trade, c.1700–1750. It looks at the foundational period of Sino-European commerce and explores a world of private enterprise beneath the surface of the official East India Company structures. Using rich private trade records, it analyses the making of pan-European markets, distribution networks and patterns of investment that together reveal a new geography of a trading system previously studied mostly at Canton. By considering the interloping activities of British-born merchants working for the smaller East India Companies, the book uncovers the commercial practices and cross-Company collaborations, both legal and illicit, that sustained the growth of the China trade: smuggling, wholesale trading, private commissions and the manipulation of Company auctions.
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Meike von Brescius, Ph.D., historian of early modern trade and consumption, University of Basel. Combining business and cultural history with material culture approaches, she has published on the East India Companies, private traders, and markets for Asian goods in Europe.

List of Figures and Tables

Introduction: Contextualising the Early China Trade in Europe
 1 Commercial Polymaths: Supercargoes and Interlopers in the China Trade

 2 Trading Conditions in Canton

 3 Private Trade and Monopoly Structures: A Network Perspective

 4 The Archives of Private Trade: How to Assess the (In)visible

 5 Source Material

 6 Structure of the Study

1British Interlopers in the Canton Trade A Group Portrait
 1 Charles Irvine: Canton Supercargo, Wholesale Trader, Family Patron

 2 Irvine’s Wider Network

 3 Ways into the China Trade

 4 New Companies and old India Traders: The Demise of the Ostend and the Rise of the Swedish East India Company
 4.1 Britons Abroad, Interlopers at Home: Transnational Careers in the Making

 5 Flexible Citizens: Nomads of the Canton Trade

2Forging Markets The European Re-Export Trade in Chinese Goods
 1 Private Trade: Regulations and Realities

 2 The Companies’ Profits from Private Trade

 3 Public Sales, Private Agreements

 4 The Re-Export Trade

3Treasures in the Cabin Chinese Export Wares and the Special Commissions Trade
 1 Chinese Export Wares and the Market for Private Commissions

 2 Typology of Commissioners in the China Trade

 3 Families and Consumers Associated with the East India Companies

 4 Commanders and Supercargoes as Consumers, Suppliers and Entrepreneurs

 5 Designs Made for Maritime Mobility

 6 Making Room for Private Trade

4European Geographies of Private Trade Cadiz as a Cross-Company Hub
 1 Port Cities, Merchant Communities and the Study of Networks

 2 The Vanguards

 3 Flows of Silver from a Network Perspective

 4 The Cadiz Merchant Community and the China Trade

 5 Cadiz as an entrepôt

 6 Company Recruitments and Passenger Traffic to China

 7 Financing the Private Trade

 8 Sea Loans and the Cross-Company Money Market

 9 Entangled cities of the China trade: Cadiz, Antwerp and Amsterdam




All interested in the East India Companies, long-distance trade, wholesale markets, merchant networks and practices, interlopers, and China-Europe relations in the early modern period.
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