Untold lives blog

108 posts categorized "Commerce"

12 May 2022

The Cost of Living Crisis, Part 2: Inflation in 1800

The current struggles with inflation encompass some of the highest rises in living memory, but current rises pale in comparison to the exceptional case of the year 1800 where inflation reached a dizzying 36%.  This is the highest known figure in British history.

Satirical print  from 1800 entitled 'Hints to forestallers, or a sure way to reduce the price of grain!' , A fat 'forestaller' is dragged along (left to right) by a rope round his neck which is pulled by a chain of countrymen, to the cheers of a crowd.Satirical print from  1800 entitled ‘Hints to forestallers, or a sure way to reduce the price of grain!!’ British Museum number 1868,0808.6904 © The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The explanation given for this incredible rise is that the twenty years of Napoleonic Wars had drained the country’s resources and an ever increasing demand provoked by the industrial revolution.  The economy struggled to supply ample arms, food and fuel to the Army and Navy, and shortages emerged across all sorts of everyday goods.  This drove up the price of clothing, beverages, candles, coal, animal meat, dairy and cereals, so that the common person dealt with rises across most of the items they would ever seek to purchase.  Such goods had been increasing in price for decades as an increase in population and a decrease in mortality rate meant an increase in demand.  Given the incredible rises, wages struggled to keep up, so how did the government analyse the situation at the time?

Extract from a letter written from the Office for Trade at Whitehall: ‘…a mob of people (I think mostly boys)…with a band of musick…shouting Bread! Bread!'Extract from a letter written from the Office for Trade at Whitehall: ‘…a mob of people (I think mostly boys)…with a band of musick…shouting Bread! Bread! Add MS 38234, f.155  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Correspondence to Earl of Liverpool from the Office for Trade offers an insight into the tension on the streets. The Office representative describes crowds of people at Bishopsgate protesting about the price of bread, gathering and shouting in the streets of London.

 

Further correspondence (below) to the Earl describes the mood of the country at large.

Extract from a letter dated London 23 October 1800 to Lord Liverpool - ‘The Present dreadful alarm spread with the uttermost industry…it spreads a spirit of discontent and inspires among the lower orders a shocking desire to mobbing, murder and plunder…the rising prices of the prices of the necessities of life…’Extract from a letter dated London 23 October 1800 to Lord Liverpool - ‘The Present dreadful alarm spread with the uttermost industry…it spreads a spirit of discontent and inspires among the lower orders a shocking desire to mobbing, murder and plunder…the rising prices of the prices of the necessities of life…’Add MS 38234, f.189.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are various pleas to control prices, both in the Liverpool Papers and in correspondence to Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger, including pleas about the spiralling cost of meat and the price of salt needed for fisherman wishing to conserve fish. As well as petitions from various industries, one can also see an increasing ideological battle over the right course of economic actions. Two members of the House of Lords, Lord Buckingham and Lord Grenville, wrote to Pitt about the inflation crisis, warning the Prime Minister not to attempt to bring in legislation to reign in prices.

Lord Buckingham and Lord Grenville writing to Pitt about the inflation crisis: ‘We must [choose] between a free, unchecked and uncontrolled trade in grain flour and bread; or we must undertake to regulate it…which cannot exist in this country with its constitution, or its prosperity as a commercial people’.Lord Buckingham and Lord Grenville writing to Pitt about the inflation crisis: ‘We must [choose] between a free, unchecked and uncontrolled trade in grain flour and bread; or we must undertake to regulate it…which cannot exist in this country with its constitution, or its prosperity as a commercial people’, Add MS 89036/1/7, f.73.v.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the letter above, Lord Buckingham states that the best that can be achieved is to ‘regulate a measure but which all grain and flour shall be sold’, but there should be no attempt to then control market prices.

Lord Grenville agrees and even provides some inspiration for his principles in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which had been published 24 years earlier. Lord Grenville describes how he and Pitt were sceptical to the theory of the free-market, but ultimately came around to it.

Letter from Lord Grenville :‘I am confident that provisions like every other article of commerce, if left to themselves, will and must find their own level’.Letter from Lord Grenville :‘I am confident that provisions like every other article of commerce, if left to themselves, will and must find their own level’, Add MS 89036/1/7, f.85.v.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

With the government discussing the grander narratives of economics, the population had to push through the inflation crisis.  Output and growth were still up, and consequently many were making the profits needed to ride out the inflationary crisis.  Labour in the Northern cities central to industrial output actually saw real wages rise, as demand for labour was so high, but the average worker in London saw their real income fall.  This particular inflation crisis would be short and painful, as a massive fall in inflation in 1803 would see prices adjust, but such fluctuations would continue throughout the 19th century.

Jessica Gregory
Project Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

This blog post follows on from Part 1: The cost of living crisis - part 1: Bread in 1795 

Further Reading:
The Liverpool Papers: Add MS 38190-38489
Gilboy, Elizabeth W. 'The Cost of Living and Real Wages in Eighteenth Century England', The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 18, no. 3, 1936, pp. 134–43, 

 

19 April 2022

The cost of living crisis - part 1: Bread in 1795

At the end of the 18th century, a succession of bad harvests severely depleted the national crop of wheat.  The harvest of 1795 in particular resulted in chronic shortages.  On top of this, the geopolitical landscape of Europe had been turned upside down by the French Revolution and the subsequent wars with the French Republic altering trade and commerce across the continent.  The combination of these pressures was a doubling of the price of bread among ordinary civilians.  Counties around Britain appealed to the Privy Council for supplies of wheat to aid their populations as people in towns felt the effect.  A number of bread riots broke out across the country as people went hungry.  Burial figures from these years show a marked increase in 1795, implying a rise in death rate.

Document entitled ‘Thoughts in Consequence of the Present High Price of Grain’ ‘Thoughts in Consequence of the Present High Price of Grain’, Add MS 38353, f.208. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Faced with increasing discontent and instability the government had to do something to address the crisis.  There was an effort to import more grain from the Quebec and the Baltic, but there were plans forged at home as well.  Records in the Liverpool Papers show how the government were concerned that big farms were benefitting from the shortage by selling their wheat at over-opulent prices.  There were suggestions of limiting the control that the big farms had over price at the markets, but little action was taken on big producers’ profits.

Instead, attention turned to stretching supply.  Members of Parliament debated a motion to force millers to not strip the bran from their flour, so supplies might go further.  Millers were a popular focus of anger during the crisis.  They were often accused of mixing in other substances into flour in order to stretch their profits, so by forcing millers to change their product from the popular white bread to an unpopular whole-wheat bread, the government hoped some of the public’s ire would be redirected to them.

Document suggesting a plan 'to force the miller to dress his flour coarser than at present’ ‘…to force the miller to dress his flour coarser than at present’, Add MS 38353, f.280.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Advice given to the government at the time shows that given there was least some bran in loaves of bread already it was unlikely that the public would notice too much change.  However, the author of the report stipulates that in his opinion the bran probably offers ‘no nourishment to the human stomach’.

Report suggesting that bran probably offers ‘no nourishment to the human stomach’Report suggesting that bran probably offers ‘no nourishment to the human stomach’, Add MS 38353, f.290. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Another suggested course of action was the mixing of grains; unlike wheat, harvests of barley, rye, oats and peas had done well.  Suggestions were made for bakers to mix grains and create new loaves of bread for sale, but again this divergence from the white loaf was unpopular.

Recipe for wheat boiled in milk as a substitute meal instead of breadRecipe for wheat boiled in milk as a substitute meal instead of bread Add MS 38377, f.116.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

When these plans were put in action it was the poorest segment of the population that would be consuming these altered loaves.  The richer demographics could choose to avoid wheaten bread altogether as they could easily exchange it for other sources of food.

The bread crisis would ease a little with a successful domestic harvest in 1796, however prices would continue fluctuate wildly over the end of the 18th century bringing continued hardship to those who relied on bread for many years to come.

Jessica Gregory
Project Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts


Further Reading:
The Liverpool Papers: Add MS 38190-38489
Stern, Walter M. 'The Bread Crisis in Britain, 1795-96', Economica, vol. 31, no. 122, 1964, pp. 168–87.

 

Food Season 2022

British Library Food Season

 

28 March 2022

Those who Lust and those who Lack: Tyranny and Passivity in Early Modern English writing on the Ottomans

In A Voyage into the Levant (1636), Henry Blount creates a number of stereotyped images of Turkish people he encountered during his travels through the Ottoman Empire by stating that they were ‘addict[ed] to sodomy’ (Tiryakioglu, 2015, p. 134).  Blount, according to Rosli and Omar (2017), travelled to the Levant and stayed there for 52 days.  He then made a five-day stop in Constantinople before making his way to Egypt.  Blount even goes as far as to circulate false information about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He claims that the Prophet himself thought those who followed his teachings were ‘rude and sensual’ (Blount, 1636, p. 121) and that he wished to trick them into believing in the false paradise for which they were fighting (for example, when the Ottomans invaded the Levant in 1516): ‘Mahomet [...] made not his Paradise to conflict in Visions, and Hallelujahs; but in delicious fare, pleasant Gardens, and Wenches with great eyes [...] he promises that their Souls shall suddenly have given them young lusty bodies, and set in Paradise, eternally to enjoy those pleasures [...]’ (p.122).

Castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the DardanellesThe castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the Dardanelles from Henry Blount, Zee- en Land-Voyagie Van den Ridder Hendrik Blunt, Na de Levant. Gedaan in het Jaar 1634 (1707) via Wikimedia Commons

Thus, it appears that Blount was attempting to demonise the Ottomans in the minds of his reader due to English anxieties about increased Anglo-Ottoman trade at the start of the 17th century (Ágoston, 2013; Erkoç, 2016).  This attempt to demonise the Ottomans as self-indulgent and barbaric also recurs in The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painfull Peregrinations (1632) by William Lithgow.  Lithgow recounts what he witnessed of the Ottoman slave trade whilst visiting a market in Constantinople and, as a result of his experiences, warns his reader that Turkish people are ‘extremely inclined to all sorts of lascivious luxury ... besides all their sensual and incestuous lusts, unto sodomy, which they account as a dainty to digest [with] all their other libidinous pleasures’ (Lithgow, 1632, p.105).

The stereotyped cultural Ottoman figure that features in Blount’s and Lithgow’s writing also affected early modern dramatic portrayals of Ottomans as violent, lustful, and, politically corrupt.  The theatrical Turkish type may have generally encouraged early modern resurgences of crusading rhetoric, whereby the First Crusade in 1095 was seen as a means to relieve the Orient from what European Christians perceived as barbarism.  However, the endorsement of English crusading rhetoric against Ottomans in early modern writing are a point of contention for Roger Boyle in his play, The Tragedy of Mustapha (1665).  Boyle depicts his Sultan Solyman’s killing of Mustapha, not as being driven by violent impulse but instead, as being driven by the Sultan’s fear that his throne—and therefore, the safety of his subjects—is at risk of being disrupted by Mustapha.  Mustapha is also humanised by Boyle because, in submitting to his death sentence without retaliation, Mustapha fulfils his political duty to his father.  Thus, Boyle represents the disastrous consequences that occur (in the form of Mustapha’s death) when a ruler forces their actions to align with, or to conform to, the expectations of the stereotyped violent Ottoman.

Aisha Hussain
Doctoral researcher at the School of English, University of Salford

Further reading:
Ágoston, G. (2013). ‘War-Winning Weapons? On the Decisiveness of Ottoman Firearms from the Siege of Constantinople (1453) to the Battle of Mohács (1526)’. Journal of Turkish Studies, 39 (1), pp.129-143.
Blount, H. (1636). A Voyage into the Levant. London: Andrew Crooke.
Erkoç, S. (2016). ‘Dealing with Tyranny: Fulke Greville's Mustapha in the Context of His Other Writings and of His View on Anglo-Ottoman Relations’. The Journal of Ottoman Studies, 47(1), pp.265-90.
Boyle, R. (1665). The Tragedy of Mustapha, the son of Solyman the Magnificent. In: The Dramatic Works of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery: Volume One, ed. by William Smith Clark II. (1937). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Lithgow, W. (1632). The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of Long Nineteene Yeares Travailes from Scotland to the Most Famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica.
Rosli, U.N.B.M., (2017). ‘References of Sexuality in Relation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 17th-19th Century Selected French and English Orientalist Travelogues’. Arab World English Journal, 1(4), pp.68-82.
Tiryakioglu, N. O. (2015). The Western image of Turks from the Middle Ages to the 21st century: the myth of 'terrible Turk' and 'lustful Turk’. Published Doctoral Dissertation, Nottingham Trent University.

This blog post is part of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

 

28 February 2022

John Sanderson’s horrible housemates

The Levant Company clerk John Sanderson had arrived in Istanbul on 12 March 1592.  However, something had changed in the behaviours and manners of the English residents since his first being there.  Sanderson wrote that there had been a ‘great alteration; frome serving God devoutly and drinking puer water, nowe to badness stoutly and much wine (the witts hater).’  In Sanderson’s absence the embassy had been taken over by Edward Barton and Sanderson now had to decide whether to move in with him.  Despite his reservations, the benefits – and probably also savings– were too great to forego Barton’s offer.

Sanderson_title pageTitle page of John Sanderson's commonplace book British Library Lansdowne MS 241 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Born in 1560 John Sanderson is a rare example of an early modern man of trade who wrote a record of his life.  His miscellaneous commonplace book is held in the British Library manuscript collection (BL Lansdowne MS 241).  His short ‘autobiography’, entitled by its author ‘a record of the birthe and fortunes of John Sanderson, alias Bedic’, noted down not only Sanderson’s illnesses, fortunes and misfortunes, but also and very keenly, his many judgments (‘censures’) about other people.  And there were loads of them.

Reading Sanderson’s account, anyone who has ever been stuck in a riotous house-share with horrible house-mates will soon start to feel sympathy.  Sanderson claims that the ambassador Barton ‘vexed me to my very soule,’ although his foremost adversary seems to have been William Aldrich, who Sanderson claims to have ‘stealingly’ struck him.  After Sanderson struck him back the ambassador Barton himself ‘laid his fists one my face for so doinge, and confined me to my chamber.’  After all these fisticuffs Barton sent a stern letter to Sanderson’s room, threatening to deport him back home to England.  After the altercation Aldrich refused to dine in the same table with Sanderson and complained that he ‘outlooked him'.  Ill-will continued for some time, although the ambassador eventually tried to make amends by gifting Sanderson ‘a redd velvett goune wch the Gran Sigr had vested him with before he kiste his hand'.  Additional proof of this reconciliation was that Sanderson later acted as the ambassador’s deputy when Barton famously, and somewhat notoriously, accompanied the Ottoman sultan Mehmet III to his wars in Hungary.  However, the scuffles continued between Sanderson, Aldrich, and the steward of the house.

Based on his writings, Sanderson was a keen observer of the faults of other people.  He listed all the names or sometimes the initials of his ‘frenemies’, saying that ‘many other agreevances and discontents passed whilst I was ther, in comp of Bushell, Aldrich, Mons, Wragg, Rivers, Babington’...  The animosities between Sanderson and the two Aldrich brothers, William and Jonas, were explained by the different ‘conditions and qualities’ of the men, whereas the differences between Sanderson and Barton were probably due to breaching social hierarchies and trying to police Barton’s behaviour too much (possibly due to toxic masculine bravado).  Sanderson gave all these men derogatory nicknames ranging from ‘wicked athiesticall knave’ to ‘poysoner’ and ‘whoremonger’ and continued to record their deaths with no small amount of glee.

The selected texts from this old ledger volume bought by Sanderson’s father were edited by William Foster, the then president of the Hakluyt Society and published in 1931.  You can find this fascinating manuscript as part of the Lansdowne collection.

Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg
Academy Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy, History, and Art Studies, University of Helsinki
(eva.holmberg@helsinki.fi)


Further reading:
British Library Lansdowne MS 241.
The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant 1584-1602. Ed. by William Foster. Hakluyt Society 2nd Series ; No 67. London: Hakluyt Society, 1931.
Eva Johanna Holmberg, ‘‘Passages recollected by memory’: Remembering the Levant Company in seventeenth-century merchants’ life writing’, in Trading Companies and Travel Knowledge in the Early Modern World. Routledge, 2021. p. 211-239 (Hakluyt Society Studies in the History of Travel; Vol. 1).

This blog post is the second in a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

17 February 2022

Thomas Richardson Colledge: the missing years

Thomas Richardson Colledge, favourite student of Sir Astley Cooper, became a renowned medical missionary.  Educated at Rugby, with initial training at Leicester Infirmary, Colledge entered the East India Company’s service in 1819 as a ship’s surgeon.  Eight years later he joined the Company’s China factory in Macau and Canton.  He was responsible for establishing the Medical Missionary Society of China.

Details of Colledge’s twelve years in China may be found in histories of British involvement in China and the celebrated diaries of his American friend Harriet Low. Colledge’s contemporaries in China included Jardine, Dent, Lindsay, Inglis and Elliott. He is noted for his support for the dying Lord Napier, Britain’s first Chief Superintendent of Trade at Canton. Colledge left China before the First Opium War.

Painting of Thomas Richardson Colledge and His Assistant Afun in Their Ophthalmic Hospital, Macau'Thomas Richardson Colledge, M.D., and His Assistant Afun in Their Ophthalmic Hospital, Macau', by George Chinnery, 1833, oil on canvas.
Gift of Cecilia Colledge, in memory of her father, Lionel Colledge, FRCS, 2003, M23017. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Whilst there are glimpses of his later life as a highly respected opthalmic physician and pillar of Cheltenham society, there is little or nothing about the formative early period he spent at sea.  Ships’ journals in the India Office Records help shed light on these years.

Each of Colledge’s four voyages to China presented its own challenges and learning experiences.  The first three voyages were on board the East Indiaman General Harris, Captain George Welstead.

During the 1819 voyage to Penang and China, the General Harris was struck by lightning in Cape latitudes and there were many casualties.  Five men died and one man was terribly mangled.  The rest were very lucky to escape - a fire on a wooden ship carrying casks of strong spirits stored close to powder barrels was to be avoided at all costs.  Later in the voyage, the large number of sick crew placed the ship at risk when navigating the dangerous shoals of the Palawan Passage.

The second voyage in 1821 was far longer and even more trying .  Within days of arrival in Madras, cholera ran through the ship.  To Colledge’s credit only one man died.  However Colledge was lucky to survive when a boat returning him to the ship capsized.

Some months later the General Harris assisted the General Kyd, lying dangerously beached on the notorious South Sands of the Malacca Straits.  The two ships then encountered a typhoon which reduced the General Harris to bare poles.  After stopping for essential repairs in St John’s Bay, the ships arrived in China to be caught up in a suspension of trade caused by a dispute between the Chinese and HMS Topaze.  For several weeks the General Harris was held back at Chuenpi and then ordered to sail back to the Straits of Malacca to return the following season.  The General Harris arrived home in April 1823, after an absence of more than two years.

The voyage of the General Harris in 1824 was disrupted by a tornado, ill-discipline, and an uncharted reef in the South China Sea.  A minor collision in Anjer was followed by a furious gale off the Cape which brought a great deal of water on board.

Colledge’s fourth and last voyage to China on the troop transport Abercrombie Robinson, Captain John Innes, appears to have been relatively uneventful.  The journal records two births on board and the punishment of Private John Kent, who received 150 lashes out of a sentence of 300.

After eight years at sea, the offer of a posting in China must have been a most attractive proposition!

Jim Markland
Cheltenham Local History Society


Further Reading:
General Harris: Journal, George Welstead Captain, (25 Jan 1819-31 Jul 1820) IOR/L/MAR/B/32D, British Library, India Office Records.
General Harris: Journal, George Welstead, Captain (4 Jan 1821-7 May 1823) IOR/L/MAR/B/32E, British Library, India Office Records.
General Harris: Journal, George Welstead, Captain (18Nov 1823-8 Jun 1825), IOR/L/MAR/B/32F, British Library, India Office Records.
Abercrombie Robinson: Captain John Innes, Journal (18 Nov 1825-17 Apr 1827) IOR/L/MAR/B/3&1A, British Library, India Office Records.
Colledge, Frances Mary, Thomas Richardson Colledge, (Looker-On Printing Company).
Colledge, Robert, Medicine and Mission: The life and interesting times of a Nineteenth-century pioneering doctor, (Aspect Design, 2020).
Collis, M., Foreign Mud, Faber (1946).
Morse, Hosea Ballou, The Chronicles of the East India Company trading to China 1635-1834 (Oxford University Press 1926).

 

25 November 2021

‘So Long’ from King Naimbanna II - Manuscripts from an 18th Century African King

Within the Clarkson Papers there are a number of volumes relating to the settlement of Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 1791 onwards.  These were explored in a series of Untold Lives blogs called The Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists.   We return to these papers to explore a number of fascinating folios of correspondence between John Clarkson and King Naimbanna II.

King, or Obai, Naimbanna II (1720-1793) was a leader of the Koya Temne Kingdom on coast of Sierra Leone.  Agents of the Sierra Leone Company negotiated with Naimbanna in 1788 and persuaded him to sign over some of his land for the Company’s settlement.  Naimbanna later stipulated that the deal had been negotiated too hastily and should not have been given consent.  A digitised version of this treaty is available to view via the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme.

When John Clarkson arrived in Freetown at the end of 1791 he made a conscious effort to engage with Naimbanna as the local leader.  Documents from his papers show that collaboration was deemed essential in order for the new settlement to succeed.


Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John  the Governor of Freetown  to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John, the Governor of Freetown, to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’. Add MS 41262A, f.65. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son  12 May 1792A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son, 12 May 1792. Add MS 41262A, f.105. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A working relationship was established, as the documents below illustrate.  Naimbanna gave these folios to John Clarkson when the governor was due to depart Sierra Leone for England at the end of 1792.

First of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’ 23 December 1792
Second of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’  23 December 1792Two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson, described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’. 23 December 1792. Add MS 41262A, ff 211-214. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

These fascinating folios stand out among Clarkson’s papers.  They are described as prayers or good luck charms.  Written in Arabic, they consist of scraps of sentences from the Koran that the author hopes will protect the bearer on his journey.  Other notes present with these papers describe the folios as badly written, but despite this criticism from Clarkson’s contemporaries, these letters are important historical documents in their own right.  They illustrate Naimbanna’s cautious engagement with the new settlement and his relationship with its governor Clarkson.

Naimbanna engaged diplomatically with the new settlement believing it could offer certain benefits.  He backed the original abolitionist mission of its founders, aimed to benefit from a proliferation of trade and sought out specialist education for himself and his sons.  Naimbanna sent his children abroad to experience different educations in different parts of the world.  His son Prince John Frederic would travel to England in 1791 to receive an education under the sponsorship of abolitionist and activist, Granville Sharp.

Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna  Bury and Norwich Post  1 January 1794Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna, Bury and Norwich Post, 1 January 1794. British Newspaper Archive.

With this openness and pragmatism of approach, Naimbanna hoped to both take advantage of the opportunities the new colony could open for the Kingdom, whilst retaining power as the rightful leader of the region.  However, cordial relations would not last.  Naimbanna died in 1793 as did his son, Prince John Frederic, whilst in transit back from England.  Successive Temne dynasties fought with neighbouring communities in an effort to consolidate their lands, but ultimately these lands were taken by the British in the latter half of the 19th century.  The British made Sierra Leone a British protectorate in 1896 and despite the Temne revolts in 1898 they would govern until Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists, Parts 1-4.
Ijagbemi, E. A. 'THE FREETOWN COLONY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ‘LEGITIMATE’ COMMERCE IN THE ADJOINING TERRITORIES', Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol. 5, no. 2, Historical Society of Nigeria, 1970, pp. 243–56.
Kup, A. P. 'John Clarkson and the Sierra Leone Company', The International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, Boston University African Studies Center, 1972, pp. 203–20.
.

16 November 2021

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai – Part One

Some years ago, I walked through narrow streets in Mazagon, Bombay (Mumbai), looking for the site of the old Gloria Church.  It was originally the personal chapel in the estate of my ancestor, Sir Miguel de Lima e Souza, who lived there from around 1750 to 1806.  This search was part of a larger quest to trace Sir Miguel’s roots back to the earliest Portuguese Fazendar, or estate owner, Antonio Pessoa in 1547.  That quest floundered in the historically murky era between the conquest of the Portuguese Norte India Province by the Marathas and the recapture of most of that area by the British in 1775.  I never was never able to document fully the family tree prior to Miguel and his father, but I had stumbled upon an intricate web of relations between Miguel's family and the East India Company at the time the Company was metamorphosing from a faltering trading enterprise to opulent overlord of much of the Indian subcontinent.

The cross that marks the spot of the original Gloria Church

The cross that marks the spot of the original Gloria Church (photo taken by Megan deSouza) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Miguel and his brothers seem to have played a significant part in this hinge period: Antonio based in Madras, Thomas in Calcutta, and Manoel in the Far East.  Miguel’s role is well-documented even though his emergence into prominence is something of a mystery.  There is little evidence of his presence before 1775 when the British conquered the island of Salsette north of Bombay from the Marathas.  Initially he was one of the merchants who leveraged the rising military power of the British to monopolise the cotton market in Gujarat and to create a coastal trading system between India and Eastern Africa, with ties to his brothers in Madras and Calcutta.  This mercantile base gave him entry into the newly established British corridors of power in and around Bombay.

Mazagon from the sea, with boats and ships in the foregroundView of Mazagon by Jose M. Gonsalves (fl. 1826-c.1842). Plate 6 from his Lithographic Views of Bombay published in Bombay in 1826. British Library W7506(6)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

One early British connection was an important British official, William Gamul Farmer, who played a prominent role in the wars with the Marathas.  There is a charming account by Farmer’s great granddaughter telling of how Miguel (presumably with his brother Manoel’s help) obtained for Farmer some orange saplings from the Far East.  But Miguel’s presence on the main stage came from his strong and close relationship with the British Governor Jonathan Duncan.

Initially Miguel was Duncan’s emissary in Gujarat to help build a permanent political and military presence.  Duncan appreciated his help enough to specially petition the Governor General Wellesley for a special reward.  However, Miguel was destined to play an even more important role in averting a major crisis during the Napoleonic Wars.  When Napoleon invaded France, the British feared that this would embolden their enemies in India to form an alliance to overwhelm them.  The British feared that the French allies would capture Goa and that the Portuguese were in no position to defend that port which would provide lines of communication between the French in Egypt and the French alliance in India.  Miguel was deputed to negotiate a deal with the Portuguese, and he smoothed the way for a virtual occupation of Goa by the British which secured Goa under British protection as long as the danger lasted.  His role was recognised by both parties with the Portuguese government bestowing on Miguel the Order of Christ, Portugal's highest civil honour, and with British Governor Duncan personally investing him with the same.

Megan deSouza, independent researcher and blogger
Denis Rodrigues, amateur historian interested in the history of Bombay

Further reading:
The Home People 
The Portuguese Militia in Bombay
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai – Part Two 

01 July 2021

Theft from an East India Company London warehouse

On 30 November 1814, Truman Wood was convicted at the Old Bailey for stealing from the East India Company 24 lb of paper, value 6s, and 21 lb of tea, value £3.  He was sentenced to be transported for seven years but remained in England on prison hulks.

Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour by Ambrose-Louis Garneray circa 1812-1814 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London 


Truman Wood had worked for the East India Company as a labourer for sixteen years.  His theft of Company goods from the Haydon Square tea warehouse was discovered when an officer searched an old woman in the Commercial Road on 27 October 1814.  Hidden underneath her petticoats were a bag containing a small amount of tea and some India paper.  After questioning her, the officer went with two colleagues to Wood’s home at 3 Trafalgar Square, Stepney.  There they found several jars, caddies and parcels containing tea. together with a quantity of India paper.  They also discovered £100 in notes, four guineas in gold, and some bags of silver.

Wood asked the officers if they could just take the money, paper and tea, and say nothing more about it.  It would be the ruin of him if the matter came to the Company’s ears.  He was taken before a magistrate and claimed that the paper was a perquisite of his job and that he had bought the tea from a man in the Commercial Road.  The Old Bailey jury found Wood guilty of theft.

Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816 - British Library IOR/E/1/252 p.21 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On 16 August 1816, Wood wrote to the directors of the East India Company from the Portland hulk moored at Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth, expressing his ‘sincere and unfeigned sorrow’ for his crime and begging their forgiveness.  He had always tried to conduct himself with the ‘greatest recititude’ in his warehouse duties and in his service with the Royal East India Volunteers.  Before his lamentable lapse, Wood had never been suspected of an illicit transaction.  He had suffered the 'greatest privations and heartfelt afflictions' during his imprisonment.  His wife Jane and two children were reduced to ‘most poignant distress’, which was aggravated by Jane having ‘a Complaint in her breast’ which prevented her from looking after the family.  Wood asked the directors to recommend him for a free pardon.

Wood IOR E 1 251Letter from East India Company to Viscount Sidmouth 17 September 1816 British Library IOR/E/1/251 p.509 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Company forwarded the petition to the Home Secretary, Viscount Sidmouth, with a covering letter expressing the hope that Wood might be pardoned.  The directors asked for Wood’s past good character to be taken into consideration, and suggested that the imprisonment he had suffered might be seen as a sufficient warning to others.  They believed that a continuation of his punishment would be the total ruin of his family who had borne the calamity ‘with becoming resignation and propriety’.

The Company’s intervention was not immediately successful. In October 1816, Wood was transferred to the Bellerophon hulk at Woolwich.  However on 10 July 1818 he was granted a free pardon by Sidmouth and released ten days later.

Sadly it appears that Jane did not recover her health.  The burial records of St Dunstan Stepney show a Jane Wood dying of cancer in February 1819.

Wood married widow Ann Blendall in May 1822 in Bethnal Green.  He was buried at Wycliffe Congregational Church in Mile End Old Town in July 1837.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Petition of Truman Wood - British Library, IOR/E/1/252 pp.21-23, IOR/E/1/251 p.509
Old Bailey Online - Trial of Truman Wood 
Home Office records of Newgate Prison and the hulks – The National Archives via Findmypast
Parish registers for East London via Ancestry and Findmypast

 

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