Untold lives blog

101 posts categorized "Commerce"

06 October 2020

The truth behind the myth: the colonial legacy of the Mayflower voyage - No.3 The first 20 years of Plymouth Colony

The colonists signed the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony, before they disembarked the ship.  This was to establish legal order and quell dissenting views between the separatists and the other passengers on how the colony should be run.

The colonists settled at an abandoned settlement of the Patuxet people in Wampanoag territory.  They had raided this settlement shortly after their arrival, desecrating graves in their search for corn stores.  It became Plymouth Colony.  Construction began in December but most people stayed on the ship.  Many succumbed to disease and, by the spring, only 47 survived.  Local people made contact in March 1621 and it was only because of the help of Tisquantum, the sole survivor of the Patuxet people, that the colonists survived.

The arrival of the Plymouth colonists put Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags, in a vulnerable position.  He had already witnessed the devastating effects of disease and colonisation on his people and the neighbouring Narragansetts were threatening.  He had little choice but to sign a peace treaty and ally with the English colonists, which he did at the end of March 1621.

That is not to say, however, that the Plymouth colonists maintained peace with other local Native American tribes in the years that followed.  Tensions in the region heightened as the English founded more colonies, encroaching on native territories.  The Plymouth colonists were perpetrators of violence and brutality towards some communities, namely the Massachusetts at Wessagusset in 1623 and the Pequots in the 1630s.

The first printed account of Plymouth Colony

 Title page of 'Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimouth'  1622Edward Winslow and William Bradford, Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimouth, 1622, C.33.c.7 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Written by Edward Winslow and William Bradford, this is the earliest printed account of the establishment of Plymouth Colony.  It functioned as a promotional tract, an appeal for investment and an attempt to gloss over the hardships and uncertainties facing the colony in its first two years.

The Mayflower Compact is printed, for the first time, in this account.  This was to give the impression of law and order within the colony and to emphasise that there was a unified mind-set across the colonists, separatist or otherwise.

This account also emphasises the devout nature of Plymouth Colony.  However, a mention of the whaling opportunities in the area lets slip the economic factors behind its establishment.  The colony quickly got involved with the profitable fur trade.  These things tend to be glossed over in the Pilgrim tradition.

This account also emphasises that relations between the local people and the English were cordial, ignoring any tension and conflict caused by their invasion of Wampanoag land.  Indeed, this relation’s description of the sharing of food between the Wampanoags and the English has become celebrated as the First Thanksgiving, but this is a mythologised 19th century reinterpretation of events.

Winslow and Bradford’s account also introduces us to Tisquantum of the Patuxet people.  Tisquantum had been abducted by English explorer Thomas Hunt and sold into slavery.  He escaped, returning to America to find his tribe wiped out by disease.  He worked ceaselessly to establish peace between the colonists and the local people, living in the colony for 20 months and acting as a translator, advisor and diplomat for Massasoit.  Tisquantum is often depicted as a ‘noble savage’ but he should be remembered as a practical advisor and skilled diplomat.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 

04 September 2020

St Helena laws for inhabitants 1672

From its earliest days, the East India Company’s ships called at the South Atlantic island of St Helena on homeward voyages from Asia.  They gathered supplies of fresh water, citrus fruits, meat and fish. Company ships also used St Helena as a place of rendezvous.  It was safer to complete the final stage of the voyage with other vessels, especially in times of war.

Friar Rock on the island of St Helena - an immense pile of rocks rising perpendicularly eight hundred feet above the level of the sea.

Friar Rock on the island of St Helena - an immense pile of rocks rising perpendicularly eight hundred feet above the level of the sea.  Image from St. Helena: a physical, historical, and topographical description of the island ... The botanical plates from original drawings by Mrs. J. C. Melliss (London, 1875) British Library Digital Store 10096.gg.15 BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

In 1658 the Company decided to fortify St Helena and establish a colony.  The first group of English settlers arrived in May 1659.  Slaves were brought from West Africa to work on the plantations.

On 4 September 1672 a set of laws was issued: ‘Laws and Constitutions Ecclesiasticall Civill and Millitary made by the Councell to be observed by all the inhabitants of the Island St Hellena’.

Document showing extract from St Helena laws 1672IOR/E/3/33 ff.153v-154 Laws to be observed by the inhabitants of St Helena 4 September 1672 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Laws were:

1 God was to be worshipped and served diligently.  The guard at Fort St John was to attend morning and evening prayers at the toll of the bell, and all inhabitants were to attend church on Sunday unless prevented by necessity.

2 Sunday was to be kept holy and all were to refrain from cursing, swearing and excessive drinking.

3 To prevent idleness, every family was to have a plantation.  They must not encroach on their neighbours’ lands or privileges.

4 Everyone was to look after their plantations, keep the ground well-fenced, ring their hogs, and improve the stock of cattle for the promotion of trade.

5 Inhabitants should endeavour to live in love and unity.  Anyone bickering, brawling, or slandering neighbours would be severely punished.

6 No-one was to take revenge over a quarrel, instead going with witnesses to the Council for redress.

7 Every man was to live honestly and maintain himself and his family by careful labour and industry.  The Council would punish anyone stealing from a neighbour.

8 Anyone found guilty of murder, burglary, buggery or any other capital crime would be shipped to England for trial and sentencing.

9 If debts were not settled on time, the Council would seize goods or cattle as payment.

10 Inhabitants were encouraged to build outside the Fort for the convenience of trade, and had permission to go on board English or friends’ ships.

11 Seamen were not to stay on the island without permission.  Anyone harbouring a sailor would be fined £5.  The sailor would be housed with the black slaves and work on the Company’s plantations until he could be returned to England,

12 Everyone capable of bearing arms was to respond to all alarms, with a 20s fine or a week’s imprisonment for each default.

13 The watch was to be observed continually and strictly when shipping approached.  Each instance of neglect would be punished by a fine of 5s or another penalty decided by the Council.

14 Everyone was to go to Fort St John four times a year to be trained in martial discipline for the safety and defence of the island.

15 Anyone raising a mutiny or causing a disturbance of orderly government would be put in irons and sent home to the Company.

16 Anyone hearing of a plot, conspiracy or mutiny was liable to the same punishment as the perpetrators if they failed to alert the Council.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/3/33 ff.153v-154 Laws to be observed by inhabitants of St Helena 4 September 1672
William Foster, ‘The Acquisition of St. Helena’, The English Historical Review July 1919, Vol. 34, No. 135, pp. 281-289.
St Helena settlers in 1667

 

18 August 2020

Quetta to Sistan: The Development of a Strategic Trade Route

‘Such Central Asian trade as of old [that] drew its goods from British sources has slowly drifted into the hands of Russia, which on its part has not been backward in putting in motion every engine that ingenuity could devise, and its paramount position in Central Asia afforded to popularize its Asian and Persian trade at the expense of ours.’

Mss Eur F111_386_0282_cropDrawing of a telegraph station along the Quetta-Sistan Road (Mss Eur F111/386, f.137)


Thus wrote Lieutenant Frank Webb Ware, Political Assistant at Chagai, in his first report on the trade route being opened up between Quetta, in British Indian territory, and Sistan, on the Persian frontier.  Such fears of Russian dominance in Persia were the very reason for the British plan to revive what was an ancient road.  Russian influence had been growing in Persia since the Napoleonic era and their presence felt in Sistan since at least the 1860s. Being on the doorstep of the Indian Empire, any interference in Sistan could not be tolerated by the British, and their efforts to assert their own power over the region was a part of the ‘Great Game’ between Russia and Britain for predominance in Central Asia.

Mss Eur F111_377_0098_cropPhotograph of the ‘Mil-i-Nadir, or Pillar of Nadir’, probably taken by H A Armstrong, Assistant Superintendent, Indian Telegraph Department (Mss Eur F111/377, f.46)

To counter Russian activities in Sistan, Webb Ware was appointed at Chagai and tasked by the Government of India to establish wells, guard houses, and levy posts along the new route from Quetta.  Trade was seen as an important way of gaining influence and protecting British interests.  After travelling the route himself in the early part of the year, Webb Ware submitted his first report on the subject in the summer of 1897, remarking that he was ‘disagreeably astonished’ at the ascendancy that Russia had already gained in Sistan.

Mss Eur F111_377_0067_cropPhotograph of the landscape near the trade route, close to Dehbakri, Iran, probably taken by H A Armstrong (Mss Eur F111/377, f.30)

In the following years more reports would be submitted and progress made on the development of the route.  Recommendations were made to extend the railway from Quetta along the same road, largely for military purposes.  The project was of such significance that Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India at the time, kept copies of all the relative documents.  It is from his papers that these images are taken.

Mss Eur F111_386_0291_cropDrawing of the landscape near Kirtaka, Pakistan (Mss Eur F111/386, f.141)

Military intelligence was gathered and a telegraph line proposed.  The resulting surveys produced photographs and sketches of a region little-known to the British.  The line drawings are reminiscent of those of the Lake District by Alfred Wainwright, albeit they were made for very different purposes.  These, along with Webb Ware’s reports, are being digitised as part of the Qatar Foundation-British Library Partnership Programme and are available on the Qatar Digital Library

John Hayhurst
Gulf History Specialist

Further reading:
'Report on the Baluch-Persian Caravan Route and Nushki, Chagai and Western Sinjerani Districts' - Mss Eur F111/362, f.10 and f.11 

'Report of Khan Bahadur Maula Bakhsh, Attaché to the Agent to the Governor General of India and Her Britannic Majesty's Consul-General for Khurasan and Sistan, on His Journey from Meshed to Quetta via Turbat-i-Haidari, Kain, Sistan, Kuh-i-Malik Siah and Nushki (7th April to 28th July 1898)' - Mss Eur F111/363 

'Report on the Nushki, Chagai and Western Sinjerani Districts for the year 1897-98 and on the Development of The Quetta-Seistan [Sistan] Trade Route' - Mss Eur F111/364 

'Report on the Development of the Baluch-Persian Caravan Route and on the Nushki, Chagai and Western Sinjerani Districts, for the year 1899-1900' - Mss Eur F111/374 

'Military Report on Persian Seistan' - Mss Eur F111/378 

'Notes on Persian Seistan' - Mss Eur F111/382 

 

03 July 2020

Vickers Jacob – a life in Ireland, India and Australia

In 1818 the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India received a memorial from Edward Cahill, a boot and shoe maker in Dublin.  Mr Cahill reported that in 1808 he had supplied Vickers Jacob, a Bengal Army cadet, with boots and shoes to the value of £10 16s 0½d.  Jacob left Dublin shortly afterwards without having paid and Cahill asked for help in recovering the debt.

First page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debtFirst page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debt IOR/E/2/51 f.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Vickers Jacob was born in Queen’s County Ireland in 1788.  He enrolled at Trinity College Dublin in 1806 before joining the East India Company’s Bengal Army in 1808.  Jacob took part in the Nepal War 1814-1815 with the 3rd Bengal Native Infantry.

In August 1817 Lieutenant Jacob married Anne Watson at Barrackpore.  Anne’s father and brothers were officers in the Bengal Army.  During the early years of their marriage, a son and daughter died.  Because of ‘a deep conviction that the climate of India would have bereft me of my only surviving child and of my wife’, Jacob took furlough in 1821 and travelled with Anne and their daughter to the ‘genial clime’ of New South Wales.

In early October 1822 the authorities in Australia received ‘private information’ that Jacob’s request for furlough was a cover for mercantile speculation in Sydney.  This was considered ‘subversive of military feeling and character’.  Unless Jacob could prove he hadn’t been trading, he would have to return to duty or resign from the Bengal Army.

 Vickers Jacob's advertisement in Hobart Gazette 20 April 1822Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land AdvertiserSupplement 20 April 1822.  Image courtesy of Trove

Jacob refuted the allegation.  In April 1822 he had placed an advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette announcing his intention of going from Tasmania to settle in New South Wales as a general merchant and agent.  The ship carrying his letter of resignation did not arrive in India until 20 October.  In November 1822 Jacob was granted permission to resign from the Bengal Army with effect from 11 July 1822.

In 1823 Jacob was granted 2,000 acres of land in Newcastle next to the Hunter River which became the Knockfine estate.  In December of that year tragedy struck the Jacob family again when baby Vickers Frederick died of a teething-related fever.

Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette 11 December 1823Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 11 December 1823 Image courtesy of Trove

In February 1824 Amelia Australia Harriet Jacob, aged nearly 3, was a passenger for England on the ship Ocean, perhaps sent away by her grieving parents to a place they considered safe.

The ups and downs of Vickers Jacob’s eventful life in Australia can be traced through local newspapers, including a challenge to fight a duel and a case of defamation of character.  He published a pamphlet entitled A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales.  Two more children were born there, one of whom died as a baby.

In February 1825 the Jacobs sailed for Calcutta on the Princess Charlotte.  Vickers Jacob became an indigo planter at Jessore.  He and Anne had another five children, all of whom lived to be adults.

In June 1836 the Jacobs and four of their children were about to sail from Calcutta to Hobart on the ship Boadicea when Vickers died of a fever.  Anne and her children carried on to Tasmania but on 3 October 1836 she also died.

I can't tell you if Edward Cahill ever received his money.

Our next post will tell the story of the Jacob children after their parents’ deaths.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
V C P Hodson, Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834 (London, 1927-1947)
Trove for Australian newspapers 
Vickers Jacob, A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales (Sydney, 1825) - British Library General Reference Collection 8154.aa.56.  There is also a copy in The National Archives Colonial Office papers CO 201/167 – digital version available via Trove 
Baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records have been digitised by Findmypast 
Documents relating to Vickers Jacob in New South Wales State Records and Archives 
Free Settler or Felon – Newcastle and Hunter Valley history 

15 June 2020

The mystery of the Roebuck

The records of the Marine Department of the India Office (IOR/L/MAR) include logs and journals from thousands of voyages made by East India Company ships.  It also contains a mystery.  Here is what the records tell us about the Roebuck, a ship that appears to have been in two places at once.

Inscription at the start of the Journal of Henry CrosbyInscription at the start of ‘The Jornall of Henry Crosbye’ (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX f 7) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX is a journal kept by Henry Crosby during journeys on three ships between 1619 and 1624.  As appears to have been common practice at the time, the ship’s journal went with its writer when he changed vessels rather than remaining with the ship.  Although Crosby departed England on the Charles in March 1619, having reached Achine [Banda Aceh, Indonesia] he wrote in July 1620 ‘We came awaye out to Sea the Charles the Rubye the Dymond and the Rauebucke… me in the Rauebucke’.  A pencil annotation in the margin, probably added by someone within the India Office during the 20th century, comments ‘The Writer Henry Crosby now in the Raebuch’.  The only East India Company ship that appears to match these two alternative spellings is the Roebuck, a ship built in 1619.  Assuming that this the same ship as the ‘Rauebucke’ in the text (and the mentions of ‘Rubye’ and ‘Dymond’ in the same sentence show the inconsistencies of 17th century spelling), Crosby remained on board the Roebuck in the vicinity of Sumatra before disembarking at Jakatraye [Jakarta] in December 1620.

Henry Crosby writes of departing Banda Aceh on the ‘Rauebucke’,Alternate spellings: Henry Crosby writes of departing Banda Aceh on the ‘Rauebucke’, which a later annotation calls the ‘Raebuch’ (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX, f 15) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX is a journal kept by Richard Swan during journeys on two ships between 1620 and 1622.  In July 1620, when Henry Crosby was departing Banda Aceh on the Roebuck, Richard Swan was at least 1500 miles away sailing between the Cape of Good Hope and Surat, India, also on the Roebuck.  When Crosby was disembarking at Jakarta in December, Swan was arriving at Jasques [Bander-e Jask, Iran] over 4000 miles away.  Both of them, apparently, still on board the Roebuck.

Richard Swan describes arriving at Bander-e Jask in December 1620Richard Swan describes arriving at Bander-e Jask in December 1620, 4000 miles away from Henry Crosby in Jakarta (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX f 22) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 
An extra complication is added by some date discrepancies within IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX.  The dates in the first half of the journal have been altered to a year earlier than originally written.  Since the altered dates fit with the dates in the second half of the journal, they have been presumed to be correct.  But if the dates as originally written are actually the correct ones, then perhaps the Roebuck was in Indonesia in 1621 instead of 1620.  Unfortunately, this explanation does not solve the mystery.  In July 1621 Richard Swan was with the Roebuck on the Island of Mazera [Masirah, Oman], 2800 miles from Banda Aceh.

The solution to this mystery can be found in IOR/E/3/7, a volume of East India Company correspondence from 1619-21.  Two letters within the volume make mention of Crosby’s Roebuck, but refer to it as a pinnace, a type of small sailing vessel that attended larger vessels.  While Swann was on one side of the Indian Ocean on the East India Company’s ship Roebuck, Crosby was on the other side aboard a pinnace that, with little regard for future historians, had been given the same name.

Matt Griffin
Content Specialist, Gulf History, British Library Qatar Foundation partnership

Further reading:
Full copies of the ship journals discussed in this post are available from the Qatar Digital Library:

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX    

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX  

 

09 June 2020

Henry John Tozer – India, Rousseau, and sanitation in St Pancras

In late 1904 William Foster took extended leave from the India Office Record Department to visit India, an experience he found most enjoyable.  Foster travelled with Henry John Tozer who was a clerk in the Statistical Department of the India Office.  The pair visited Calcutta, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madura, Conjeeveram, Tanjore, Tuticorin, and Columbo.  Tozer toured industrial premises and interviewed officials, and also studied the inscriptions and architecture of temples.

The principal shrine of the Varadarajaperumal Temple at ConjeeveramThe principal shrine of the Varadarajaperumal Temple at Conjeeveram (Kanchipuram) from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Madras, 1896-98 British Library Photo 1008/3(321) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Tozer was collecting data for a paper on Indian arts and industries which he was to deliver on his return to London. On 11 May 1905 the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, who was on a private visit to England, presided at a meeting of the Indian Section of the Society of Arts.  Henry Tozer read his paper ‘The manufactures of Greater Britain – India’.

Henry Tozer was born in 1864 in Cottishall, Norfolk, the son of an Inland Revenue officer.  By 1881 his family had moved to Romford in Essex and Henry was working as a junior clerk at the Admiralty.  He joined the Accountant’s General Department of the India Office in January 1882 as a clerk, 2nd class.  Tozer then studied at the University of London, gaining a B.A. (Hons) in 1889 and an M.A. in philosophy and political economy in 1893.  He transferred to the Revenue and Statistical Department in 1897.  The Society of Arts awarded Tozer a silver medal for a paper on Indian trade in 1901, and he published British India and its trade in 1902.

Tozer was a man of many interests. He addressed industrial conferences and spoke at the Economic Club of the Working Man’s College in Crowndale Road in the 1890s. He published an English translation of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract in 1895 which is still widely cited today. 

Title page of Rousseau's The Social Contract translated by H J Tozer

Title page of Rousseau's  The Social Contract translated by H. J. Tozer Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Before he married Amy Jane Carruthers in 1908, Tozer lived at the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Square London.  Young professional men living at the Settlement gave classes in academic and practical subjects to poor adults and children living nearby.  Tozer was an active member of the local committee of the Charity Organisation Society.  In 1898 Tozer corresponded with George Bernard Shaw about the appalling sanitation of the parish of St Pancras, and in 1903 about the Education Act.  Tozer wrote to Winston Churchill in January 1903 inviting him to open a debate at the Settlement on the fiscal question – Churchill declined.

Henry Tozer also corresponded with Pierre Kropotkine, the Russian writer and activist who spent part of his exile in Britain in the late 1890s.  Tozer sent Kropotkine a Blue Book on India.

There is evidence that Tozer acted as an informer for the India Office, reporting on a meeting of the London Indian Society in May 1901.  His report on ‘Resolutions Passed at a Meeting of the London Indian Society’ has been preserved in the records of the Public and Judicial Department.

Tozer was promoted to senior clerk in 1911 and principal in 1921.  He worked in the military, public works, revenue and industries and overseas departments. He retired in 1924.

In 1939 Henry and Amy Tozer were living in Kensington Park Gardens, Notting Hill, with a resident cook, parlour maid, and housemaid.  Henry Tozer died in October 1943.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Passmore Edwards Settlement
Nigel Scotland, Squires in the Slums - Settlements and Missions in Late Victorian Britain (London, 2007)
Dinyar Phiroze Patel, 2015. The Grand Old Man: Dadabhai Naoroji and the Evolution of the Demand for Indian Self-Government. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Resolutions passed at a Conference of the London Indian Society; report on the meeting by H. J. Tozer, May 1901 - IOR/L/PJ/6/570, File 970
British Newspaper Archive

 

06 May 2020

The East India Company and the Spice Islands

When the East India Company began trading in 1600, the focus of its activities was the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia rather than India.  There are many letters and documents in the India Office Records about the fierce, and sometimes violent, rivalry between the English and Dutch merchants as they strove to gain the upper hand in securing the valuable commodities grown in the region.

Map of Banda Islands
Map of the Banda Islands from a 17th century Dutch Portolano, British Library Add. 34184 f.64 Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1621 the Dutch took the island of Lantar (now Lontor or Banda Besar in the Banda Islands).  The men at the English house were taken prisoner and the Company’s goods seized.  Robert Randall, the East India Company’s chief merchant on Lantar, was tied to a stake with a halter fixed to his neck.  He was terrified that his head would be cut off by the Japanese soldier who had already beheaded Chinese men found with the English.  Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert arrived in the Company’s ship Royal Exchange and negotiated terms of peace and the release of his fellow countrymen.


Inventory of the Company’s goods seized by the Dutch 1621
Inventory of the Company’s goods seized by the Dutch 1621 IOR/G/40/25 f.308 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

An inventory was drawn up of the Company’s goods seized by the Dutch: mace; nutmeg; elephants’ teeth (ivory); rials of eight; oils of nutmeg and mace; textiles; wax and wax candles; arrack; rice; cakes of sago; copper kettles; empty jars; China ware; opium; fowling-pieces; chests of clothes and linen; a bed and pillows; an English flag.  According to Fitzherbert, the Dutch flew an English flag on two of their ships, leading the local people to think that the English had betrayed them.

Accounts for the English ‘castle’ on Amboina for April 1621Accounts for the English ‘castle’ on Amboina for April 1621 IOR/G/40/25 f.305  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Accounts for the English ‘castle’ on Amboina for March and April 1621 survive in the Company archive.  A major expense was the upkeep of a large garrison – salary, monthly allowance and provisions for 49 married soldiers, 196 soldiers, and 61 Japanese.  Their diet was rice, arrack, beef, pork, ‘sweet oil’, vinegar and salt.  Food for workmen is also listed – rice, beef and pork- and for prisoners – bread, wine, fish.  Sick men in the hospital were supplied with beef, pork, rice, wine, and fresh victuals.

Money was spent on barrels of powder, shot, matches, tiles, planks, shoes, porcelain, sailcloth to make tents, and table cloths.  There were slaves to clothe with shirts, ‘baftoes’ and silk, and they were also provided with other unspecified ‘necessaries’.  A school with ten pupils was maintained.  The Governor spent money on gifts to oil the wheels of commerce - rice, textiles, and silk. 

These fascinating documents shed light on life in the European posts in Southeast Asia in the early 17th century, where the threat of untimely death was always hovering over the merchants trying to win commercial advantage for their masters.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/3/8 ff 5-8 Humphrey Fitzherbert on the Royal Exchange at Banda Neira to the East India Company in London, 27 March 1621.
IOR/G/40/25 ff.302-307 Accounts from the English house on Amboina March-April 1621.
IOR/G/40/25 f.308 Inventory of goods belonging to the East India Company taken from Lantar by the Dutch in 1621.
A courante of newes from the East India: a true relation of the taking of the ilands of Lantore and Polaroone ... by the Hollanders ... Written to the East India Company in England from their factors there. (London, 1622).
W. Noel Sainsbury (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series - East Indies, China and Japan 1617-1621 (London, 1870).

Mr Muschamp's wooden leg

East India Company Factory Records (IOR/G) are available as a digital resource from Adam Matthew Digital which is free to access in British Library Reading Rooms (all British Library buildings are closed at present).

30 April 2020

Mr Muschamp’s wooden leg

In 1630 the East India Company kept back £3 from the wages of Brute Gread, carpenter of the ship London on a voyage to Bantam.  The stoppage was to pay for a copper kettle which Gread was said to have removed from the ship.  Gread’s wife Dorothy petitioned for repayment because the kettle brought ashore was defective with a burnt-out bottom, and it was cut into pieces and used to sheath Mr Muschamp’s wooden leg.  The Company ordered that the money be repaid.

Petition of Dorothy Gread 3 November 1630Petition of Dorothy Gread 3 November 1630 IOR/B/14 p.81 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


George Muschamp was a Company merchant who had lost his right leg in July 1619 on board the Sampson in a fight with the Dutch at Patani in the East Indies.  The leg was shot off by a cannon and he spent four months in ‘miserable torture’ for want of medicines.  However this terrible injury did not stop Muschamp having a long career with the Company.

Muschamp’s first petition for employment in the Company was considered by the Court on 4 August 1615.  He outlined his career to date: four years in Antwerp and Middleburgh, ’brought up in marchandize’ eight years.  Muschamp could speak Dutch and French and said he was skilled in silk, silk wares and linen cloth, and in keeping accounts.  He had recently been employed by Duncombe Halsey, a City of London mercer.  After his ‘sufficiency and carriage’ were examined, he was engaged in September.

George Muschamp’s petition for employment 4 August 1615George Muschamp’s petition for employment 4 August 1615 IOR/B/5 p.460 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The East India Company sent Muschamp to the spice islands in Southeast Asia.  He moved around, serving at Batavia and Amboyna.  In 1623 the council at Batavia accepted his request to leave because his ‘want of one leg’ was preventing him from performing his services as he would wish.  They reported that Muschamp was a ‘very sufficient merchant and has been faithful, honest and careful’.

The city of Batavia from the sea, with ships in the foregroundPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence  The city of Batavia from An embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperour of China (London, 1669), shelfmark X.1202 Images Online

Muschamp arrived back in England in the Palsgrave in June 1623.  In October he was given a gratuity of £100 on account of his good reputation and loss of his leg.  He then negotiated terms with the Company for a second voyage.   Although he wanted a salary of £250 per annum, he accepted an offer of £150.  Musgrave asked to be employed at Surat, mainly for health reasons, but was sent back to Southeast Asia.  He was President at Bantam from 1629 to 1630.

In a letter dated 9 March 1630, the East India Company ordered Muschamp to return to England because of his ‘great abuse’ of private trade.  The Company seized his assets and in 1631 exhibited two bills in Chancery against him and two others.   A fine of £200 was subsequently imposed on Muschamp.

However in 1639 Muschamp was appointed President at Bantam for a second term.  In December 1640 his wife Mary asked for permission to join her husband.  The Company refused, partly because of the cost, but also because such a licence had never yet been granted and they thought it would be an ‘ill precedent’.  She was advised to be patient until the end of her husband’s contracted time, otherwise they could order his return by the next ships.

Then news arrived that Muschamp had died in the spring of 1640.  Mary Muschamp petitioned for help as she had small five children.  On 9 March 1642 the Company’s General Court of Proprietors granted her £250 to relieve her ‘miserable and comfortless state’.

Grant of £250 to Mary Muschamp noted in the Court Minutes of the East India CompanyGrant of £250 to Mary Muschamp 9 March 1642  IOR/B/20 p.132 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
East India Company Court of Director's Minutes IOR/B.
George Muschamp's correspondence can be found in IOR/E/3  and IOR/G/40/25(4) - the letters are listed in Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

IOR/B and IOR/G are available as a digital resource from Adam Matthew Digital which is free to access in British Library Reading Rooms (all British Library buildings are closed at present).

 

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