Untold lives blog

15 posts categorized "East Asia"

12 April 2023

Preventing revel-rout - musicians banned from an East India Company voyage

On 31 December 1713 Thomas Woolley, Secretary to the East India Company, wrote to agent Richard Knight at Deal in Kent where ships were preparing to sail to Asia.  A number of Company directors had ordered Woolley to inform Knight that the supercargoes (merchants) of the ship Hester had several fiddlers with them and intended to take them on the voyage to China.  The directors were very concerned as they had already heard of a revel-rout at Deal caused by the presence of the fiddlers.

Fiddler playing on deck of a ship whilst fellow sailors dance‘The fun got fast and furious’ from Gordon Staples, Exiles of Fortune. A tale of a far north land (London, 1890) British Library Digital Store 012632.g.29 BL flickr 

Knight was to inform the directors of what he knew about the matter or what he could discover.  He was also to tell the supercargoes that they were not to attempt to take fiddlers or any other musicians on the voyage.  Charles Kesar, captain of the Hester, was not to receive on board for the voyage anyone but the ship’s company and others authorised in writing by the Company.  When Knight mustered all the men, he was to check whether any were musicians.  Woolley supposed that the directors would not object to the captain carrying a trumpeter or two and perhaps just one fiddler.

The next day Woolley wrote to supercargoes Philip Middleton, James Naish and Richard Hollond.  The directors had not thought Woolley’s letter to Knight sufficient and ordered him to tell the supercargoes that the Company was very concerned about their management and expected them, especially Naish, to clear themselves of the report if in any way untrue.  From what the directors had heard, the beginnings of their management were a very ‘ill specimen’ of what was expected and it would take an extraordinary future performance to erase them. The supercargoes’ friends would be concerned that they had placed their favours on men who would not use their best endeavours to deserve them but, on the contrary, seemed careless about this.  Woolley said he was sorry to hear the report and hoped their future deportment would show that, if they had no thoughts of their own reputation, they would at least do nothing unworthy of the good intentions of the gentlemen who recommended them to the Company.  He ended by repeating that the directors positively forbade them carrying those fiddlers or any other musicians in the Hester.

On 3 January 1714 Middleton, Naish and Hollond replied to the directors protesting their innocence.  They said that they were ‘much Surprized to hear of Entertaining Fidlers and the Revel Rout occation’d thereby’ as they had not heard the sound of an instrument since leaving London.  However they were glad to know the Company’s ‘Pleasure in this perticular’ and would hold this in as great a regard as any other command.  The reports were groundless and the supercargoes aimed to obey every order and behave in a way conformable to the directors’ ‘good liking’.  It seemed that Naish especially was expected to clear himself, so he declared that he had not, nor intended, to entertain any fiddler or other musician to go on the voyage.

Richard Hollond's letter to the East India Company apologising for exceeding his private trade allowance IOR/E/1/6/ f.249 Richard Hollond’s letter to the East India Company apologising for exceeding his private trade allowance, November 1715

Middleton, Naish and Hollond found themselves again in trouble with the Company on their return from the voyage to China in 1715.  All three men had exceeded their allowances for private trade and wrote asking for forgiveness.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/200 pp.75-78 Letters from Thomas Woolley about musicians at Deal, December 1713 and January 1714.
IOR/E/1/5 ff. 1-4v Letter to Company from Middleton, Naish and Hollond 3 January 1714.
IOR/E/1/6 – letters from Middleton, Naish and Hollond about their private trade allowances, 1715.

 

19 January 2023

Celebrating the Lunar New Year on the front lines in World War One

On 11 February 1918 workers from the Chinese Labour Corps based on the front lines in France took a day off from their work and celebrated the Lunar New Year.

The Chinese Labour Corps had been created in 1916 and comprised of over 100,000 men recruited from China to provide support to the British Army during World War One.  They were brought to the front lines of the War in France and Belgium to help with work including building tanks, digging trenches and burying the dead.  Labour Corps workers signed employment contracts for three years and most returned to China after the war.

The Illustrated War News ran several features looking at life on the front lines for members of the Chinese Labour Corps in January and March 1918, and on 6 March 1918 it featured their New Year celebrations in a double page spread.

 Chinese Labour Corps workers in France celebrating the Lunar New Year on 11 February 1918Chinese Labour Corps workers in France celebrating the Lunar New Year on 11 February 1918 - The Illustrated War News. London, 1918. Wq7/4519 Vol.8 pp.18-19

The feature showed Chinese Labour Corps workers based in camps and cantonments across various neighbourhoods in France celebrating the Lunar New Year on 11 February 1918.  The celebrations included entertainments and amusements similar to those they would have taken part in back in China and ranged from jugglers and stilt-walkers to shows and processions.

The celebrations were organised by each neighbourhood with every camp within it staging a different entertainment or show to provide an opportunity for the workers to be able to visit the other camps, enjoy all the festivities and see everyone.

Members of the Chinese Communities in Britain were also able to get involved in supporting the Labour Corp workers celebrations by making financial donations to the Chinese Legation in London for the purchase of gifts to be sent to those on the front lines.

Chinese Legation in London packing crates of New Year’s gifts to be sent to the workers in France and BelgiumChinese Legation in London packing crates of New Year’s gifts to be sent to the workers in France and Belgium - The Illustrated War News. London, 1918. Wq7/4518 Vol.7 p.39

Another image featured in The Illustrated War News on 2 January 1918 showed several gentlemen from the Chinese Legation in London packing crates full of the New Year’s gifts that had been purchased to be sent to the workers in France and Belgium.

The Lunar New Year celebration images from The Illustrated War News March 1918 are included In the British Library’s Chinese and British exhibition, which is now open until 23 April 2023.  The exhibition features the invaluable contributions which Chinese Labour Corps workers made to the British war effort, with images and objects including trench art items made by individual members of the Chinese Labour Corps.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
The Illustrated War News. London, 1918. Wq7/4518 Vol.7 p.39
The Illustrated War News. London, 1918. Wq7/4519 Vol.8 pp.18-19

 

08 December 2022

Private trade and pressed men – the voyage of the Houghton to China

In January 1784 Captain James Monro of the East India Company ship Houghton submitted to the Canton Factory a list of private trade goods procured in China.  It records the mark and numbers on cargo items, the owner of the commodities, the type of goods, and the quantity of packages and contents

Table of private trade carried from China in the Houghton January 1784Private trade carried from China in the Houghton 1784 IOR/G/12/78 p.110 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Captain James Monro -
Hyson tea 147 chests; rhubarb 20 chests; cassia & buds 52 chests; dragon’s blood 3 chests; Nankeen cloth 5 chests containing 1200 pieces; bamboo fans 2 chests containing 2000; turmeric (loose); sago (loose); rattans 800 bundles; cane mats (loose) 1000 pieces; China ware 1 half chest containing 45 pieces.

Samuel Whedon or Wheadon, first mate -
Hyson tea 20 chests; cassia & buds 16 chests; China ware 1 box.

Archibald Anderson, second mate -
Hyson tea 14 chests.

Robert Robertson, third mate -
Hyson tea 11 chests.

James Stewart, fourth mate -
Hyson tea 7 chests.

Benjamin Smith, fifth mate -
Hyson tea 4 chests.

John Baker, surgeon -
Hyson tea 11 chests; cassia 7 chests; dragon’s blood 1 chest.

John Farington Butterfield, purser -
Hyson tea 12 chests; cassia & buds 12 chests; cotton yarn 1 chest.

James Paterson, gunner -
Hyson tea 3 chests.

Cassia buds were used in medicine, especially as a laxative. Dragon’s blood, disappointingly, was a resin.  Loose goods such as sago were packed round delicate goods much as we use polystyrene chips.  A pecul was a weight equivalent to 133⅓ pounds avoirdupois.

There were set allowances for different private trade commodities according to rank.

Allowances for teaAllowances for tea taken from Charles Cartwright, An abstract of the orders and regulations of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East-India Company (1788) p.lxv Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Allowances for textile piece goods

Allowances for textile piece goods taken from Charles Cartwright, An abstract of the orders and regulations of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East-India Company (1788) p. lxvi  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Allowances for China and Japan ware  cabinets  fans  pictures  lacquer ware and screensAllowances for China and Japan ware, cabinets, fans, pictures, lacquer ware and screens taken from Charles Cartwright, An abstract of the orders and regulations of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East-India Company (1788) p.lxviii  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Allowances for rattans Allowances for rattans taken from Charles Cartwright, An abstract of the orders and regulations of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East-India Company (1788) p. lxix  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The commodities taken into the Houghton for the first mate must have been purchased on his behalf by a shipmate because Samuel Whedon/Wheadon had died as the ship was sailing towards Malacca on its way to China.  He was buried at sea on 12 September 1783 after suffering from ‘a tedious and painful illness ever since leaving Madras’.  Second officer Archibald Anderson took his place. Anderson was to disappear mysteriously in 1790 whilst in command of the Nottingham.

Whilst the Houghton was at Madras in July 1783, 36 of Monro’s best sailors were pressed and taken off the ship by officers from HMS Superb.  He commented in his journal: ‘The Admiral has taken so many Men & the Men of Warrs Boat &c so frequently on board, we can scarse find a Man in the Ship, they hide themselves for fear of being pressed’.  Monro issued each pressed man with a certificate to confirm the dates of his service with the East India Company and the amount of wages owed.  In August a few men deserted from the Houghton at Madras, including the sixth mate John White.

As a postscript, HMS Superb was wrecked off Tellicherry on 5 November 1783 but no lives were lost.

There were lighter moments during the voyage.  Monro recorded that as the Houghton approached Madras on 19 July 1783: ‘This Morning & at noon we have the most astonishing quantity of Butterflys about’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Records for the Houghton - IOR/L/MAR/B/ 438-O Journal 1783-1784; IOR/L/MAR/B/438- II(1) & II (2) Ledger and Pay Book.
Correspondence of James Monro – British Library Mss Eur Photo Eur 488B.
James Monro and the sale of East India Company maritime commands.
Charles Cartwright, of the India House, An abstract of the orders and regulations of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East-India Company, and of other documents relating to the pains and penalties the commanders and officers of ships in the Company's service are liable to ... Including also, the full particulars of the allowances of private trade, outward and homeward ... To which is added, as an appendix, copies of the papers usually given by the Company to the commanders and officers. And a list of the duties, etc. (London, 1788).

 

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).

 

12 February 2021

Chinese New Year in Canton 1731

James Naish was Chief of the English East India Company Council in Canton (Guangzhou), China.  He kept a diary of ‘Observations and Transactions’ which includes a description of Chinese New Year celebrations in January and February 1730/31.

View of  Canton (Guangzhou) circa 1760-1770View of  Canton (Guangzhou) c.1760-1770 Maps K.Top.116.22.2 tab. BL flickr

Naish’s diary reads –

27th January This being the first day of the new Moon & of the new Year, great ceremony is observed by the Mandarins & all other persons in their visits and congratulations thereupon.

30th January The Foyen or Vice Roy of the Province haveing signified his approbation of all sorts of diversions, costly Pageants are daily carried about the streets, in which the State & Power of Mandarins in high stations are represented, Country & Low life well describ’d, & the seasons curiously discover’d.  At night the streets are finely illuminated, & a vast variety of fire works continually seen in the Air from all parts of the City.

17th February The Foyen hath Affixed a chop in several places which putts an end to the long continued festival, & likewise directs all persons to return to their professions & employments, the Mandarins of Justice may punish such Offenders as have been guilty of any crimes since new years day, from which time to this no sort of punishment could have been inflicted upon any criminal whatever.

Account of Chinese New Year celebrations from James Naish's diary
Account of Chinese New Year celebrations from James Naish's diary IOR/G/12/32 p.1 27 January-17 February 1730/31 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

James Naish was a very experienced China trade merchant.  He was supercargo on East India Company voyages to Canton in 1716, 1722, 1725 and 1730, and had also worked for the Ostend Company.  In 1730-1731 he spent a whole year at Canton instead of returning to England between trading seasons, the only English East India Company supercargo ever to do this.   Naish wrote reports on the tea industry during his extended stay.

When China merchant George Arbuthnot arrived back in England in the summer of 1731, he accused Naish of fraud.  Arbuthnot claimed that Naish had understated the amount of money received for goods sold in China and inflated the cost of commodities purchased there.  Naish was also said to have imported a large quantity of gold bullion from China without paying duty. The East India Company decided that Naish had broken his covenant and considered sending a ship to seize his unlicensed goods and bring him to England under arrest.  Naish’s wife Hester was desperate to prevent this.  She had been given a letter of attorney by her husband in 1729 authorising her to conduct his business, so she agreed to deposit £20,000 with the Company to allow Naish to return as a free man.

The Company began proceedings in the Court of Exchequer.  Naish protested his innocence and lodged counter-claims against the Company in the courts.

The legal process dragged on for years.  When Naish made his will in 1736, he left everything to Hester because the size of his estate was uncertain, dependent upon the outcome of several pending law suits.  He said the family had long experience of Hester’s skilful management of his affairs whilst he was abroad and he trusted her to divide the estate as he would wish.  Although Naish did not die until January 1757, this will was the one submitted for probate.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/G/12/32 Observations and Transactions by James Naish at Canton in China (1926, 1929)
The Political State of Great Britain, Volume 44 July-September 1732
The Athenaeum January-June 1892,p.793
Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Courts of King's Bench ..., Volume 2 Naish v East India Company

17 November 2020

William Adams in Japan– a new digital resource

William Adams, 'the first Englishman in Japan', died on 16 May 1620 at Hirado.  Events planned in Japan and the UK to mark the 400th anniversary of his death have unfortunately had to be postponed because of the pandemic.  However the British Library has been able to contribute to the celebration of a remarkable life.  Letters written by Adams during his years in Japan are preserved in the East India Company archive, and we are delighted to announce that digital copies of these are now available to access freely in our Digitised Manuscripts resource.

Firando (Hirado) from the sea 1669 with a Dutch shipFirando (Hirado) viewed from the sea-  Arnoldus Montanus, Gedenkwaerdige gesantschappen der Oost-Indische Maetschappy in't Vereenigde Nederland, aen de Kaisaren van Japan (Amsterdam, 1669)

Adams joined a Dutch merchant fleet as chief pilot in 1598.  He arrived in Japan on board the Liefde in 1600 and built a new life for himself under the patronage of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  William Adams worked for both the Dutch and English East India Companies after they arrived in Japan in 1609 and 1613 respectively.

Firando (Hirado) Castle 1669The castle at Firando (Hirado)  - Gedenkwaerdige gesantschappen der Oost-Indische Maetschappy in't Vereenigde Nederland, aen de Kaisaren van Japan (Amsterdam, 1669)

The earliest letter written by William Adams in the English East India Company records is dated 23 October 1611 in Hirado.  He had heard that there were Englishmen at Bantam (Banten) in Java and so the letter is addressed to unknown friends and countrymen.  Adams gave an account of his life, explaining how he came to be in Japan, what had happened to him since his arrival, his relationship with Tokugawa Ieyasu and the honours he had received.  He had been refused permission to leave Japan and asked for word to be sent to his family that he was still alive.  Adams gave information about trading contacts with the Dutch.

This letter was received in Bantam by East India Company merchant Augustine Spalding.  He sent a reply via the Dutch, together with a bible and three other books.

On 12 January 1613 Adams answered.  He had received a letter from Thomas Smythe, Governor of the East India Company, promising that a ship would be sent to Japan to establish a factory (trading post).  Adams passed on to Spalding valuable commercial intelligence and advice about the best way of establishing trade with Japan.

Letter from William Adams at Hirado to Augustine Spalding at Bantam 12 January 1613IOR/E/3/1 ff. 157-58  Letter from William Adams at Hirado to Augustine Spalding at Bantam 12 January 1613  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Adams wrote from Hirado on 1 December 1613 to the East India Company in London, announcing the arrival of John Saris in their ship Clove.  He detailed Saris’s reception at court and described how Saris was unhappy when he was not permitted by Japanese custom to hand a letter from King James directly to the emperor but only via his secretary.  Saris asked Adams if he would serve the English East India Company and, after considerable negotiation, a salary of £100 per annum was agreed.

On the same day, Adams wrote to Thomas Best at Bantam updating him with the latest news.  He said that he had intended to go home in the Clove but changed his mind because of discourtesies shown to him by Saris.

Other letters are addressed to English merchants in Japan and to the East India Company in London, with news of people, trade, and Japanese politics.  The final one in the archive was sent in November 1617 from Adams at Sakai to Company merchant Richard Wickham at Hirado.  400 years after his death, the voice of William Adams can still be heard through his written legacy.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator. East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/3/1 ff 116-29 William Adams at Hirado to his ‘unknown friends and countrymen’ at Bantam
IOR/E/3/1 ff 157-58 William Adams at Hirado to Augustine Spalding at Bantam
IOR/E/3/1 ff 203-04 Contract between William Adams and the East India Company, Hirado
IOR/E/3/1 ff 209-11 William Adams at Hirado to the East India Company in London
IOR/E/3/1 ff 212-13 William Adams at Hirado to Thomas Best at Bantam
IOR/E/3/2 f 43 William Adams at Hirado to Richard Wickham at Edo
IOR/E/3/3 f 78 William Adams at Shizuoka to Richard Wickham at Edo
IOR/E/3/4 f 143-44 William Adams at Hirado to Sir Thomas Smythe in London
IOR/E/3/5 f 189 William Adams at Sakai to Richard Wickham at Hirado

Anthony Farrington, The English Factory in Japan, 1613-1623 (London: British Library, 1991)

William Adams - from Gillingham to Japan

 

08 September 2020

Captain Charles Foulis and Commodore George Anson

Charles Foulis (c.1714 – 1783) became wealthy from his maritime career with the East India Company.  For his second voyage he served as first mate under Captain Robert Jenkins on the Harrington bound for St Helena, Bombay and China.  The ship arrived at Bombay at the end of July 1742 and had an encounter with Angria’s pirate ships whilst returning from Tellicherry.

On 18 December 1742, Captain Jenkins died of ‘a feaver and flux’ and was buried with military honours in Bombay.  Foulis took over as captain of the Harrington and sailed for China, his first voyage east of India.

Portrait of George Anson, three-quarters length standing to left, looking towards the viewer, holding a telescope in both hands, his left elbow resting on a grassy ledge beside his hat, wearing a suit with sword and wig.Portrait of George Anson, 1747 - Courtesy of  British Museum CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Meanwhile, Commodore George Anson (1697-1762) was continuing a voyage around the world in the Centurion, the last remaining ship of his small fleet.  When the Centurion called at Macao in November 1742, neither the Europeans nor the Chinese wanted this armed warship to approach Canton and threaten the delicate trade balance.  However, she was badly in need of repair, water and stores, and assistance was reluctantly given.  She departed on 19 April 1743, supposedly for England.  There was huge consternation when she returned nearly three months later, towing the Spanish treasure galleon Covadonga as her ‘prize’ worth about £60 million in today’s money.

Anson made his way up river towards Canton, threatening violence to the Chinese officials who tried to stop him.  When the Harrington arrived on 17 July, Captain Foulis was caught up as a pawn in the affair, torn between his respect for Anson and his responsibility to the East India Company.

Foulis went on board the Centurion to discuss the situation with Anson.  Eventually on 28-29 July the Centurion was allowed upstream and Harrington, with a local pilot aboard, guided her through the channels.  After delicate negotiations, Anson was permitted to visit Canton for a meeting with the Chinese officials.

The Centurion left China in December 1743 and the Harrington at the end of January 1744. On 4 July Anson’s magnificent procession of 32 wagons of treasure passed through the streets of London on its way to the Tower.

Introductory page of the journal and log of the Anson 1746Introductory page of the journal and log of the Anson 1746 - IOR/L/MAR/B/549A Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Foulis’s next voyage was in the 1746/7 season as captain of the Anson, under the management of David Crichton, a relative of his wife.  The Anson had a battle with the French outside Bombay but the captain got his papers and treasure landed before the ship was captured.  Foulis managed to return to England and on 2 November 1748 the East India Company Court of Directors agreed that Captain Foulis had ‘done his Duty and behaved like a Gallant and Discreet Officer and is Justly entitled to the Courts Favour’.

From 1750 to 1755 Foulis captained the Lord Anson for two uneventful voyages before retiring from the sea to manage voyages for the East India Company.  Between 1759 and his death in 1783 he managed 38 voyages made by 12 ships and was a significant figure in the shipping lobby.

The memorial erected by Captain Robert Preston to Charles Foulis in St.Mary’s church, Woodford, Essex.

The memorial erected by Captain Robert Preston to Charles Foulis in St.Mary’s church, Woodford, Essex, as a testimony of his gratitude. Foulis had managed three voyages which Preston made as captain and then worked with him in the City. In his will Foulis named Preston as his ‘residuary legatee and executor’. Author;'s photograph. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Charles Foulis had other connections with the East India Company: his sister Margaret married William George Freeman, a director in 1769, 1774-76 and 1778-81.  His wife had a sister who married Andrew Moffatt of Cranbrook House in Ilford, another Principal Managing Owner who was involved in shipping insurance.

Georgina Green
Independent scholar


Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/654D Journal of the Harrington 1741-1744
IOR/L/MAR/B/549A Journal of the Anson 1746-1747
IOR/B/70 East India Company Court of Directors’ Minute Book
Sally Rousham (ed.), The Greatest Treasure - Philip Saumarez and the voyage of the Centurion (Guernsey Museum, 1994)
Glyn Williams, The Prize of all the Oceans (Harper Collins, 1999)

 

11 January 2018

The fascinating life of Stella Alexander

In 2016 the British Library acquired the papers of Stella Alexander, a Quaker and scholar of Yugoslav history. She lived a long and fascinating life, and her papers are a rich resource for a wide variety of research subjects. Her letters and draft unpublished memoir give first-hand accounts of diplomatic and expat life in 1920s and 1930s China, the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, and Chinese customs and society. The reports she wrote for the Quakers on her visits to Yugoslavia give rare eye-witness reports of life in eastern Europe during the Cold War. Her work for the Quakers and her travels round India, where she met Gandhian educationalists at Sevagram, are also covered thoroughly by the papers.

Photograph of  Stella Alexander née Tucker lying on her front on grass, Shanghai 1929 Stella Alexander née Tucker in Shanghai, 1929 - British Library Add MS 89279 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Stella Tucker was born a “privileged alien” in Shanghai in 1912, the daughter of an American bullion broker. She was educated in Shanghai, the United States, and Oxford. After graduation she married John Alexander, a British diplomat, and returned to China in the midst of a tempestuous time in the country’s history. Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931 and occupied Shanghai in 1932.

The life of a diplomat’s wife involved seemingly non-stop entertaining of diplomats, politicians, and journalists, but it was not all glamour; it was also peripatetic and the family (including their two children) moved frequently with John’s postings, with each move necessitating setting up home anew.

It would have been easy for Stella to settle into the “the narrow, shallow-rooted life” of the diplomatic community, but instead she took the trouble to learn Chinese, spoke Chinese not pidgin English to her staff, made Chinese friends, and ensured her children played with local children.

This comfortable life changed dramatically in December 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. Foreign diplomats in China were interned, in the case of the Alexanders in the Cathay Hotel, “in adequate comfort… like a prolonged ocean cruise”, according to Stella. It was a far cry from the conditions that the thousands of internees without diplomatic status had to endure.

In September 1942 the family was among approximately 1500 Allied citizens who were exchanged for a similar number of Japanese civilians who had been interned in the United States and Stella returned to the US.

It became increasingly difficult for Stella to follow John’s postings, and his frequent secondments and moves between Paris, New York, and Geneva, and the lengthy separations these occasioned, eventually took their toll and they divorced amicably in 1950.

After her divorce Stella worked for the United Nations Association, travelled round India for a year, and became increasingly involved in the Quakers, representing the London Yearly Meeting at the UN General Assembly in 1957. It was through her work for the Quakers that Stella developed her other great interest. After meeting three young Yugoslavs at a seminar in 1957 she became enthralled by the country. She visited almost annually from 1961 into the 1970s, travelling round by bus and train, often alone, learned Serbo-Croat, and wrote academic tomes on Yugoslav subjects.

Stella Alexander in later life - photograph Stella Alexander in later life - photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Anthony Upton.  © Anthony Upton

Stella remained active in Quaker affairs, even after being received into the Catholic Church in 1991, and lived out her long and active life in London, surrounded by children and grandchildren. She died, aged 85, in 1998. The phrase ‘a life well lived’ could have been written for her.

Michael St John-McAlister
Western Manuscripts Cataloguing Manager

Further reading:
British Library Add MS 89279
Stella Alexander, Church and State in Yugoslavia since 1945 (Cambridge: University Press, 1979).
Stella Alexander, The Triple Myth: A Life of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1987).

 

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