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Baird, Christina Jane (1997) The Liverpool China Trade 1834-1880. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The nucleus of this thesis is the Liverpool China Trade Collection. This exists in Liverpool in store and has never been exhibited as a whole. Much of this collection is provenanced to local families with strong shipping connections. The examination of this collection is preceded by an analysis of the data on shipping and trade with the aim of showing the importance of the port of Liverpool in the latter part of the nineteenth century after the release of the East India Company franchise and the opening of the Suez Canal. The latter event had a dramatic effect on Liverpool because it coincided with new developments in the compound steam engine, the potential of which was exploited to the full by Alfred Holt, a Liverpool shipowner. The study falls into two main parts. First, the historical background is sketched, revealing, amongst other factors, the influence of American traders, who in the nineteenth century anticipated developments in shipping, for example in clipper-ship design, as well as providing a model market for trade goods from China the demands of which were reflected by the tastes and demands of the prosperous Liverpool merchants. The shipping data are amplified by reference to the family correspondence of Robert Thomson, who was first a clipper captain and later captain of one of the Holt steamers, and also by the diary of Alexander Kidd, whose service with Alfred Holt's company lasted over most of the period under survey only being terminated by his untimely death at sea. Second, the thesis examines in detail the collection itself, which is unique in this country because it is unusually well provenanced to Liverpool families, enabling us to trace the sort of private trading which was going on at the behest of individuals as well as on behalf of the companies who were importing tea as their main commodity. This part of the thesis contains a report on the oriental collections of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, discussing the collections in relation to a neglected phase of China Trade art and in the light of locally sourced documentation. An account, and possible explanation, is offered of the ways in which the nature of the China Trade changed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The thesis examines the collection itself, illustrates the nature of the objects which were being collected, often by or on behalf of the great mercantile families of Liverpool, and casts light not only upon the nationwide taste for Chinese products together with shifts in patronage and consumerism which developed at this time but also upon the effect trade contacts, the establishment of new colonial communities on the Chinese mainland and the emergence of an identifiable treaty port culture had upon developments in Chinese export art.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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