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The British Presence in Macau, 1635–1793


Publication Year: 2013

For more than four centuries, Macau was the center of Portuguese trade and culture on the South China Coast. Until the founding of Hong Kong and the opening of other ports in the 1840s, it was also the main gateway to China for independent British merchants and their only place of permanent residence. Drawing extensively on Portuguese as well as British sources, The British Presence in Macau traces Anglo- Portuguese relations in South China from the first arrival of English trading ships in the 1630s to the establishment of factories at Canton, the beginnings of the opium trade, and the Macartney Embassy of 1793. Longstanding allies in the west, the British and Portuguese pursued more complex rela­tions in the east, as trading interests clashed under a Chinese imperial system and as the British increasingly asserted their power

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Pages, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

Abbreviations and acronyms

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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. 1-6

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1. Anglo-Portuguese conflicts and the founding of the East India Company

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pp. 7-10

Euro-Asian relations, determined in part by the European response to societies such as the Chinese and the Japanese, developed slowly, and, as stated by Donald Lach, reflect the feeling which those cultures aroused in Western traveller-writers, as well as the latters’ preconceived ideas and tastes.1 From the end of the sixteenth century, when Macau was enjoying its economic apogee, reports...

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2. The voyage east: The beginning of Anglo-Portuguese relations in the East Indies

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pp. 11-26

In 1602, two years before England and Spain signed their Peace Treaty, and in the wake of the Dutch,1 the English, using their increasing naval military might and diplomatic activity, reached the Indian Ocean, gradually moving towards Macau. The English defied Portugal at the very heart of her empire, India and Persia, and took advantage of the desire of certain indigenous authorities to...

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3. The arrival of the English in Macau

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pp. 27-66

The Convention of Goa signed between Goa and Surat aimed to face the growing Dutch power in the Far East, gradually opening the gateway to Macau for EIC vessels and those of private English traders. This alliance mirrored the problems with which the Estado da Índia had to concern itself in the face of its northern European rivals and the strategies Portugal adopted to deal with...

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4. The beginning of regular East India Company trade with China

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pp. 67-74

Throughout the second half of the seventeenth century, the EIC’s initial attempts to set up direct contact with China stemmed above all from the strategy of Eastern factories, whereas the Portuguese tried to defend their privileged position in the Pearl River delta, to the detriment of English interests. Between 1690 and 1696 eight EIC vessels made their way to Chinese ports, this number...

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5. The gradual growth of the British presence in Macau in the early eighteenth century

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pp. 75-78

After the trading seasons in Canton, the supercargoes made their way to Macau, where they lived during the summer in relative quietude, thus being able to prepare contracts for the following year and attend to EIC interests without having to return to Europe. These prolonged sojourns of traders in the city gave rise to the production of increasingly well-informed descriptions of it, allowing...

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6. Macau as a centre for Chinese control of the European “barbarians”

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pp. 79-82

In 1719, the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1722) proposed to the Portuguese that foreign trade be centralised in Macau, where Western merchants would thenceforth reside. The city, relatively impoverished since the suppression of trade with Japan, viewed the imperial edict as permission for European rivals to enter an area in which the Portuguese still held a privileged position, and the Macau...

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7. The visit of the Centurion

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pp. 83-86

In November 1742, with merely four EIC vessels in Canton, the HM Centurion,1 under the command of Commodore George Anson, was the first Royal Navy warship to arrive in Macau for the purpose of re-provisioning. It had sailed from Southampton in 1740, within the context of the War of Jenkin’s Ear against Spain, with the aim of upsetting Spanish interests in South America. Anson...

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8. British relations and conflicts with the Portuguese and Chinese authorities in the second half of the eighteenth century

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pp. 87-96

From the second half of the eighteenth century on, Lisbon tightened its control over Macau, and, in the context of the EIC’s project for expansion in the East, conflicts heightened between the supercargoes—whose economic power became ever more visible in the enclave—and the Portuguese and Chinese authorities. In 1749, in the face of the development of British interests in China...

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9. The “scramble for the use of Macau”

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pp. 97-104

Throughout the eighteenth century, the EIC became dependent on private trade conducted between India and Southern China whereby Indian opium reached Canton, the purchase of tea requiring silver earned through the sale of that drug. Since the previous century the Portuguese had been importing opium into China, and Macau ultimately became a strategic space for British...

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10. “Guests and old allies”

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pp. 105-116

The permanent and growing influence of the British supercargoes and independent traders in Macau gave rise to conflict between these and the Portuguese administration in incidents which, together with the restrictions imposed by the Mandarinate and the co-hong, led the EIC to seek a territory in Southern China, for if Portugal was an old ally of Britain in Europe, in the Far East Macau’s...

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11. The importance of Macau for the British China trade

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pp. 117-122

As shown, throughout the second half of the eighteenth century EIC officials clashed with the enclave’s authorities. The former were, however, forced to abide by the decisions issuing both from the Chinese and the Portuguese and acknowledge the fragility of their position in China. Following the clashes between the British and the governor analysed above, Fort William wrote to the...

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12. Lord Macartney’s embassy to China, 1792–1794

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pp. 123-130

The ever growing importance of the China Trade for the British economy and trade, especially after the Commutation Act, incidents such as those of the Lady Hughes (1784), the tight control of the Portuguese and Chinese on the Macau- Canton axis, the high prices practised by the Chinese, and the demands of the co-hong and the hopu led the British, “the first people in the world”,1 to attempt...

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pp. 131-134

At the end of the eighteenth century, Britain took on the role of a mighty power in the East; the British role and status in Macau at that point were very different from those of a hundred years before when the EIC set itself up in China. The foreign population and trade ultimately became essential for Macau’s economy, but the local and religious authorities accused the British of constituting...


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pp. 135-178


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pp. 179-200


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pp. 201-208

E-ISBN-13: 9789882208445
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139798

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1