August 25, 2010 at 3:37 am | Posted in Asia, China, Financial, Globalization, History, Research, World-system | Leave a comment









Scots Jews and Parsis in Nineteenth Century

Tea Opium Cotton and Silk Businesses

Jardine Matheson

Jardine, Matheson & Co. was founded in Canton on 1 July 1832, following a meeting between William Jardine and another Scots trader, James Matheson from Sutherland. In 1834, the pair sent the first private shipments of Chinese tea to England; another big export to the UK was silk. In return, they traded opium to the Chinese.[6] Jardine Matheson’s early profits were based on this trading of Indian opium into China. When the Chinese emperor tried to ban the trade, the company called on Britain to compel China to provide compensation for the confiscated opium, leading in 1839 to the first of two Opium Wars.

Early history

In 1802, Dr. William Jardine worked as a medicinal practitioner on board British East India Company vessels sailing between Calcutta and Canton. Under a charter granted to the company in the seventeenth century by Charles I of England, its directors in London‘s Leadenhall Street held a monopoly on British trade between India and China. It was customary, however, for the Company’s servants to conduct a certain amount of private business on their own account. In order to regularise this, the East India Company allowed each officer and member of the crew a space about equal to two chests; what the men did with this space was their own business. Using this space, the doctor soon discovered that trading illegal narcotics was more profitable than practicing medicine. It was during these early days that William Jardine found himself onboard a ship captured by the French with all its cargo seized. Despite this setback a trading partnership formed at the time by Jardine with a fellow passenger, a Parsee Indian called Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy, would endure for many years.

In Canton, Dr. Jardine met a naturalised Briton of Huguenot extraction named Hollingworth Magniac. He learned that there were ways by which, to a small extent, the monopoly of the East India Company could be circumvented so in 1817 Jardine left his first employers and began the process of establishing his own private firm.

At this time James Matheson was employed in his uncle’s business in Calcutta. One day his uncle entrusted him with a letter to be delivered to the captain of a soon-to-depart British vessel. Matheson forgot to deliver the missive and the vessel sailed without it. Incensed at his nephew’s negligence, the uncle suggested that young James might be better off back in England. He took his uncle at his word and went to engage a passage back home. Instead, on the advice of an old sea captain, Matheson went to Canton.

It was in Canton in 1818 that Matheson first met Jardine. The two men formed a partnership which included also Magniac and a man named Beale, an English inventor of clocks and automata. At first the new firm dealt only with Bombay and Calcutta, at that time called the “country trade” but later extended their business to London.

The activities of these four men made an important contribution to the 1834 termination of the East India Company’s monopoly in China.[7][8][9]

Establishment of the private firm of Jardine, Matheson & Co.

For a long time the British East India Company had been growing increasingly unpopular in Britain. Men such as Sheridan, Elliot, Charles James Fox, William Windham, and Edmund Burke were its bitter enemies. Many British people believed that freedom of the seas and freedom of trade were synonymous. They had fought for years to establish this freedom, only to see it threatened by a King’s charter to a group of London merchants. Further, certain high-handed methods used by the East India Company in dealing with competitors aroused the moral indignation of the British at home.

Nevertheless, open competition with the East India Company was risky business. The Company was empowered to punish transgressors vigorously—even to the extent of hanging. Occasionally, free traders did manage to secure a license from the Company to engage in the “country trade,” usually with India, but never with Britain. In rare instances, other free traders, called “interlopers,” competed with the Company. The interlopers usually were friends of the Government in England from which they had been able to obtain some form of charter of their own. Sooner or later, however, the East India Company always managed to have these other charters revoked.

There was one method, however, by which a Briton could establish a business on the East India Company’s preserves. He could accept the consulship of a foreign country and register under its laws. This method was employed by Jardine to establish himself in Canton. Magniac had obtained an appointment from the King of Prussia, and later James Matheson represented Denmark and Hawaii. On this basis the partners had nothing to fear from the Company; in fact, relations between these two and the East India Company seemed in time to have become amicable. It is recorded that when ships of the East India Company were detained outside the harbour by the authorities, Jardine offered his services “without fee or reward.” These services saved the East India Company a considerable sum of money and earned for Jardine the Company’s gratitude.

By 1830, the enemies of the East India Company had begun to triumph, and its hold on trade with the East had weakened noticeably. Furthermore, at this time, both Magniac and Beale were getting ready to retire. In 1832, two years before the East India Company lost its monopoly over British trade with China, William Jardine and James Matheson entered into formal partnership as a private firm, Jardine, Matheson & Co.

Establishment of the firm in Hong Kong

In 1834 the first free ship, Jardine’s Sarah, left Whampoa with a cargo of tea for London. This was the signal that showed the East India Company was no longer a power in the East, and was immediately followed by a rush to participate in the fast developing China trade, which was centered on tea. From the middle of the seventeenth century this drink had been growing in popularity in Britain and the British colonies, but the trade in teas was far from simple. Due to the rapacious British tax collector, the tax on tea was often as much as two hundred percent of the value. This exorbitant taxation gave rise to widespread smuggling which became an additional hazard to legitimate business. To profit in the China trade one had to be ahead of all competition, both legitimate and otherwise. Each year, fast ships from Britain, Europe, and America lay ready at the Chinese ports to load the first of the new season’s teas. The ships raced home with their precious cargoes, each attempting to be the first to reach the consumer markets, thereby obtaining the premium prices offered for the early deliveries.

Jardines became so well established they commanded an enviable portion of the China trade. Raw and manufactured goods were imported from India and the United Kingdom. Teas and silks were exported.

In 1842, the firm built the first substantial house and established their head office on the recently acquired island of Hong Kong. This began an era of increased prosperity and expansion. New offices soon were opened in the trading centres of Shanghai, Fuzhou, and Tianjin. Since then Jardines have never ceased to expand.

William Keswick, the young nephew of Dr. Jardine, was sent to Japan in 1858 to open up trading for the firm. He established an office in Yokohama. In Japan, Jardines also expanded rapidly and additional offices were opened—in Kobe, Nagasaki, and other ports. From the beginning, a large and profitable business was conducted in imports, exports, shipping, and insurance.

By the end of the nineteenth century, business in the Far East no longer was confined to simple trading. Industrial expansion had begun. In its wake, the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company had been formed. To aid further in this development, Jardines had created insurance companies. They built cotton mills. Great wharves and warehouses were set up. Cold storage and press packing plants for China‘s widening export trade were erected. A more recent example of enterprise was the building of Ewo Brewery in 1935. The directors of Jardines have built a great modern business structure on the foundation so solidly laid by the pioneers of the firm.[10]

War and reconstruction

In 1932, after the first Japanese attack on China, the firm closed its offices in Manchuria; when the Japanese went in, Jardines walked out. When the war came in 1941, the Japanese took over all Jardine’s interests in Hong Kong and occupied China—but not before offices of the firm had been established in Chongqing and Kunming. (Offices in Bombay were also established around this time.) Contact with the war-time world of Chinese official and commercial life thus was maintained. The house flag was kept flying.

Immediately on cessation of hostilities, the staff from these offices and from internment camps in China were first in the field recovering the firm’s properties from the Japanese forces.

In the summer of 1947, as soon as the authorities permitted, Jardines re-entered Japan. From that date, the task of re-establishing their former wide interests in that country has been under way.

In Taiwan Jardines have maintained offices since early in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Today the Taipei office not only is the leading tea exporter to Europe, Asia, and America, but also is engaged in shipping and in general export and import business.

Scottish leadership

Jardines is controlled by the Keswick (pronounced “Kezzick”) family who are direct descendants of William Jardine’s sister.

While the leadership of Jardines is Scottish, the firm is international in its dealings. The staff of Jardines (239,000 employees as of January 2007) is predominantly Asian, with the senior levels being a mixture of British, Chinese, Indonesian, European, Australian and American.

The Keswicks have maintained a relationship with another prominent Scottish family, the Flemings. Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series, was also a member of the same family. From 1970 until 1998, Jardine Matheson operated a pan-Asian investment banking joint venture, Jardine Fleming, with Robert Fleming & Co., a London merchant bank controlled by the Fleming family. In 2000, Jardine Fleming and Robert Fleming & Co. were sold to JP Morgan Chase.

Shipping interests

From the earliest days of the firm, shipping became the most prominent among the many and varied enterprises of Jardines.

Historically, it was the practice of Jardines to possess the fastest and best-handled ships that money could buy. The firm did this in order to maintain its leading position in the market. In the early days, it was often possible to make a fortune with the exclusive possession of market or budget news for a period even so brief as a few hours. Conversely, a fortune could be lost if the despatches from home were late. The keen competition for faster and more efficient shipping helped immeasurably in the rapid development of trade with the Far East. It was due largely to the quality of its fleet that Jardines outlived all rivals. In the days of sail, many of the most well known clippers were part of the Company’s fleet. Among these clippers were the “Red Rover”, “Falcon”, and “Sylph”, which holds a sailing record that has never beaten. It sailed from Calcutta to Lintin in the Pearl River estuary in seventeen days, seventeen hours.

The first merchant steamer in China, the “Jardine”, was built to order for the firm in 1835. She was a small vessel intended for use as a mail and passenger carrier between Lintin Island, Macau, and Whampoa Dock. However, after several trips for unknown reasons the Chinese authorities prohibited her entrance into the river such that the ship had to be sent to Singapore.

The first steamships owned by Jardines ran chiefly between Calcutta and the Chinese ports. They were fast enough to make the 400-mile trip in two days less than rival P & O vessels.

As time passed, more and more ships were procured for Jardines’ fleet and ports of call extended as conditions allowed. The firm was among the first to send ships to Japan, and at an early date established a regular service between Yokohama, Kobe, and China‘s ports.

Until 1881, the India and China coastal and river services were operated by several companies. In that year, however, these were merged into the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company, Ltd., a public company under the management of Jardines. The activities of this company extended from India to Japan, including the Straits Settlements, Borneo, and the China coast. In the latter sphere, the “Indo-China” sector developed rapidly. The company pushed inland up the Yangtsze River on which a specially designed fleet was built to meet the requirements of the river trade.

Jardines were considered efficient handlers of shipping. As a result, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company invited the firm to attend to the Agency of their Shire Line which operated in the Far East. This occurred shortly before the first World War and necessitated a further expansion of the firm’s shipping organisation. Today, fifteen internationally known British, Canadian, and United States shipping companies entrust their agencies to this organisation.

In China, the bulk of freight emanates from domestic sources. On account of this a Chinese staff is maintained at all Jardines’ branches. These branches continuously monitor the features and trends of the Chinese markets.

With the disappearance of Japanese competition as a result of the war, and with the resurrection of China‘s merchant navy, shipping conditions in the Far East changed vastly requiring an extreme degree of flexibility in the operation of foreign shipping. Jardines experience gained in the pioneering years of the last century and extending through two world wars to the uncertainties of the present day has stood them in good stead, not only in the ports of Hong Kong and Shanghai, but at major ports in China and Japan. Since World War II the firm has operated the Australia-China Line, an enterprise owned jointly with Commons Bros., Ltd., of Newcastle. This line runs from Australia to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Jardines are also involved in Sino-foreign shipping co-operation.

Interests in wharves and warehouses

Hong Kong

On the initiative of Jardines and the late Sir Paul Chater, the Hongkong & Kowloon Wharf & Godown Company was formed in 1886. Since that date, the chairmanship of the board has been held by the managing director of Jardines.

At the property known as Kowloon Point, ten ocean-going vessels of up to thirty-two feet draught can be berthed regardless of the state of the tide. At the West Point property on Hongkong Island itself, one coastal vessel can be accommodated.

Kowloon Point provides storage space for about 750,000 tons of cargo. The transit sheds have been designed specially to provide maximum light and sorting space. The godowns are six-storeyed, of reinforced concrete, and are fully equipped with cargo lifts and cranes. A treasury, or strong room, capable of storing up to 500 measurement tons of bullion or other valuable cargo, is a part of the facilities offered.

The company also operates a launch and lighter fleet for the discharge of vessels at buoys and for general transshipment work.


Following an amalgamation of several local wharves in 1875, Jardine, Matheson & Co. were appointed general managers of the Shanghai & Hongkew Wharf Co., Ltd. In 1883, the Old Ningpo Wharf was added, and in 1890 the Pootung Wharf was purchased to complete the Company’s already extensive properties. For three quarters of a century, therefore, Jardines have served the great port of Shanghai.

The Company owns some 3,000 feet of the most valuable wharf frontage on the Shanghai side of the river. On the opposite, or Pudong (Pootung), side their frontage extends to 2,550. The wharves are capable of accommodating ten large ocean-going vessels at a time.

Before the Pacific War, the Company possessed godown, or warehouse, space of 2,505,000 square feet. Unfortunately there was considerable destruction by the Japanese. Rehabilitation progressed rapidly, however, and the standard of efficient working for which the company is well known has been re-established.

Railway building in China

1898 also saw the formation by Jardines and HSBC of the British and China Corporation (‘BCC’) which was responsible for much of the development of China‘s railway system.

Airways department

Keeping abreast of the times, Jardines have opened an Airways Department. Whether acting as general agents, traffic handling, or booking agents, the firm gives the same efficient service to international air lines as their shipping organisation for the past half century has been giving to ocean shipping companies of the world.

The firm has formed in Hong Kong an Air Maintenance Company which will bring the most up-to-date technical and maintenance facilities to the many air lines operating from and through Hong Kong.

The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) appointed Jardines as their general agents for Hong Kong and China.

Insurance interests

Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group “JLT” is 30% owned by Jardine Matheson and is the vehicle for Jardines participation in this business field. Insurance was one of the first lines of business undertaken by Jardines in 19th century China.


The Jardine Engineering Corporation, Ltd.

The Jardine Engineering Corporation, Ltd., was founded in 1923 as a private limited company. Its purpose was to take over the business of importing machinery into China. Previously, this had been done by the firm’s Engineering Department. The new company was formed in order to be in a position to cater more efficiently to the evergrowing needs of the Chinese. This policy has resulted in the development of a large and vigorous corporation. Offices have been established in Shanghai, Hongkong, Tianjin, Chongqing, and Nanjing, and further branches are being created as the need for this company’s services becomes apparent. The Corporation represents many of the greatest engineering and manufacturing names in the world. A complete field of engineering and equipment requirements is covered.

Ewo Cold Storage Company

The Jardines-owned Ewo Cold Storage Company was established in 1920 on the Shanghai river front for the manufacture and export of dried eggs. Two or three years later, extensions were made to permit the processing of liquid and shell eggs, as well. Since then, each year, large quantities of these products have been prepared under the most hygienic conditions for shipment abroad, mainly to the United Kingdom.

During the past quarter century, export trade in eggs and egg products has become an increasingly important factor in China‘s economy. Immediately prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War, egg trading was high in the list of leading exports. During the war, the Japanese occupation forces gravely diminished the stock of poultry. However, this handicap was quickly overcome, for poultry production in China was never confined to large centres, difficult to reconstruct; instead it is chiefly in innumerable small units scattered over vast areas.

Ewo Cotton Mills, Ltd.

Ewo Cotton Mills, Ltd., is a limited liability company (registered in Hongkong), managed by Jardine, Matheson & Co., Ltd. The firm was first in the field in the cotton industry in China, having established the Ewo Cotton Spinning and Weaving Co. in Shanghai in 1895. Subsequently two other mills were started up in Shanghai—the Yangtszepoo Cotton Mill and the Kung Yik Mill. In 1921 these three companies were amalgamated as Ewo Cotton Mills, Ltd., which concern operated 175,000 cotton spindles and 3,200 looms before the war. In addition the Company extended its activities to include the manufacture of waste cotton products, jute materials, and worsted yarns and cloths. The Company suffered considerable loss of machinery during the war, but its products, which have always enjoyed a high reputation, are back on the market again.

Ewo Press Packing Company

Under the name of Ewo Yuen Press Packing Company, the Ewo Press Packing Company was established in Shanghai in the year 1907. It was then owned jointly by Jardines and a Chinese partner. This partner decided to retire, and in 1919 Jardines became sole proprietors under the present name. The company operates a total floor space of 125,000 square feet, providing a normal annual output of 40,000 to 50,000 bales. Double this quantity has been achieved in peak years. The activities of the concern cover raw cotton, cotton yarn, waste silk, wool, hides, goatskins, and other commodities for which press packing for shipment or storage is suitable. In addition to the packing facilities offered by the company, well-lighted and airy rooms are available to the public for sorting, grading, and storage of all types of cargo.

The plant is advantageously situated near the mouth of the well-known Soochow Creek. Whether the merchandise is destined for inland, the coast, or abroad, this location provides economical and ready access to the transporting vessels lying in the harbour of Shanghai.

Ewo Breweries, Limited

Although it is the youngest of Jardines’ enterprises, Ewo Breweries, Limited, is already as flourishing a concern as any controlled by the firm. It was founded in 1935, its production commenced in 1936, and Ewo Breweries became a public company under Jardines’ management in 1940. The brewery, built on the outskirts of Shanghai, passed unscathed through two Japanese wars, in 1937 and 1941–45, and during the first of them it was in the centre of hostilities; however, the staff kept to their posts, and the products from time to time found their way through the Japanese lines on to their own markets.

The brewery produces Pilsner and Munich types of beers, both being suitable to Far Eastern climatic conditions: The brewery is recognised as the finest and most up-to-date in the Far East, where the popularity of its brews is unrivalled.

Export and import departments


Tea is the most romantic of all China‘s trades and always must remain inseparably linked in memory to the hey-day of the racing clippers. Now, as in the first half of the nineteenth century, Jardines are the leading shippers. Their connection with this trade dates from 1801 when the forerunners of the firm secured the first free license to exports teas to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. When the monopoly held by the East India Company finally was broken, Jardines were again to the fore, this time trading under their own name. The firm despatched the first teas to London, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Trading offices are located now in Shanghai, Hongkong, Fuzhou, Taipei, and Hankou.

From picturesque old Fuzhou and the beautiful island of Taiwan, as well as from the godowns on the Shanghai Bund, ocean steamers once again are carrying valuable cargoes of Jardines’ teas. The chests of teas are labelled with Old World names such as Keemuns. Soochongs, Oolongs, Gunpowders, and Chun Meas, and are borne to the Mincing Lane and the tea-cups of Europe, Africa, and America.


The Silk Room, operating in Shanghai, is one of the oldest of the offices within Jardines’ organisation. For over a century, the firm has been shipping raw silk from Shanghai. Before the war, silk was shipped from Japan to America, France, Switzerland, England, and elsewhere. Also, for many years before the war, the firm operated its own Ewo Silk Filature.

Silk inspectors are highly specialised skilled technicians. Usually, they are of Swiss or Italian descent. The Swiss who heads this Department of Jardines today is acknowledged to be the doyen of the silk men in China.

CHINA PRODUCE: The China Produce Department for many years has exported the raw materials of China everywhere abroad. To ensure the maintenance of Jardines’ standards, large warehouses were constructed in Shanghai, Tientsin, Tsingtao, Hankow, and Hongkong, all of these cities being the trading centres for vast producing areas. The interests of the Department, accordingly, cover the products of the cold north, such as wool, furs, soya beans, oils, and oilseeds and bristles; the produce of the vast agricultural centre, which includes tung and other vegetable oils and oilseeds, egg products, bristles, and beans; and also the marketable yield of the sunny south, its tung oil, aniseed, cassia, and ginger. And these are only a few of the commodities which pass through Jardines from China to the markets of the world. Knowledge of individual processing and marketing requirements of these articles takes many years to acquire. Jardines’ vast experience in these lines extends throughout the entire period of China‘s trading relations with the outside world.

IMPORTS: The main centres of Jardines’ extensive and well-known import business are Hongkong and Shanghai, but the Department is fully represented in all of the firm’s branches. In the early days, the principal interest was piece goods, but expansion in many and varied directions has developed as China more and more showed desire to share in the goods manufactured and produced by countries far from her shores.

The range of commodities handled by this Department is amazingly wide. It runs the gamut from timber to foodstuffs, from textiles to medicines, from metals to fertilizers, and from wines and spirits to the cosmetic requirements of a lady’s boudoir.

The Import Departments in recent years formed a section for the export of Chinese articles manufactured from silks and linens. This has developed into an increasing business, with an ever-broadening scope of articles of all descriptions.

The development of the colony of Hong Kong by Jardine, Matheson & Co.

At the mouth of the Pearl River, about ninety miles from Canton, there stands a small island. It is separated from the mainland by a strip of water which, at the narrowest point, is only a quarter of a mile wide. As late as 1840, the island seemed to have no potential development value except perhaps to a few visionaries. The island lies just below the Tropic of Cancer, and its climate was always thought to be hot, humid, and unhealthy. In area the island is less than thirty square miles, and it rises steeply from the water. No one lived there except a few stonecutters and fishermen whose huts were scattered along the southern shore, and it was suspected that the island was a hiding place for pirates. Its only recommendation was a natural deep-water harbour. It was this island, together with a small strip of China‘s mainland that was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842.

Despite all obstacles of terrain and climate, in spite of opposition from many of the Canton merchants, this outpost was developed with almost incredible rapidity. Today, on the northern slopes of the island, close-packed roofs of the city blot out the natural landscape. The harbour, world-famous for its beauty, presents a scene of bustling activity, vessels from the Earth’s four corners come and go, small steamers sail to and from Canton, and ferryboats hurry back and forth from the mainland. The island has become a great port and trading centre in the Far East—Hongkong.

James Matheson had long believed in the future of Hongkong. His enthusiasm was not shared by many of his fellow merchants. Understandably, they preferred not to abandon their comfortable residences on Canton‘s Praya Grande for the bleak slopes of Hongkong Island. Bad luck made matters worse for the early builders of Victoria. In quick succession, two typhoons and two fires flattened the new settlement. An epidemic of virulent malaria almost succeeded in returning the island to the oblivion from which it had risen. For years, the Canton Press in Macau never lost an opportunity to ridicule and slander the venture. Even Queen Victoria was unimpressed with her new acquisition. Once she wrote in gentle sarcasm to the King of the Belgians:”–Albert is so much amused at my having got the island of Hongkong, and we think Victoria ought to be called Princess of Hongkong as well as Princess Royal.” Nevertheless, the founders refused to be discouraged.

On 14 June 1841, the first lots were sold on Hongkong. At the instigation of James Matheson, three of these lots, comprising 57,150 square feet, were purchased for the sum of Pounds 565, and Jardines set up one of the first offices to be established in the new colony. Lot No 1 is presently the site of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (owned by Jardines) and is still referred to in the company as No.1. In the beginning, the settlement consisted of hastily constructed mat sheds and wooden buildings. Jardines built the first house of consequence. It was erected at East Point, and the firm still retains most of the original property. Among the buildings that can be seen there today is one of the old warehouses with the date 1843 engraved in the stone above the door.

Throughout the history of Hongkong, Jardines have played a large part in all the affairs of the colony. In June, 1850, David Jardine was one of the first two unofficial members of the Legislative Council. Hongkong is the head office of the Company, and, on many occasions, the managing directors have been members of both the legislative and executive councils of the government. The firm has been closely connected with every phase of Hongkong’s development. Many of the essential services that are operating at present owe their inception to the firm. The Indo-China Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., has its head office in Hongkong. The chairmanship of the boards of directors of the Hongkong Land Investment Co., Ltd., the Hongkong & Kowloon Wharf & Godown Co., Ltd., the Star Ferry Co., Ltd., and the Hong Kong Tramways, Ltd., has always been held by the managing director of Jardines in Hongkong. It is worth noting that Jardines, although they control these companies, hold majority stock in none of them. The company’s power is derived from many special voting shares issued upon the formation of these companies.

There are numerous landmarks which denote the part that has been played by the seniors of the firm in the history of this thriving community. In the early days, fevers and plagues were a constant menace to the dwellers in Hongkong, and, the heat during the summer months was difficult to bear. The directors of the firm were pioneers in building residences on The Peak where living is more pleasant and healthful.

“Jardines’ Corner” is well known to the inhabitants of Hong Kong, but chief among the place names associated with the firm is a hill top known as “Jardine’s Lookout“. It was from here, in the days of the sailing ships, that a watch was kept for the first glimpse of the sails of the firm’s clippers coming from India and London. As soon as a vessel was signalled, a fast whaleboat was sent out to collect Jardines’ mails. The correspondence was rushed back to the office so that the directors could have the first possible information on the world’s markets.

The same speed, efficiency, and enterprise of those early days still persists, and are responsible for the solid foundation on which Jardines now stand. Thus, the firm’s position as the leading foreign commercial enterprise in China remains unchallenged.

Branch offices in China

Branches of Jardine, Matheson & Co., Ltd., are established at Shanghai (the largest office of Jardine’s), Guangzhou, Swatow, Fuzhou, Chongqing, Qingdao, and Tianjin. The firm has correspondents in Kunming, Xiamen, Beijing, and in the Yangtze River ports of Jinjiang, Nanjing, Wuhu, Jiujiang, Yichang and Changsha. Of these branches, Hankou and Tianjin are the greatest. Today, Hankou is mostly a ruin and a reminder of hideous warfare. Rehabilitation is sure, but it will take time. Tianjin, through which vast volumes of trade flowed outwards and inwards in days gone by, survived undamaged and is returning gradually to the position of the leading port of North China. Qingdao, one of China’s few good harbours, came through the war with little or no damage, and is fast resuming its important role in the trade of China.

Jardine representations abroad

Matheson & Co., Ltd., are Jardines’ correspondents in London. “Mathesons” was founded in 1848 as a private house of merchant bankers, and in 1906 it became a limited liability company. It is controlled by Jardine, Matheson & Co., Ltd., and Keswick family. It is the leading Far Eastern house in London, enjoying an enviable reputation for enterprise and long-established reliability.

In the United States of America the correspondents are Balfour, Guthrie & Co., Ltd., New York. This is a firm of the highest standing, the centre of a network of worldwide trading and manufacturing interests.

Throughout the world, in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe, there are correspondents. In Calcutta, the sister firm Jardine, Henderson, Ltd. (which for many years was styled Jardine, Skinner & Co.), still maintains the closest links. These links reach back to the early days when Jardine and Matheson and the other pioneers were trading between Canton, Hong Kong, and India.


The Jardine Matheson Group is still very much active in Hong Kong, being one of the largest conglomerates in Hong Kong and its largest private employer, second only to the government. Several landmarks in present day Hong Kong are named after the firm and the founders Jardine and Matheson like Jardine’s Bazaar, Jardine’s Crescent, Jardine’s Bridge, Jardine’s Lookout, Yee Wo Street, Matheson Street, Jardine House and the Noon-day Gun. Jardines is primarily active in Asia.[11]

It went through several major internal changes throughout the 19th and 20th century, in 1947 a Trust was formed by members of the family to permit the management of the company to participate in the financial growth of the company. Jardine, Matheson and Co. offered its shares to the public in 1961 under the tenure of taipan Sir Hugh Barton and was oversubscribed 56 times. The Keswick family, in consortium with several London-based banks and financial institutions, bought out the controlling shares of the Buchanan-Jardine family in 1959 but subsequently sold most of the shares during the 1961 public offering, retaining only about 10% of the company.

The company redomiciled to Bermuda in 1984 under the tenure of taipan Simon Keswick so as to maintain its governance under a familiar British-based legal system. In the late 1980s, the corporate structure of the Jardine, Matheson Group, including all its allied companies, were restructured.

In late 1987, there was an attempted takeover of Hongkong Land, a real-estate company considered the jewel in the Jardines crown as its properties included some of the most prestigious office and commercial space in Hong Kong. The hostile bid which was ultimately unsuccessful had been led by a group of Hong Kong tycoons, including Li Ka-shing, working together with the mainland’s state-owned China International Trust & Investment Corp. As a result, Jardine Matheson asked Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) for an exemption from the takeover and mergers code in 1994, in order to give the company greater security if Chinese parties attempted a hostile takeover of its listed companies after Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from British to Chinese sovereignty. However, the SFC refused and so Jardine firm delisted from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (Hang Seng Index) in 1994 under the tenure of Alasdair Morrison and placed its primary listing in London.[12] Officials in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regarded the delisting as a rebuke to the future of Hong Kong and the government of PRC. This caused trouble when Jardine Matheson attempted to participate in the Container Terminal 9.

The present Chairmain of Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd. is Henry Keswick, the company’s tai-pan from 1970 (aged 31) to 1975 and was the 6th Keswick to be tai-pan of the company. His brother, Simon, was the company’s tai-pan from 1983 to 1988 and is the 7th Keswick to be tai-pan. Both brothers are the 4th generation of Keswicks in the company. The 5th generation of Keswicks are also active within the organisation, Ben Keswick, son of Simon, is in charge of Jardine, Cycle & Carriage in Singapore and Adam Keswick, son of Chips, is in charge of Jardine Pacific and Jardine Motors Group in Hong Kong. The organizational structure of Jardines has changed almost totally, but the members of the family of Dr. William Jardine still have significant influence in the firm.


· Jardines’ history was the inspiration for a series of novels written by James Clavell, including Tai-Pan, Gai-Jin, and Noble House.

· Jardines installed the first elevator in China in Tianjin.

· Mail sent to Jardines requires no address—just the name is enough to ensure its delivery.

· Jardines’ official website gives no mention of their opium trading exploits (on which the wealth of the company was built).

· Jardines’ have a strict policy of not buying/investing in new companies as it is said to be against William Jardine’s wishes.


1. Businessweek: Jardine Matheson Holdings

2. Reuters: Jardine Matheson Holdings

3. Jardine Matheson Archive

4. Corporate Information: Jardine Matheson Holdings

5. Transnationale: Jardine Matheson Holdings

6. “Four of the fastest (ships) were built in American yards for Russell & Co., the Yankee trading house, that would use their speed to challenge the great British opium merchants, Jardine Matheson & Co.” McCoy, Prof. Alfred W. (2003). “THE POLITICS OF HEROIN — CIA COMPLICITY IN THE GLOBAL DRUG TRADE”, 2nd Rev. Ed., Lawrence Hill Books. ISBN 978-1-55652-483-7, p. 87.

7. Jardines: History

8. University of Cambridge

9. Records of Social and Economic History New Series “China Trade and Empire: Jardine, Matheson & Co. and the Origins of British Rule in Hong Kong, 1827-1843” Alain le Pichon

10. Funding Universe: Jardine Matheson History

11. Datamonitor, Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited – SWOT Analysis, January 2009

12. Remembrance of (bad) things past Wall Street Journal, 22 May 2009

Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited (Chinese pinyin: yí hé kòng gǔ yǒu xiàn gōng sī, SGX: J36, LSE: JAR) often called Jardines or Jardine’s (Chinese pinyin: yí hé), is a multinational corporation that is incorporated in Bermuda and based in Hong Kong. While listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Singapore Exchange, the vast majority of Jardines shares are traded in Singapore.[1][2]

Currently Jardines consists of the following companies: Jardine Pacific, Jardine Motors Group, Jardine Strategic, Dairy Farm, Hongkong Land, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Jardine Cycle & Carriage and Astra International.[3][4] [5] It also owns 30.3% of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group.

David Sassoon (October 1792 – November 7, 1864)

David Sassoon (October 1792 – November 7, 1864) was the treasurer of Baghdad between 1817 and 1829 and the leader of the Jewish community in Bombay (now Mumbai).


Sassoon was born in Baghdad where his father, Saleh Sassoon[1], was a wealthy businessman, chief treasurer to the pashas (the governors of Baghdad) from 1781 to 1817, and leader of the city’s Jewish community.

The family were Sephardim with Spanish origins. His mother was Amam Gabbai. After a traditional education in the Hebrew language, he married Hannah in 1818, and they had two sons and two daughters before she died in 1826. Two years later he married Farha Hyeem (who was born in 1812 and died in 1886). The pair had six sons and three daughters.

Following increasing persecution of Baghdad‘s Jews by Daud Pasha, the family moved to Bombay via Persia. Sassoon was in business in Bombay no later than 1832, originally acting as a middleman between British textile firms and Gulf commodities merchants, then investing in valuable harbour properties. His major competitors were Parsis whose profits were built on their domination of the Sino-Indian opium trade since the 1820s.

When the Treaty of Nanking opened up China to British traders, to the annoyance of the Chinese Emperor (Opium wars), Sassoon developed his textile operations into a profitable triangular trade: Indian yarn and opium were carried to China, where he bought goods which were sold in Britain, where he obtained Lancashire cotton products. He sent his son Elias David Sassoon to Canton, where he was the first Jewish trader (with twenty-four Parsi rivals). In 1845 David Sassoon & Sons opened an office in what would soon become Shanghai‘s British concession, and it became the firm’s second hub of operations.

It was not until the 1860s that the Sassoons were able to lead the Baghdadi Jewish community in overtaking Parsi dominance. A particular opportunity was the American Civil War as Lancashire factories replaced American cotton imports with Sassoon’s Indian cotton.


Although David Sassoon did not speak English, he became a naturalised British citizen in 1853. He kept the dress and manners of the Baghdadi Jews, but allowed his sons to adopt English manners. His son, Abdullah changed his name to Albert, moved to England, became a Baronet and married into the Rothschild family. All the Sassoons of Europe are said to be descendants of David Sassoon.

He built a synagogue in the Fort (area) and another in Byculla, as well as a school, a Mechanics’ Institute, a library and a convalescent home in Pune.

David Sassoon was conscious of his role as a leader of the Jewish community in Bombay. He helped to arouse a sense of Jewish identity amongst the Bene Israeli and Cochin Jewish communities. The Sassoon Docks (built by his son) and the David Sassoon Library are named after him.

David Sassoon died in his country house in Pune in 1864. His business interests were inherited by his son Sir Albert Sassoon; Elias David had established a rival firm.

Scots Jews and Parsis in Nineteenth Century

Tea Opium Cotton and Silk Businesses


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