William Melrose in China, 1845-1855: The letters of a Scottish tea merchant (Publications: fourth series/Scottish History Society) Hardcover – 1 Jan 1973
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A clean, tight copy which looks almost unread; no ink marks; minor wear to edges.Facsimile bills in excellent order.
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This volume reproduces several hundred letters from William Melrose to his father and other correspondents between 1845 and 1855. This archive sheds new light on the import, sale and distribution of tea at this period. It touches on how the main focus for British business in China began to move from Canton to Shanghai in the early and mid 1850s, and also on the 1853 Taiping rebellion and its effect on trade. And back home, the development of the Scottish and British markets for tea can be traced. Finally, William Melrose has some critical things to say about speculators that resonate today !
As well as their business dealings, the letters also give a well-rounded picture of the social life and other day-to-day activities of a young Scottish merchant in China. Many other Scots living in Canton and Hong Kong are mentioned, and the vagaries of the mails, the weather and the problems of shipping are all covered in considerable detail. Mails, for example, were a key factor, with a letter to the UK and its reply taking around four months. This placed a considerable responsibility on the shoulders of William Melrose to use his judgement on the spot rather than being directed, in detail, by his investors at home. He was pretty successful, too, in what could be a difficult trade, with the Melroses and their partners making around £30,000 of profit on turnover of £194,000 between 1848-1854.