Of great importance for the facilitation of trade and Scottish enterprise beyond the shores of the Indian subcontinent was the development of shipping interests. One name that stands out in this respect is that of Sir William Mackinnon. Born in Campbeltown, Argyll, in 1823, Mackinnon proceeded to work for a merchant in Glasgow who traded with the East before embarking to India himself in 1846.Of great importance for the facilitation of trade and Scottish enterprise beyond the shores of the Indian subcontinent was the development of shipping interests. One name that stands out in this respect is that of Sir William Mackinnon. Born in Campbeltown, Argyll, in 1823, Mackinnon proceeded to work for a merchant in Glasgow who traded with the East before embarking to India himself in 1846. As Munro explains, Scots ‘William Mackinnon and James Macalister Hall, it seems, were sent out to join Robert Mackenzie in India with a view to the development of a trade between Calcutta, Liverpool and the Clyde.’ Different trade partnerships were subsequently established, with Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. in Calcutta proving to be the most successful. These partnerships, and others that followed, were founded not only on Scottish kinship ties, but more specifically on connections that had their origins in Campbeltown. Local roots in Scotland were important in many a Scottish network.
The transfer of Hong Kong to the British encouraged many merchants and trading houses to relocate their headquarters to the settlement, including Jardine Matheson & Co., whose main office was moved there from Macao in 1844. It was from Hong Kong that the Company continued its opium trade—and one that went on to flourish in the 1840s and 1850s. And it was this trade that cemented a web of connections between India and China, but also with London, through a strong network of companies that included Jardine Skinner & Co. of Calcutta, Matheson & Co. in London, but also P&O, ‘which from the 1850s established a monopoly over the Bombay-China opium trade which lasted until the early twentieth century.’ What these connections highlight is the dominance of private family partnerships, and how these were underpinned by the recruitment of Scots—a characteristic Devine has aptly described as ‘systematic nepotism’. Kinship alone, however, did not necessarily suffice. Thus wrote William Jardine to a nephew who was hoping to work for the firm:
impress this on the minds of your young cousins … [that] I can never consent to assist idle and dissipated characters however nearly connected with me, but am prepared to go to any reasonable extent in supporting such of my relatives as conduct themselves prudently and industriously.
So what about you? What role do Scottish kinship networks play for you? If you are an expat Scot living in Asia, please participate in my new project. Details at http://participate.ethnicandexpatriate.co.uk