Trade & travel project

Celebrity visits

Under the heading Trade & travel: Celebrity visits, we are gathering selected letters reporting visits to 18th-century “celebrities”. These visits, often as part of the Grand Tour, begin notably with calls upon Voltaire — perhaps the great celebrity of the period! The current selection includes:

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East India Company

Under the heading Trade & travel: East India Company, we are gathering correspondence relevant to one of the great commercial undertakings of the 18th century, one that had long-term and wide-reaching impact far beyond its original intentions.

Through its patronage of the advanced ship-building techniques of Mumbai’s Parsi naval architects and engineers (including their use of superior materials), the Honourable East India Company fostered an industrial development that contributed significantly to patterns of naval superiority, first by Britain and then, collaterally, by America in its later contests with Britain.

The Company also served as locus for a particularly important social/political transformation in the development of empire: from purely exploitative, commercial interests to more complex colonial and eventually post-colonial relations.

The Collection begins with over 480 letters to, from and about India drawn from:

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The West Indies

Under the heading Trade & travel: The West Indies, we are gathering correspondence relevant to one of the darker areas of overseas transportation and commerce: the West Indies’ sugar, rum and slave economy. This Collection documents the difficulties of managing Jamaican sugar plantations in the face of gathering storms, literal or metaphorical. Hurricanes seem a constant and much commented on disruption to the sugar production; while the desperation of slaves largely has to be read between the lines. There is also a growing conflict with Whitehall over issues of taxation, similar to those which would erupt into warfare in the colonies further north.

The Collection begins with 84 letters to Chaloner Arcedekne (absentee plantation owner in England) from Simon Taylor, (Arcedekne’s estate manager in Jamaica). The letters, with greatly expanded critical apparatus and biographical information by EE's Director, Dr Robert V. McNamee, are drawn from the :

Read excerpts from this collection.

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