Jardine, Matheson & Co. was formed by William Jardine (1784-1843) and James Matheson (1798-1878) on 1 July 1832, following the restructuring of the China firm Magniac & Co. The new company was the first to send private shipments of tea to England when the East India Company's trade monopoly with China ended in 1834. It was based initially at Canton, but was forced to move its main office to Macao in May 1839, in response to the activities of the Chinese authorities. Jardine retired during 1839, leaving Matheson in charge of the company's operations until 1842, when he also returned to England.
The company promoted the founding of Hong Kong during the 1830s. It purchased the first plot of land there in 1841, and transferred its main office from Macao to the new colony in 1844. Over the course of the next decade, the firm opened new offices, and began to handle a wide range of imports into China, such as coal, metals and machinery. The company inaugurated the steam cargo line from Calcutta to China in 1855, and opened offices in Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki and other ports from 1859 onwards.
In its early years, the firm was heavily involved in the opium trade. By the 1860s, however, the company's share of the trade was decreasing, and by 1872 its involvement had virtually ceased. This period saw the firm begin to engage in service operations alongside imports and exports. It expanded its banking and insurance interests, and also undertook infrastructure projects in Hong Kong, including the establishment of the first inter-office telegraph in 1869. By 1865 the firm had expanded to 20 shore offices and agencies in the Far East, Great Britain and the United States.
In 1871 the company withdrew from the 'Country Trade' with India to concentrate on its other interests. It pioneered sugar-refining in Hong Kong with the formation of the China Sugar Refinery Company, and entered the railway industry with the building of the first railway from Shanghai to Wuhan in 1876. By the 1880s, its interests in China extended to wharves, warehouses, cotton mills, mining and engineering. This period saw the founding of the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company (1882); Hongkong Land (1889), which became the firm's main property development arm; and the Jardine Spinning and Weaving Company (1897). The company's involvement in China's railways continued with the establishment of the British and Chinese Corporation in 1898. The following year, it was handed responsibility for completing the line from Tientsin to Mukden and Newchwang, and further rail contracts followed.
Jardine, Matheson & Co. became a limited company in 1906. By this time, the heart of the firm's business was in Shanghai, and the head office was based officially in the city from 1912. The first decades of the twentieth century witnessed a further expansion of the firm's operations. In 1921 it amalgamated its Chinese cotton mills to form the Ewo Cotton Mills. Two years later, it established the Jardine Engineering Company, which introduced fluorescent strip-lighting into Hong Kong in 1940. The outbreak of war with Japan in 1941 forced the firm to relocate its main office to London, but it was one of the first companies to resume business in China and Hong Kong once the conflict ended, and it returned to Japan in 1947.
The company revived its shipping activities after the war, and also established Jardine Airways. The head office returned to Hong Kong in 1950, although the firm was forced to close its offices on mainland China in 1954. The company's first formal reports and accounts were issued in 1955, and it was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1961. Jardine Matheson expanded into hotels and the supermarket sector in the 1960s, and founded Jardine Insurance Brokers and the joint venture Jardine Fleming during the following decade. In 1984 the company's headquarters were transferred to Bermuda. Jardine Matheson's motor interests were combined in 1990 to form Jardine International Motors, and in 1997 Jardine Insurance Brokers merged with Lloyd Thompson to form Jardine Lloyd Thompson, which became the U.K.'s leading listed broker.
The archive contains a comprehensive set of papers covering the activities of Jardine, Matheson & Co. Ltd, its predecessors, its subsidiaries and associated firms up to 1941. The company's business history is covered in large series of accounts (A) and correspondence (B-E, J-K). The rest of the collection is comprised of legal documents (F), printed commercial circulars and periodicals (G), documents in Chinese (H), papers of other companies (I), and miscellaneous papers (L). The collection is predominantly in English, with a large set of Chinese documents, a significant number of French and Spanish papers, and a few items in other languages.
The collection was presented to Cambridge University Library by Jardine, Matheson & Co. Ltd in 1935, with further donations being made in subsequent years.
The spelling of Indian names has been standardised wherever possible, with common alternative spellings listed.
Access to the collection is subject to special conditions and is at the discretion of the company's London agents, Matheson & Co. A statement of the conditions and an application form are available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Printed copies of the form are available by post (please contact the University Library). An electronic version can also be found at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/applicationJM.html.
Records described in the catalogue as being in a bad condition are in a fragile state that precludes them being made available to readers.
The collection is subject to copyright, with the exception of some printed material now outside copyright.
In Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, Parsi, Portuguese, Spanish and Urdu
Please cite as Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Jardine Matheson Archive, MS JM
A guide to the various paper finding aids entitled 'How To Find Items In The Jardine Matheson Archive' is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. There are two summary catalogues for series A-E: an Outline Catalogue, which includes the current classmarks, and a catalogue prepared in the 1950s, which does not have the modern classmarks. Additional finding aids relating to individual series are listed in the relevant sections in this catalogue.
This catalogue was created by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. Descriptions of the histories of the company and its employees were compiled with reference to the website of Jardine Matheson Ltd (http://www.jardines.com/profile/history.html), and to Maggie Keswick, ed., 'The thistle and the jade: a celebration of 150 years of Jardine, Matheson and Co.' (London, 1982), and Robert Blake, 'Jardine Matheson: traders of the Far East' (London, 1999).
The collection includes microfilms of the main in-correspondence series (B1-11) and some other papers in the archive. Details are provided in the relevant sections of this catalogue.
A selection of letters from series A-C for the period 1827-1843 are reproduced in Alain Le Pichon, ed., 'China trade and empire: Jardine, Matheson & Co. and the origins of British rule in Hong Kong, 1827-1843' (Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2006).