The British presence in Macau (1635-1793)

When the Portuguese settled in Macau (c.1557), the enclave became the first western gateway into China. The Portuguese enjoyed a commercial monopoly in China until the East India Company (EIC) established direct commercial relations with China after the voyage of the Macclesfield (1700). Macau was also used by the British as their home until the founding of Hong Kong. As trade took place mainly in the factories of Canton during the autumn and winter months, until publication of Paul Van Dyke’s The Canton Trade (2005) the majority of the studies on the China Trade dealt mainly with Canton, as Macau was seen as a resort for the summer residence between trading seasons. The English trade rapidly surpassed the Portuguese trade, and the temporary residence of the supercargoes became essential to the economy of the city. The European presence in the Macau-Canton circuit gave way to a degree of cultural exchange of which Chinese Pidgin English is a symbol in China, its European ‘counterpart’ being chinoiserie.


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