Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Calcutta (Kolkata)

The Red Rover has not yet returned from Calcutta. Our friends on that side of India appear to have taken leave of their senses, and are keeping our opium back, while we are obliged to buy for the coast.

William Jardine to John Rees, August 19th, 1837*

Calcutta occupied a critical place in the Jardine-Matheson global network, as the site of auction for opium grown on British East India Company plantations in the Patna and Benares regions, inland from the port of Calcutta.

As the quote above illustrates, a delicate financial calculus was required to achieve the highest profits. In this quote, William Jardine is complaining that his agent in Calcutta has been too slow in purchasing and sending Bengal opium to Lintin, and as a consequence the firm is now purchasing Bengal opium from its competitors in Lintin to take up the coast to Rees and the other opium captains. On other occasions, Jardine was known to complain that his agents in Calcutta were sending too much opium, over-saturating the market and driving prices down.

*Source: MS.JM:C4–6, Priv. Letters from Jardine, 1837-38, p. 81.

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