Water Worlds: Structural Connectivity in the Oceanic Trading Networks of Jardine Matheson & Co.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract / Description of output

Following the demise of the East India Company as a commercial trading entity in the 1830s, Agency House firms such as Jardine Matheson & Co. emerged as a new type of global, ‘free-trade’ corporation. Geared towards capitalist exploitation of the China Trade, and taking advantage of key technological innovations developed during the early to mid-nineteenth century, Jardine Matheson were able to construct a business empire (with multiple subsidiaries) that forged a new dynamic between technology, politics and information. Up until the advent of the railway in the latter nineteenth century, this empire was essentially waterborne, within which an impressive array of commercial stations were networked across a vast geographical domain, including all the principal cities of Asia. Buildings of all kinds, including infrastructural facilities, played a key role in enabling the networked constitution of Jardine Matheson’s commercial empire. This paper will take a closer look at this built environment, considering its nature, geographical spread, and physical disposition. The term ‘structural connectivity’ will be employed as a way of understanding, in conjunction, both the physical conditions of the network’s environment and it spatial characteristics as a type of technological zone. How the ‘architecture’ of this connectivity worked to advance modern global capitalism and the political consequences of ‘free trade’ will also be considered, demonstrating how the structural nature of the Jardine Matheson network not only worked to break down barriers to trade but also to erect those of its own.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 7 Nov 2019
EventConnected Histories, Cosmopolitan Cities: Toward Inter-Imperial and Trans-Colonial Histories of Cities in Asia, 1800-1960 - National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 7 Nov 20199 Nov 2019


ConferenceConnected Histories, Cosmopolitan Cities
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Jardine Matheson
  • empire
  • global
  • oceans
  • connectivity
  • networks
  • architecture
  • trade
  • technology
  • zone
  • Asia


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