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Correspondence and Papers of William Hancock (1846-1914) while an officer of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.7890


  • Creation: 1846-1914

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

William Hancock was born in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, the son of an Irish father and an English mother. After studying at Queen’s College, Belfast (1862-66), he worked in the linen industry, and in 1874 joined the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service (presided over from 1863 to 1908 by his fellow-Ulsterman Robert Hart). During the next 34 years he served in a number of posts, including Peking, Tamsui (Formosa), Hankow, Mengtsz, Samshui, Chungking and Shanghai, ending his career as a Commissioner of Customs. In private life he was a keen and enterprising botanist, travelling in mainland China, Formosa, French Indo-China, the Sandwich Islands and South America in pursuit of specimens, and donating his collections to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Linnean Society.


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Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were presented to the University Library in 1971 by Hancock’s niece, Miss L.E. Wicksteed, through the good offices of H.G. Lowder Esq (himself a former Commissioner of Chinese Maritime Customs), with a complete transcript by Mr Lowder.

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Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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