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Jardine Matheson Archive

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS JM

Scope and Contents

The collection contains papers covering the activities of Jardine, Matheson and Co. Ltd, its predecessors, its subsidiaries and associated firms. • 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.


  • Creation: 1766-1969


Conditions Governing Access

Access to the collection is subject to special conditions and is at the discretion of Matheson and Co. Ltd, part of the Jardine Matheson Group. 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

Records described in the catalogue as being in a bad condition are in a fragile state that precludes them being made available to readers.

Access is generally available to documents dated up to 1969. Access to some earlier records may be restricted under the terms of the Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is subject to copyright, with the exception of some printed material now outside copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Jardine, Matheson and Company was formed by William Jardine (1784-1843) and James Matheson (1796-1878) on 1 July 1832. It was based initially at Canton (Guangzhou), but transferred its main office to Hong Kong 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. In its early years, the firm was 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 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 Woosung 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) and Hongkong Land (1889). Jardine, Matheson and Co. became a limited company in 1906, by which time the heart of the firm's business was in Shanghai; the head office was based officially in the city from 1912.

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.


1 collection (c. 25 cases (c. 95m³))

Language of Materials




Dutch; Flemish











Spanish; Castilian



The spelling of Indian names has been standardised wherever possible, with common alternative spellings listed.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The majority of the collection is in a fair or good condition and available for consultation. Damaged records are listed as being in a moderate, poor or bad condition. Records described in the online catalogue as being in a bad condition are in a fragile state that precludes them being made available to readers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The original accession of records was presented to Cambridge University Library by Jardine, Matheson & Co. Ltd in 1935.

Existence and Location of Copies

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.


Printed works on the company include Maggie Keswick, ed., revised and updated by Clara Weatherall, 'The Thistle and the Jade. A Celebration of 175 Years of Jardine Matheson' (London, 2008), and Robert Blake, 'Jardine Matheson: traders of the Far East' (London, 1999). A selection of letters from the archive 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).


Historical information in the catalogue regarding individuals and companies (including information included in personal and corporate name index terms) is drawn primarily from 'The Thistle and the Jade' and the records themselves.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom