Contracts and Trade

Paul A. Van Dyke

in Merchants of Canton and Macao

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9789888028917
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9789882208650 | DOI:
Contracts and Trade

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This chapter analyzes trade contracts in Canton, using examples of 64 documents reproduced in the plate section. These documents are little known among scholars, primarily because none of them have survived in China. They are important, not only because they provide a window into each merchant's operation, but also because they reveal the limits of the system supporting the trade. Contracts help to define the formal and informal legal structures that governed commerce. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the formal structure (written agreements) was important in building foreign confidence and attracting more traders to China. By the late eighteenth century, however, the informal structure (practices) was, in fact, more important for growth. Contracts help to identify the parameters of these formal and informal structures that were defining and supporting trade.

Keywords: contracts; trade; law; China

Chapter.  9763 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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