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Bowring Papers

Date range: 1822-1905

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The collection consists of the papers of the Bowring family, whose best-known member was Sir John Bowring (1792-1872), politician, administrator and traveller. In 1848 Bowring was appointed British Consul at Canton, at a time of considerable commercial tension between Britain and China. In 1854 he took up the posts of Plenipotentiary to China, Governor of Hong Kong, and Chief Superintendent of Trade. As a diplomat, Bowring strongly advocated a more commercially-oriented consular service, and in 1855 he successfully concluded a treaty with Siam establishing diplomatic and commercial relations. In 1856 he was involved in the Arrow incident, when Chinese authorities violated a ship flying the British flag.

There are letters from Sir John Bowring to his son Edgar Alfred Bowring at the Board of Trade, mainly concerning political and commercial affairs in the Far East, during Sir John's consulship at Canton and governorship of Hong Kong. These are an important source for studies of Anglo-Chinese relations and the opening of Japan.

Earlier letters and papers date from Sir John's term as MP for Bolton and his activities in the Anti-Corn Law League. There also papers and diaries of Sir John's son, Frederick Hermann Bowring (1828-94), Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, including correspondence with Sir John, 1837-64.

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Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

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