German Merchants in the Indian Ocean World: From Early Modern Paralysis to Modern Animation
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, German merchants hardly forayed into the trade in the Indian Ocean World, including the China trade. Their trials to conduct or take some part in the East Indian trade by themselves, as they were actively run by the British, Dutch, Portuguese or Spanish, were destined to fail. However, the circumstances changed considerably upon the arrival of the modern period: in and after the middle of the nineteenth century, their trading activities in the Indian Ocean World grew rapidly, especially in its eastern parts, such as the newly opened treaty ports along the Chinese coast after the Opium and Arrow Wars, and the British free ports like Singapore and Hong Kong. This article gives firstly an overview of those German trading activities, from their long stagnation to rapid growth, based on comprehensive survey of German literature as well as of some primary sources. Secondly, it examines backgrounds of the change, illuminating the meanings of the newly established treaty system in China after the Opium War, the abolishment of the British navigation acts and the spread of international ‘public goods’ under the British hegemon for German merchants in the nineteenth century.