The Silk Trade: Chinese Silks and the British East India Company

by Leanna Lee-Whitman


The entire British and Chinese silk trade must be interpreted as a reexport market that was designed to protect British manufacturers. According to British navigation laws and prohibition acts, all silk piece goods delivered to London from Eastern ports (including Canton) were to be distributed and sold for reexport to continental European cities, the West Indies, the English colonies in North America, and so forth. (Nevertheless, as the presence of quantities of eighteenth-century Chinese silks in Britain’s great houses attests, a prolific smuggling trade arose in defiance of the trade acts.)

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