Jodi Eastberg: Financial Accounts: Coutts & Co. Banking Records of Sir George Thomas Staunton

MEDEA Spring Meeting, Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.
Friday, April 8, 2016 [return to program overview]

Jodi Eastberg
Alverno College

Martin Archer Shee, Portrait of Sir George Staunton, 2nd Baronet, c. 1820.

Martin Archer Shee, Portrait of Sir George Staunton, 2nd Baronet, c. 1820.

George Thomas Staunton (1781-1859) was a merchant, diplomat, politician and scholar who led a “global life” emblematic of many British agents who shaped Britain’s rapid growth as a global empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. From childhood, Staunton was trained purposefully by leading scientists and intellectuals to engage with Britain’s expanding empire and specifically with the most powerful empire at the time of his birth, the Qing empire. Staunton traveled to China with Lord Macartney and his father, George Leonard Staunton as page to the first British embassy to China. From that first interaction with China in 1793 until his death in 1859, Staunton was a key figure in Anglo-Chinese relations. Staunton’s numerous experiences in and with China make him a uniquely prescient commentator for studying the complex and varied relationship between these two empires.

Coutts & Co. holds the complete banking records of Sir George Thomas Staunton from his inheritance from his father in 1799 until his death in 1859. In addition, there are several years of accounts from Staunton’s father that record expenses including payment to Staunton’s tutor, John Barrow, and balancing accounts when both Staunton’s traveled to China for the first time in 1793. I was able to gain access to these accounts in the Coutts & Co. archives in London through the permission of the Lynch-Staunton family. These 144 volumes have never been accessed for historical research and it is my belief that these accounts will provide invaluable information on the financial networks that facilitated Staunton’s position in British political and mercantile circles while also providing rich detail into the life, values and even familial relationships that shaped his life. I would benefit from working with the MEDEA project to develop an encoding model for these accounts that will allow not only myself, but other scholars to access this rich data source to better understand the financial networks, financial benefits, and financial loses that are reflected in the banking records of global actors like Staunton.

 

Image Credit: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


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