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Swedish East India Company records

Identifier: Call #1732 fIr)-jfb-MB8257

Scope and Content

This collection consists of correspondence and administrative documents from the Swedish East India Company. Documents date between 1698 and 1830, with the bulk of the materials dating between the 1730s and 1770s. Nearly two-thirds of this collection are correspondence documents to Charles Irvine (1693-1771) a successful merchant from Aberdeen, Scotland. Correspondence with James Rose, Mary Irvine, and other merchants are also in this collection. Further administrative materials related to the Company includes shipping documents, accounts and invoices, price lists, and legal documents. Nearly the entire collection is handwritten ink on paper; a few documents are from a printing press. Many of the correspondence includes remnants of or entire wax seals from family or company seals.


  • 1698-1830
  • Majority of material found within 1730s-1770s

Language of Materials

Multiple languages

Language of Materials

The majority of the documents in this collection are in English. Other languages present in this collection include: Chinese Danish Dutch French German Italian Latin Spanish Swedish

Use of Materials

Materials are open to research without restriction. The documents may only be used in the reading room of the James Ford Bell Library.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the Curator of the James Ford Bell Library.

Historical Note

Founded in 1731 in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Swedish East India Company was inspired by the success of other trading companies traveling to the Far East, most notably the Dutch East India Company and the East India Company. Co-founded by Henrik Konig, Colin Campbell, and Niclas Sahlgren, the Swedish East India Company became the largest trading company in Sweden during the 18th century until their demise in 1813. Colin Campbell (1686-1757), a Scottish merchant, and his friend, Swede Niclas Sahlgren (1701-1776), recruited Henrik Konig, a Swede of German origin, to help front the money for their company. Between 1731 and 1813, the Swedish East India Company made 131 voyages using 37 different ships; over the years it is estimated that around 2,000 crewmembers died in the service of the company. Of these, eight ships were lost, totally or partially. Much of the goods that the Swedish East India Company traded in were tea from China -- Bohea, Congou, Souchong, Pekoe, and Hyson. Other cargo included porcelain, textiles, drugs such as China root and Rhubarb, and furniture. The last vessel returned to Gothenburg in 1806 and the company ceased to exist in 1813 (despite having a charter through 1821).

Charles Irvine was born in 1693, the fifth son of James Irvine, head of a well-known family based in Drum in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The family Irvine were known loyal Jacobites which may point to why Charles fled to France in the early 1710s, most likely due to the failed Jacobite rebellions. After working with the French East India Company for thirteen years, Charles eventually took the position of supercargo with the Swedish East India Company, co-founded by his friend Colin Campbell. Irvine's French contacts were undoubtedly helpful to the Swedish East India Company. Charles Irvine was supercargo for four expeditions to Canton: Three Crowns (1736-1737), Fredericus Rex Sueciae (1737-1739), Ritarihuone (1740-1742), and Old (1744-1745). His brother Thomas Irvine (1685-1761) also worked in Gothenburg as a clerk. Thomas became a Swedish nobleman in 1757 and married Margaret Chambers; their son John Irvine (1722-1795) worked as a supercargo for the Swedish East India Company on three trips from 1748 to 1756. Charles Irvine returned to Scotland in 1759 and died there in 1771. He was unmarried.


10.5 Cubic Feet (21 boxes)


This collection consists of the correspondence and administrative documents of Charles Irvine (1693-1771), a supercargo in employ with the Swedish East India Company, a trade company based in Gothenburg, Sweden conducting trade with the Far East during the 18th century.


This collection is divided into series:

Series 1: Correspondence

-- Subseries 1: Charles Irvine correspondence

-- Subseries 2: James Rose correspondence

-- Subseries 3: Miscellaneous correspondence

Series 2: Shipping Documents

Series 3: Accounts and Invoices

Series 4: Price Lists

Series 5: Legal and Unclassified documents

Collection Accession Number:


Related Materials

Further documents related to the Swedish East India Company can be found at the University of Gothenburg. The entire collection of over 10,000 pages has been digitized -- search the collection at Note that the finding aid is in Swedish.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed in a manner separate from current archival standards. The original order of the collection is unknown.

Please note that the Collection Contents are at an item level -- each item is described to the best of our knowledge. For correspondence the information includes who the letter is from, the location, and the date. If there was no named location, NP (no place) was listed. The language of the document, when it was not in English, has also been noted.

Swedish East India Company records, 1698-1830
Finding aid created by Kate Dietrick
September 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The James Ford Bell Library Collecting Area

Elmer L. Andersen Library
Suite 15
Minneapolis MN 55455