Western Australia provided a significant portion of China’s sandalwood needs during the 1860s and 1870s. Following the demise of other export centres of the wood through either excess harvesting or government intervention, the sandalwood forests of south-western Western Australia provided the local merchants, by 1870, with almost a monopoly of the wood’s export market. The sandalwood from Western Australia, though, was primarily for the Shanghai market, one surrounded by numerous complexities. European and Chinese firms competed side-by-side, each with varying strategies to overcome the impediments created by competition. Further, remittances for the sandalwood sales were represented either as a method of bartering for tea or through drafts payable direct to the merchants in Western Australia or an intermediary, in London.
This paper is presented in three parts. Interpreting a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, the paper commences by discussing the trade of sandalwood and the route taken. Following on is an analysis of the Shanghai sandalwood market and its complexities and finally, the paper delves into the use of financial institutions and bartering to represent remittances for the sales of sandalwood.
Nick Guoth is a PhD student in Pacific and Asian History. His thesis interprets the trade relationship between colonial Australia and China for the period from 1860 to 1880. Nick has an MPhil in History from the ANU with the topic of the 1923 Chinese soccer tour of Australia. His interests include the history of Australian sport and Republican China as well as his current topic.