Société de Numismatique Asiatique

Seaborne Trade in the East Indies and the Far East during XVIIth-XIXth Centuries

Le Commerce maritime aux Indes orientales et en Extrême-Orient aux XVIIe-XIXe siècles: Aspects monétaires et numismatiques [Seaborne Trade in the East Indies and the Far East during XVIIth-XIXth Centuries: Monetary and numismatic points of view] has just arrived! It contains papers presented at the conference of the same name, the second conference organised by the Société de Numismatique Asiatique, which took place in Versailles, in December 2016, with the support of Spink.


I’ll list the contents below, with the English abstracts:


  • Préface – by Michel Amandry (Président de la Société Française de Numismatique) (p. 5)
  • Envois de métaux précieux aux Indes orientales par les Européens au XVIIIe s. – by Philippe Haudrère (Professeur des Universités, historien des compagnies françaises des Indes, author of Les Compagnies des Indes orientales, Paris, 2006) (pp. 7-14)
    • Abstract: About 75% of the value of freight shipped to the East Indies by the French were due to precious metal: 60% for the British; 22% for the Dutch. It’s a means to compensate the shortage of the balance of trade between the two continents. What was the metal they dealt with and by what means did they get it? For the main part, silver, and especially “Spanish-struck” piastres often bought in Cadiz, the final harbour for the galleons turning back from Spanish America. In this stream of trade, 70% of the precious metal extracted from the American mines were shipped to the East Indies, yearly about 230 tons. It’s a huge and essential complement for the Asian currency!
  • The English Coinage of the Bombay Presidency – by Paul Stevens (specialist on East India Company coinage, author of The Coinage of the Hon. East India Company, London, 2012) (pp. 15-21)
    • Abstract: In the 1670s the English East India Company (EIC) acquired the island of Bombay from the Portuguese and, since they considered this to be sovereign territory, they felt that they had the right to establish a mint and strike coins, which they duly did. After several abortive attempts at producing silver coins in the Moghul style they finally received permission to strike this style of coin in 1717. In 1800 the EIC acquired Surat and began producing coins of the Surat standard at both Bombay and Surat. Eventually in the 1830s machinery was installed in the Bombay mint. Finally later in the 1830s and 1840s the uniform coinage produced for the whole of the British territories across India was introduced into the Bombay Presidency.
  • Le monnayage de l’Inde française (1700-1840): à propos de classement et de chronologie – by Daniel Cariou (Président de la Société Bretonne de Numismatique et d’Histoire) (pp. 23-30)
    • Abstract: The French India coinage is rather well-known. Nevertheless some details are to be deepened: how many mints under the French rule? Pondicherry, Mazulipatam? Murshidabad, Surat, Chandernagor are mostly debatable. Some coins are struck for the internal use of the settlements, other ones to be transferred and accepted in India. Then they bear a privy mark. Among these coins, it’s necessary to distinguish those struck by the various French authorities: the East India companies, the rule of the king, the Revolution and the various rulers until 1840.
  • Arkhat rupees with a Latin D: Danish or French? – by Jan Lingen (specialist on South and Southeast Asian coinages, author of Marwar, Jodhpur State: history and coinage of the former Indian princely state of Jodhpur, 2012) (pp. 31-37)
    • Abstract: A major trade coin in India was the so-called Arkhat or Arcot rupee, struck by the Nawab of Arkat at his mint at Arkat and also at several country-mints under his control. Alamparai was one of the Nawab’s mints from where the French in September 1736 received the dies for the minting of Arkat rupees at Pondicherry. Two ‘Arkat’ rupees in the name of Ahmad Shah Bahadur, with a mint-mark of a Latin D and dated resp. Ry 4 and Ry 7 have surfaced. The coin with Ry 7 has been described as an issue of the Danish Company, however, the issue with Ry 4 (1751-52) was struck prior to the date that the Danes obtained their minting rights. Could therefore the rupees with this Latin D-mark, which are rather identical to the French Pondicherry rupees, be a Danish issue, or are there also other possibilities? That will be the question to be discussed, whereby Alamparai, a French possession from 1750-1760, is a serious contender.
  • Les monnaies du Cambodge d’après les sources européenes (XVIw-XVIIIe s.) – by  Alain Escabasse (Secrétaire de la Société Numismatique Asiatique) (pp. 39-56)
    • Abstract: If the monetary history of the Cambodia since the reign of Ang Duong (1847-1860) is rather well-known by documents, nevertheless we know few things upon the local post-Angkorian coinage, between the XVIth century, when it appears, until the end of the XVIIIth. The tales of Europeans, as travellers (missionaries, traders), or merely writers of books upon the trade in the East Indies, are the main source of information upon this long monetary era during which the Khmer monarchy had to face tough periods, and about that we lack of official records. A former search to set up a “Numismatic bibliography of Cambodia” let us list some Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French authors, who gave information upon the coins used in the realm. Here we study the context of the most important testimonies, and then shortly analyse the information they give, finally compared to the other available data.
  • Chinese influence in the Former Dutch East Indies as evidenced by the circulation of cash coins and other Chinese style pieces – by Tjong Ding YIH  (Independent researcher, specialist in Asiatic numismatics, The Netherlands) (pp. 57-67)
    • Abstract: It is well known that at the arrival of the Europeans in the East Indies Chinese cash (picis) were the circulating currency that had replaced the former gold and silver coins. Nevertheless, relatively few papers have been published dealing with the typology of the cash-like local coinage. Local cash-like coins from Java have been reported and recently on Sumatra, due to draggings in the Musi river at Palembang and the Batanghari river at Jambi a substantial number of new types turned up. The aim of this paper is to extend the knowledge of this interesting, but neglected coinage by providing a small catalogue. These coins reflect the influence of the Chinese in the archipelago.
  • Les caxas chinois de Quanzhou pour le commerce au sultanat de Banten et îles voisines, aux XVIe-XVIIe s. – by François Joyaux (Professeur des Universités (e.r.) à l’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris) (pp. 69-80)
    • Abstract: The traders of the western countries who dealed with the Eastern Indies had a former knowledge of a “small coin cast in Chinceo, town of China, only currency since 1590”. Most of European encyclopaedias and trade handbooks quote this coin. This town Chinceo – Quanzhou, today – included an important Muslim community dealing with the Indonesian archipelago, mainly Banten for the pepper. These “tiny coins” were in fact light and of bad alloy sapèques, especially cast in Quanzhou to gain pepper at low price.
  • Le désordre dans la circulation monétaire en Chine sous Qian Long: le témoignage de l’ambassadeur vietnamien, 1761-62 – by François Thierry (Conservateur général honoraire, chargé des Monnaies orientales aux département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France (pp. 81-91)
    • Abstract: As a lettered high civil servant, Le Quy Don (1726-1784) left from his travel towards the Chinese chief town in 1760-61 a narrative of the Chinese currency background he met. He quotes precisely the different types of coins used, the values of these coins according to the areas he goes through, Nanning, Wuzhou, Guilin, Quanzhou, the number of coins lacking in a ligature, and so on. In fact, if this large monetary disorder then spread upon China is compared to the monetary system of his own country, the trouble of Le Quy Don, regarding such a situation, is explainable.
  • Le Dai Viet: problèmes monétaires et commerce international (XVIIe-XVIIIe s.) – by Frédéric Mantienne (Docteur en histoire de l’EPHE (IVe section), ancien professeur associé à l’Université de La Rochelle) (pp. 93-102)
    • Abstract: The Dai Viet empire is then divided between two principalities: one in the north (chief town Thanh Long – Hanoi), the other in the centre of the present Vietnam (Hue). The two states are rather poor, offering only agricultural goods to export (peculiarly, silk). They used weapons, copper, luxury goods for the courts. Scarcely export-oriented, they are dependant of foreign traders (Chinese, and Dutch and British East India Companies). Then the currency is only based on the sapèque, a tiny coin but convenient for the internal trade, often depreciated by impoverishment of its alloy (copper, but often another alloy named “toutenargue”). As metal or coins, the copper has to be imported. In Vietnam, gold and silver are of none monetary use. So mainly the Chinese, and the Europeans have to create commercial roundabout ways to bring copper. Unaware of this the French East India Company will fail repeatedly.
  • Archives – Un manuscript français de numismatique indienne (pp. 103-112)
    • about the manuscript Histoire des Pièces de Monnoyes qui ont été frappées dans l’Indoustan, tirée de plusieurs historiens du Pays, by M. Gentil, colonel au service de France dans l’Inde, chevalier de l’Ordre Royal et Militaire de St Louis, Résidant de France à la Cour du Nabab d’Aoud (Bibliothèque nationale de France : Manuscrits français 25287, 127 pages)