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William Jardine


1784 - 1843

Trader and entrepreneur. Born near Lochmaben in Dumfries and Galloway, Jardine trained in medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He served as a surgeon with the East India Company before becoming involved in shipping and moving to Canton (China) where he joined James Matheson (1796 - 1878) in the partnership of Jardine Matheson & Co. The company, founded in the 1820s, prospered through the opium trade with China. The Opium Wars followed as Britain defending its interests in this disreputable trade and led to the occupation of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Jardine returned to Britain in 1839 as an advisor to the government, having become one of the most wealthy and powerful men in Britain. The mainland interests of the Jardine-Matheson company were nationalised following the communist take-over of China in 1949.

Although now registered in Bermuda to protect the company since the return of Hong Kong to China, Jardine Matheson is the largest Asia-based conglomerate, with an annual turnover exceeding $11 billion, which has diversified into distribution, hotels, financial, property, retailing and other operations. In 1970 the company formed the investment management group Jardine Fleming as a joint venture with the banking group founded originally by another Scot Robert Fleming (1845 - 1933).


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