Copy correspondence of Sir Robert Hart to Sir Francis Aglen

Scope and Content

Volume of typescript copies of Sir Robert Hart's letters to Sir Francis Arthur Aglen, 26 November 1888 - 14 September 1911.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Hart (Chinese name He De) was born in Milltown, Co Armagh, on 20 February 1835. He was educated at Queen's College, Taunton, Wesley College, Dublin, and Queen's College, Belfast, where he received a BA in 1853. The following year he entered the consular service, working in Hong Kong, Ningo and Canton before resigning in 1859 to join the Chinese Maritime Customs. After working as Deputy Commissioner in Canton and Commissioner in Shanghai he was appointed as the first Inspector General in 1863. He held this post for nearly fifty years until his death and his commitment to the service led him to refuse the post of British Minister to China in 1885. As well as his work in the Customs he was used by the Quing government to further their aims in dealing with foreign powers. He became supreme advisor to Zongli Yamen (the Chinese office dealing with foreign affairs). On behalf of the Quing government he arranged the Lisbon Protocol in 1885 after negotiations with the Portuguese over Macao. He negotiated with the Indian government over Sikkim and with the British over navigation of the Yangtze River. His efforts led to his receiving honours from a number of countries including Italy, Portugal, Norway, and Holland, and a number of Chinese honours. He gained an honorary doctorate in 1882. He was also asked to help with efforts towards 'modernisation' such as the establishment of the Chinese postal system and the establishment of Tong Wen Guan (Institute of Education).

In 1866 he married Hestor Jane Bredon and they had three children including a son, Bruce, who took over from J D Campbell in the London office in 1907. He also had three children from an earlier liaison with a Chinese woman. These children he supported as his 'wards'. Hestor's brother, Robert, was also a member of the Chinese Maritime Customs and became Acting Inspector General when Hart returned to England from 1908 until 1910. In 1901 he wrote These from the Land of Sinim. He died on 20 September 1911.

Sir Francis Arthur Aglen joined the Chinese Maritime Customs in 1888. He was Acting Inspector-General in 1910 before succeeding Sir Robert Hart. He retired as Inspector-General in 1928.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Presented by Mr E. F. Aglen in November 1967.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist available

Alternative Form Available

Copies on negative microfilm [M6008]

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds correspondence and papers of Sir Robert Hart (Ref: PP MS 67); a volume of typescript copies of Sir Robert Hart's letters to J D Campbell, 1903-1907 (Ref: MS 211351); two letterbooks containing J D Campbell's copies of his letters to Sir Robert Hart, 1898-1906 (Ref: MS 211353). For other related collections at SOAS, see published guide: Papers Relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs 1860-1943. In addition to Sir Robert Hart's papers, these include the papers of Sir Frederick Maze (Ref: PP MS 2); George H Fitzroy (Ref: MS 258361); Edward Charles Macintosh Bowra and Cecil Arthur Verner Bowra (Ref: MS 201813, now ref PP MS 69); and Sir Francis Arthur Aglen (Ref: MS 211355). The Second Historical Archives of China, Nanjing, hold the administrative archive of the Chinese Maritime Customs. The customs records date from 1861 and are largely in English. A published guide Brief Guide to the Second Historical Archives of China is available. Queens University of Belfast Library holds correspondence, diaries and papers, 1854-1908, of Sir Robert Hart (see Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation, supp. 1965-1975, 1979). The British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds a manuscript of 'The Peking Legations' (Ref: Add MS 46499). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Department of Western Manuscripts, holds miscellaneous letters and papers, 1866-1908, of Sir Robert Hart (Ref: MSS Eng Lett c 304, d 319-27, e 124-27, Eng misc b 108-09, c 530-31). The National Library of Wales, Department of Manuscripts and Records, holds Sir Robert Hart's correspondence with Lord Rendel, 1880-1910 (Ref: NLW MSS 19440-67, 20569-72, 23028-35) and his letters to Lord Rendel, 1882-1900 (Ref: 31). The Public Record Office holds Sir Robert Hart's correspondence with Sir E M Satow, 1901-1906 (Ref: PRO30/33/10/3).

The State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library, holds Sir Francis Aglen's letters to G E Morrison, 1910-1920 (Ref: ML MSS 312).

Location of Originals

The original letters are also available in SOAS Library [MS 314854].

Geographical Names