Sir Robert Hart's original letters to Sir Francis Arthur Aglen, 26 November 1888 - 14 September 1911.
Correspondence of Sir Robert Hart to Sir Francis Aglen
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 102 MS 314854
- Dates of Creation26 November 1888-14 September 1911
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical Description1 box
Scope and Content
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.
Conditions Governing Access
Presented by Mr E. F. Aglen 10th October 1974.
Alternative Form Available
Transcripts of letters are available in SOAS Library [MS 211081]. Copies on negative microfilm [M6008]