The Museum's exhibition East of India - Forgotten trade with Australia (2013) explores the important colonial trade between Australia India and beyond. Up until fairly recently some key works were quite hard to access but now thanks to digitization projects there's an increasing range of resources including primary records available. We've included resources for researching trade, trade goods, ships and people and hope you find them useful to get your research started.


A collection of papers, relative to ship building in India ... [electronic resource] also a register comprehending all the ships and vessels built in India to the present time

John Phipps. Calcutta Scott and Co., 1840
CD 387.50954 PHI (251472) (not available for loan)
This hard to find item is a welcome source of information regarding details of individual ship construction and fate.

The Bombay country ships : 1790-1833

Anne Bulley. Richmond Curzon, 2000.
387.50954 BUL (193351)
This is a standard work on the "country built ships" of the East India Company often found in the Australia trade.

Lords of the East : the East India Company and its ships (1600-1874)

Jean Sutton. London Conway Maritime Press, 1981
382.0942 SUT (001061)

The East India Company's maritime service 1746-1834: masters of the eastern seas

Jean Sutton. Woodbridge Boydell, 2010.
387.50941 EAS (259319)
Two very good books on the East India Company and including information on the Maritime Service by respected author Jean Sutton.

Catalogue of East India Company ships' journals and logs, 1600-1834

Anthony Farrington. London British Library, 1999
REF 387.50941 EAS (242422) (not available for loan)

A biographical index of East India Company maritime service officers: 1600-1834

Anthony Farrington. London The British Library, 1999
REF 387.50941 EAS (250581) (not available for loan)

Ships of the East India Company

Rowan Hackman. Gravesend World Ship Society, c2001
387.50941 HAC (19688)
Very useful reference book good as a first place to look when trying to trace information about vessels of the East India Company

An introduction to British ships in Indian waters: their owners, crew and passengers

Richard Morgan. London Families in British India Society, 2012
387.50941 EAS (258642)
Produced by the Families in British India Society this is a useful introduction for family historians.

India, China, Australia: trade and society 1788-1850

James Broadbent, Suzanne Rickard, Margaret Steven.
Glebe Historic Houses Trust of NSW, c2003
994.02 BRO (194417)

Forming a colonial economy, Australia 1810-1850

N.G. Butlin. Cambridge Melbourne Cambridge University Press, 1994.
330.99402 BUT (252363)

Colonial cousins: a surprising history of connections between India and Australia

Joyce Westrip and Peggy Holroyde. Kent Town, S. A.. Wakefield Press, 2010.
994.00454 WES (258634)

Cargo for the colony : the wreck of the merchant ship, Sydney Cove (1797)

Michael Nash. Sydney Braxus Press, 1996
910.45309946 NAS <141749>
This cargo of this wreck is a time capsule of trade goods.

Coolies, capital, and colonialism: studies in Indian labour history

Edited by Rana P. Behal and Marcel van der Linden. Cambridge New York Cambridge University Press, 2006.
331.10954 COO
Has chapters dealing with lascar seamen.

South Africa & India : shaping the colonial south
Edited by Isabel Hofmeyer. Johannesburg : Witts university Press, 2011
331.10954 SOU
Has a chapter on Asian African and British sailors in the British merchant marine c. 1880-1945.

Walers : Australian horses abroad
A.T. Yarwood. Carlton Vic. Melbourne University Press at the Miegunyah Press, 1989
382.41610994 YAR (254401)
The horse trade to India was an important one for Australia.

Chintz : Indian textiles for the West
Rosemary Crill. London : V&A Publishing, c2008.
746.60954 CRI
A good work on the very important textile trade.

Find these books plus lots of other eresources at a library near you in our East of India : forgotten trade list @Trove.

Buying books? Shop online at the museum store.

Online Resources

New South Wales, Australia Colonial Secretary's Papers. 1788-1825 at Ancestry.
This collection of primary documents relating to the administration of the colony has a great deal of information relating to colonial trade with India. In the special bundles you'll find accounts of shipwreck, abstract logs of colonial vessels and assorted correspondence to the colonial secretary from the masters and owners of vessels.

The British Library hold the archives of the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784-1858), the India Office (1858-1947), the Burma Office (1937-1948). India Office records and Private papers: help for researchers is a useful guide to exploring their collection.

The British Library Pictures catalogue contains many images of vessels in the India trade. Here are the results of a Search relating to East India Company ships and Indiamen

Family historians might be interested in taking a look at East India Company Pensions 1793-1833 at genealogy website Findmypast.

Families in British India (FIBIS) This Society has a huge range of resources for those tracing people who lived and worked in India during colonial administration. The website includes free and members only resources. Really useful for those of us outside the UK

Lascar lives and the East India Company: The transoceanic lives of Indian sailors in the eighteenth century is a University of Southampton Research Project.

Lloyd's register of shipping. Digitzed copies available at Hathi Trust Lloyd's Register is always a useful source to find information about construction details of ships. Arranged alphabetically by name of ship this comes out annually. However bear in mind that East India Company ships are listed for years 1803-1833 in a section at the end of the A-Z list and just before the Supplement. The later years include lists of ships trading to India. However the smaller "country built" ships such as brigs that traded under licence don't always appear in these lists. Many former East India Co. vessels traded on after their service in the company and so vessels over 100 tons built in India can often be found in the regular A-Z listing.

Allen's Indian mail, and register of intelligence for British and foreign India, China, and all parts of the East. 1845-1852 issues of this newspaper are available online at Hathi Trust. It's very useful for finding articles on people travelling to India, shipping movements to and from India as well as foreigners associated with India.

The Asiatic journal and monthly register for British and foreign India, China, and Australia. Issues covering the period 1818-1843 are available online at Hathi Trust. This is another really useful magazine with Indian intelligence including shipping and passenger arrivals in India from the colonies. You'll also find first hand published accounts and reports of wrecks in Australian waters.

East-India register and directory. A selection of digitized issues of the useful directory from 1819-1827 at Hathi Trust. Find information on ships shipbuilding and people. Has a directory of European inhabitants of Bengal. Colonial India's "Sands directory" equivalent. Really useful.

Search for vessels in the colonial trade to India wrecked on the Australian coast and also Indian built vessels wrecked at the Australian National Shipwreck Database.

Visit our maritime archaeology team blog. In conjunction with Silentworld Foundation the team have made several expeditions to wreck sites of Indian built and bound vessels in the Coral sea and Barrier Reef. They are the Mermaid, Frederick Morning Star and Ferguson. Read more about their expeditions and the fascinating back stories behind this early colonial trade.

As always Trove reveals amazing amounts of information. Here are the results of a search for newspaper articles advertisements and lists mentioning India arranged chronologically. By browsing these you'll see the links between India and Australia and the importance of India to the empire. Refine using the left hand facets to see ads for goods and India bound ships; lists for the shipping columns, printed manifests, news articles and family notices. Refining by decade is useful too.