5 MAY 1933, Page 30

A LONDON MERCHANT, 1695-1774 By Lucy Stuart Sutherland

That old business papers in trained hands can be made to yield most valuable information is shown by Miss L. S. Sutherland's scholarly study of A London Merchant, 1695- 1774 (Oxford University Press, ..10s.). The papers were those of William Braund, merchant, shipowner and underwriter, and director of the East India Company and of the Sun Fire Office, and they cover the years 1741-1774. Braund was first interested in exporting woollens to and importing bullion from Portugal. Later he was mainly concerned with shipping, as owner and underwriter, and he was one of a powerful group who had great influence in the Indian trade. For the early history of marine insurance in England the book is notable. Still more important is the aenount of the East India Company's method of procuring ships for its trade. The Company did not own the East-Indiamen.but hired them from wealthy syndicates. Yet through custom and influence- the Company was- virtually bound to accept the ships annually tendered for its service, and the commanders of the East Indiamen as well as the owners, with the ship's husbands who managed and equipped the vessels, enjoyed almost absolute security of tenure. This shipping-interest played a great part in the Company's affairs and Miss Sutherland's explanation of its methods is curiously interesting. An East Indianian of 600-or 700 tons cost in 1770 about £16,000 to build and equip and was good for six voyages. If she were not wrecked, her owners might profit substantially. But the risks were great and Braund, who lost three of these great vessels, does not seem to have made much by his investment.