I'd like to know what would have been the most common route to travel from England to Canton, China, in 1810 and how long the journey would have taken.


1 Answer 1


The China trade routes were already established by that time, so a merchant ship, typically one classed as an East Indiaman, which carried supplies enough to make the long voyage, would sail 'around the horn' or around the Cape of Good Hope, depending on the stops. They would often stop at at India , Australia or the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and then proceed to China.

I found one ship, coincidentally named Canton, that has some recorded voyages from England to China, this one in 1810:

EIC voyage #8 (1810–1811) Captain George Gray acquired a letter of marque on 22 March 1810.5 He sailed from Portsmouth on 28 April, bound for China. Canton was at Penang on 5 September and Malacca on 26 September, before she arrived at Whampoa on 10 December.

So, this is about a 4-6 month trip, depending on winds and stops

  • Thanks for the input. However, the East Indiaman link you provided states the preferred route would be arounf Cape of Good Hope and then to India and China. Also, I'd like opinions about how feasible would be for a traveler to follow a shorter route through the Mediterranean, Egypt, and the Red Sea, taking into account the political situation of the period. Apr 10, 2018 at 1:04
  • Looks like you're right, this one must have gone around the Cape, since it stopped in Malaysia in-route. Edited the answer. Some of the other British merchants from this era were going the other way however, trading for hides and leather in Alta California, then sandalwood in Hawaii, and then on to China.
    – justCal
    Apr 10, 2018 at 1:48
  • Yes, according to the history of Canton (which mentions stopping at the EIC outpost at St. Helena on an outbound trip) it seems they could go either way by the Horn or Good Hope. Apr 10, 2018 at 3:45
  • 1810 was during the Napoleonic wars. Great Britain was at war with France, raising a danger of attack by French privateers almost anywhere at sea. Crossing from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea meant travelling through Egypt, which was a dependency of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was at peace during part of the Napoleonic Wars, at war with France during part, and at war with Russia during part. AS far as I know most Europeans preferred to sail around Africa instead of travel through Egypt.
    – MAGolding
    Apr 10, 2018 at 4:39
  • Thanks, makes sense to me too. All considered, I believe the Cape of Good Hope route would be the easiest way. Apr 10, 2018 at 5:25

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