"Such a Method of Doing Business": Local Shipping Agents, the Hajj, and the Divide between Corporate and Colonial Priorities in Late 1870s Jeddah


Captain George de Jong Beyts served as the British consul in Jeddah from 1874 through 1878. He was also a shipping agent, sent to Jeddah to organize steamships for the British India Steam Navigation Company (BI) and increase the company's involvement in hajj transport. Later, British colonial officials would remember these years as a time of scandal and controversy, resulting from Beyts' personal conflict of interest as both government official and merchant. This story has been preserved in scholarship, where Beyts' tumultuous years in the consulate have become synonymous with the failure of BI's experiment in pilgrim transport. However, these portrayals ignore the importance of both corporate priorities and local power for hajj transport networks through Jeddah. This thesis looks at Beyts' narrative as evidence of the importance of local hajj networks and their connections to British corporate priorities. Specifically, analysis of BI and British Foreign Office archives reveals the importance of Beyts' partnership with a local Hadrami merchant named Syed Mohammed bin Omar Alsagoff. Together, Alsagoff and Beyts chartered steamships and organized hajj transport between Jeddah and Singapore during the late 1870s. Their business adventures were quite successful, yet their combined interests ran counter to an increasing British regulation of native steamship passengers and the hajj. The scandals that worried the British government resulted from the combination of this regulation and Beyts' reliance on Alsagoff's local power. However, Beyts and Alsagoff's relationship ultimately proved more important to BI interests than support of the government. In this way, this relationship between businessmen challenges conceptual separations between local hajj networks and European shipping industries in the 1870s Indian Ocean.
Senior thesis (AB)--Brown University, 2019
Concentration: Middle East Studies

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Follett, Margaret, "'Such a Method of Doing Business': Local Shipping Agents, the Hajj, and the Divide between Corporate and Colonial Priorities in Late 1870s Jeddah" (2019). Middle East Studies Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.26300/g9fx-z928