Colin Campbell lived from 1686 to 1757. He was one of the founders of the Swedish East India Company and was the first Swedish Envoy to the Emperor of China. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Colin Campbell was born in Edinburgh where his father, John Campbell, was a lawyer. His mother was Elizabeth Campbell of Moy. He was the youngest of three brothers, and all three became lawyers. Colin Campbell became a Burgess of Edinburgh in 1720 at the age of 32. Soon afterwards he found himself in financial ruin because of his investments in The South Sea Company. The company had been granted monopoly rights to trade between England and South America in return for its taking over the English national debt. The company collapsed in 1720, and the financial scandal became known as "The South Sea Bubble".
Campbell fled to Ostend in Belgium to evade his creditors. At the time this was part of the Austrian Netherlands, and Campbell tried unsuccessfully to help the Austrians set up a competitor to the British East India Company. In 1730 he moved on to Gothenburg in Sweden where he worked in partnership with a number of established merchants to set up the Swedish East India Company, which King Frederik I gave a monopoly on all Swedish trade with the "East Indies": in effect, anywhere east of the southern tip of South Africa. Campbell became a Swedish citizen in 1731.
In 1732 Campbell sailed to Canton on board the Fredericus Rex Sueciae to establish a Swedish trading post with full authority to act as Swedish Ambassador to the Emperor of China. He returned to Sweden 550 days after leaving it. Despite being boarded by the Dutch Navy on the return trip, the voyage proved spectacularly successful for the Swedish East India Company and its directors, including Campbell, and for the Swedish Crown. Over the next 15 years the Swedish East India Company sailed to Canton 20 times. Campbell was able to pay off his creditors in full long before his death in 1757.