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Today's world textile and garment trade is valued at a staggering $425 billion. We are told that under the pressure of increasing globalisation, it is India and China that are the new world manufacturing powerhouses. However, this is not a new phenomenon: until the industrial revolution, Asia manufactured great quantities of colourful printed cottons that were sold to places as far afield as Japan, West Africa and Europe. Cotton explores this earlier globalised economy and its transformation after 1750 as cotton led the way in the industrialisation of Europe. By the early nineteenth century, India, China and the Ottoman Empire switched from world producers to buyers of European cotton textiles, a position that they retained for over two hundred years. This is a fascinating and insightful story which ranges from Asian and European technologies and African slavery to cotton plantations in the Americas and consumer desires across the globe.Read more
- The first historical account of the role of cotton textiles in transforming the world economy over the past millennium
- Shows how Europe's road to cultural development and economic growth was brought about by Asian technologies, African labour, and American raw materials and consumer markets
- Richly illustrated including images of cloth, clothing and contemporary manufacturing processes
- Winner of the 2014 World History Association Bentley Book Prize
Reviews & endorsements
"… a remarkable volume full of insight and originality … Riello deserves a wide audience and the book will be of interest to a readership well beyond the audience for world economic history, including cultural and social history, the histories of art, design, fashion and, of course, textiles themselves."
Ian Donnachie, Reviews in History (history.ac.uk/reviews)See more reviews
"Mr Riello's meticulous approach and scholarly prose make for a dense work but one that is wide-ranging, beautifully nuanced and often surprising. Like its namesake, Cotton deserves a wide circulation."
Wall Street Journal
"Reveals much about globalisation …"
"This is a brilliant study of two periods of globalization, centered and driven first by twelfth- to seventeenth-century Indian production of cotton textiles, and second by the gradual triumph of Europe, particularly Britain, beginning in the eighteenth century. Essential."
B. Weinstein, Choice
"… strikingly broad in coverage and even bolder in the sweep of its claims, geographical, chronological and methodological. … [a] rich and elaborate work."
Eric Jones, EH.Net
"Giorgio Riello’s important and ambitious study on cotton overlaps a bit with books in the commodity history genre, but it is incontrovertibly more. The author’s primary aim is not merely to fill a gap but rather to contribute to our understanding of nothing less than the origins of modern economic growth and development. This short review can only hint at the wealth of important data and insights (not to mention the stunning illustrations) to be found in this book."
Peter A. Coclanis, Journal of Southern History
"This is a beautiful book, packed with dozens of rich photographs of cotton fabric and contemporary paintings … Riello preserves a level of nuance and contingency rare in global histories. He has written an insightful economic history of cotton that should find a wide reading among economic historians and historians of the Atlantic world."
Andrew C. Baker, The South Carolina Historical Magazine
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- Date Published: May 2013
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107000223
- length: 434 pages
- dimensions: 253 x 182 x 25 mm
- weight: 1.1kg
- contains: 103 b/w illus. 46 colour illus. 10 maps 12 tables
- availability: Unavailable - out of print October 2017
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: cotton textiles and global history
Part I. The First Cotton Revolution – A Centrifugal System, c.1000–1500:
2. Selling to the world: India and the old cotton system
3. 'Wool growing on wild trees' – the global reach of cotton
4. The world's best – cotton manufacturing and the advantage of India
Part II. Learning and Connecting – Making Cottons Global, c.1500–1750:
5. The Indian apprenticeship – Europeans trading in Indian cottons
6. New consuming habits – how cotton entered European houses and wardrobes
7. From Asia to America – cottons in the Atlantic world
8. Learning and substituting – printing textiles in Europe
Part III. The Second Cotton Revolution – A Centripetal System, c.1750–2000:
9. Cotton, slavery and plantations in the New World
10. Competing with India – cotton and European industrialisation
11. 'The wolf in sheep's clothing' – the potential of cotton
12. Global outcomes – the West and the new cotton system
13. Conclusion – from system to system, from divergence to convergence.
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