Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Fabric that Made the Modern World


Award Winner
  • Date Published: April 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521166706

£ 25.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • 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.

    • 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
    Read more


    • 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.' Reviews in History (

    '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.' The Wall Street Journal

    'Reveals much about globalisation …' Financial Times

    '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

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521166706
    • length: 436 pages
    • dimensions: 246 x 175 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.92kg
    • contains: 103 b/w illus. 46 colour illus. 10 maps 12 tables
    • availability: Available
  • 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.

  • Author

    Giorgio Riello, University of Warwick
    Giorgio Riello is Professor of Global History at the University of Warwick and a member of Warwick's Global History and Culture Centre. He is the author of A Foot in the Past (2006) and has co-edited several books including The Spinning World (2009), How India Clothed the World (2009) and Global Design History (2011). In 2009 he received the Newcomen Prize in Business History, and in 2010 he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize.


    • Winner of the 2014 World History Association Bentley Book Prize

related journals

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.