Empire of Cotton: A Global History

Empire of Cotton A Global History The epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton its centrality to the world economy and its making and remaking of global capitalism Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible ye

  • Title: Empire of Cotton: A Global History
  • Author: Sven Beckert
  • ISBN: -
  • Page: 474
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • The epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, yet understanding its history is key to understanding the origins of modern capitalism Sven Beckert s rich, fascinating book tells the story of how, in a remarkably brief pThe epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, yet understanding its history is key to understanding the origins of modern capitalism Sven Beckert s rich, fascinating book tells the story of how, in a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful statesmen recast the world s most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to change the world Here is the story of how, beginning well before the advent of machine production in the 1780s, these men captured ancient trades and skills in Asia, and combined them with the expropriation of lands in the Americas and the enslavement of African workers to crucially reshape the disparate realms of cotton that had existed for millennia, and how industrial capitalism gave birth to an empire, and how this force transformed the world The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.

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    About “Sven Beckert”

    1. Sven Beckert

      The Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University, Sven Beckert is co chair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard and co chair of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History Professor Beckert researches and teaches the history of the United States in the 19th century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political, and transnational dimensions He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, among others.

    351 thoughts on “Empire of Cotton: A Global History”

    1. Cotton: The Fabric of our lives abject human miseryIn the words of the author: This book is the story of the rise and fall of the European-dominated empire of cotton. But because of the centrality of cotton, its story is also the story of the making and remaking of the global capitalism and with it of the modern worldFollowing cotton, as we shall see, will lead us to the origins of the modern world, industrialization, rapid and continuous economic growth, enormous productivity increase, and stag [...]


    2. A fascinating subject and I learnt a lot. The author has backed his sources with a huge 140 pages of footnotes. The text itself is "only" 448 pages. Coming in I could not wait to start but in the end found myself happy to end. In my opinion as informative as this book is the author is not that good a writer. His lack of economy in his words and his ability to repeat himself became annoying. For example "the white gold" was used instead of just "cotton" so often it became a distraction. Very earl [...]


    3. Hands down one of the best books I read this year. He shows how capitalism, slavery, cotton and colonization have all been intricately connected to one another for centuries. A must-read!!!


    4. I chose to read this book based on a glowing review from The Economist. I am unclear why the review was glowing. I have no reason to doubt the facts presented in the book. In fact, it may even be a good introductory source to the history of the cotton market. I had to abandon this book due to the constant historical theorizing that did not seem to hold water. My review is based on reading the first 3 chapters (plus the preface). Beckert only showed a layman’s grasp of economics and did not eng [...]


    5. Beckert's magisterial, sweeping, yet humanized and personal examination of the role of cotton in the world is the best "commodities" book (Salt/Sugar/Tea/Cod/etc.) I have ever read. With a sure hand in economics, social history and world civilizations, he illustrates the creation of the modern world as 17th century war capitalism meshed--thread by thread--with colonialism, technology, infrastructure, slavery, mass media, foreign policy, fashion and force, fronted by the seemingly innocuous produ [...]


    6. This book is a one volume history of the cotton industry from the beginning (I am not joking) up through the heydey of "King Cotton" and into the modern age. It is very thorough and the author appears to have read nearly everything of importance ever written about the industry. This is a serious history by a Yale professor and as a result, it does not cut many corners to obtain a broad readership. While it is an academic book and will rival PIketty's book for important long books that are rarely [...]


    7. “Empire Of Cotton” is really two books. First, it’s an exhaustive exposition of the history of cotton as a textile raw material. That’s about 80% of the book, and by exhaustive I mean very, very exhaustive. Second, and unfortunately dominating, it’s a puerile, scattered, self-contradictory and confused attack on the Great Boogeyman “Capitalism,” along with sustained criticism of anything originating in or related to European culture. This book is a sort of “Occupy For Eggheads. [...]


    8. One of those books that takes the mask of the economy and exposes the ugly beast based on power and war capitalism. By using cotton as a case study the author demonstrates that the invisible hand that concentrates market power in industries like cotton goes hand in hand with military force. I have not seen such a strong critique of capitalism since the old days when Capitalism had serious ideological foes. Definitely doesn't tell a placid story of the magic of the marketplace but more about stat [...]


    9. This book is an exhaustive review of the role of the cotton trade as the leading edge of globalization. It's very detailed, to the point of numbness in many cases. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of fodder for thought here; just who is it who really benefits from "free" trade?


    10. One of those books helps me understand the world better.Cotton industry was the king of industries in the past, it paved the way for the development/de-development of many regions across the globe with war-capitalism, land appropriation, slavery, wage labor, protectionism. I enjoy the comparison of different countries and thier conditions for cotton industry to thrive over the time span around 1800 to modern day.


    11. Here’s a new take on the history of capitalism, recasting the Industrial Revolution as a natural extension of the European mercantile expansion that preceded it. In Empire of Cotton, Harvard historian Sven Beckert asserts that the more familiar industrial capitalism that came of age in the nineteenth century was grounded in what he terms “war capitalism” — the relationships forged by the European conquest of the Global South by force — and, in particular, on slavery.“Slavery, colonia [...]


    12. A highly detailed history of the worldwide cotton industry and the role it played in the creating of CapitalismThere is a close relation between the history of cotton and the history of Capitalism. The concept of War Capitalism was created by privately owned joint stock companies forced, with much violence, local peasants into the forced growing of cotton for the European markets. According to Beckert, War Capitalism was a prerequisite of the following Industrial Revolution, without it, there wo [...]


    13. This is a disappointing book about a compelling subject. The author clearly needed a stronger editor; the writing is convoluted and tiresome. Sentences often exceed 40 words, and you get the sense that three or four sentences in a row have said exactly the same thing. I finally gave up on the book with about two chapters to go and skimmed to the end.The scholarship in the book is notable. The author offers compelling evidence that the history of the Industrial Revolution is about the mechanizati [...]


    14. I don't often quit on a book half-read but in this case I made an exception.Long-winded, dense, repetitive, and much more of an academic exercise than remotely interesting. By the time I hit the fourth or fifth chapter learning nothing more (over and over and over again) than the idea that economics & military power has the ability to shape commerce (gee, really?) I moved on.I'm sure there are those who'll find this a worthy read, I'm just not one of them.


    15. Although there are some things to remember, the book is by far tooooo long while recyclng one idea over and over. Its just too much details and data that its too much boring


    16. I had high hopes for this book, I'm very interested in economic history, and international trade and finance and the history of cotton includes all three. Alas, as a work of economic history the book is a total failure. The book contains not a single economic argument, market forces are almost nowhere to be found. Neither the price of cotton, nor the price of any of its inputs, nor products, nor processes are ever referenced or tracked within the book. From an economic perspective it is nearly i [...]


    17. If you are someone who likes to learn about how the world works or how we got to where we are , read this book. It is a searing tale of the cotton industry and how the quest for the mastery of a superior textile laid a groundwork for the international economy we live in today.A damning indictment of wage labor, it is particularly interesting and infuriating as a history of how humans moved from the farms to the factory. You also come to understand how the British - a relatively small group of pe [...]


    18. "The Empire of Cotton" by Sven Beckert is an eye opener, a tour de force, a detailed account of human exploitation on a gargantuan scale.# The eBook of fully indexed with umpteen endnotes from original sources. It comes with excellent photos, charts and diagrams. Readers who have 96 dpi monitors (or less) will need a magnifying glass to make out the small print on some of the graphics. (Someday I hope Kindle will support zoom functions for embedded graphics.) I would not recommend reading this e [...]


    19. 300 years back, world was a different place. Most of the countries were self sufficient. They had land for their people, food grown from the land, a shelter, customs, culture and entertainment. Yes there were wars to satisfy the ego of few powerful individuals. But common man was very much affected by them. There were merchants. Some of them wanted to trade with distant shores. Some of them brought a commodity back home. It was a fancy item and people started loving it. This commodity changed th [...]


    20. First off, I would recommend this book for anyone. If you are ideologically opposed to Marxism, the author doesn't try to sneak anything past you, if that helps make it more palatable. He is clear about the themes--war capitalism (primitive accumulation, in Marxist terms) gave rise to industrial capitalism, which depended on the power of the state to protect intellectual property, selectively apply protectionist trade policies, secure financial instruments like insurance and credit that allowed [...]


    21. This book will make sure you never again say "my family had nothing to do with slavery." Raising cotton, and turning it into cloth, would not have been possible without slaves. More than tobacco, more than rice, more than sugar, cotton drove the economies of nations from the East Indies to Africa to England to China to the Americas. EVERYONE was in on it. Slavers who captured ten MILLION people (talk about a holocaust!) and transported them to plantations where they'd be tortured, beaten, and wo [...]


    22. “Slavery, colonialism, and forced labor, among other forms of violence, were not aberrations in the history of capitalism but at its very core.” Thus Harvard historian Sven Beckert kicks off his prodigiously researched and encompassing exploration of the first global commodity. Empire of Cotton: A Global History is that wonderful new animal in literature--an engrossing, narrative, academic non-fiction page-turner in the vein of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century and Edward [...]


    23. A difficult work to finish, because it is so predictable. And yet, as an artifact, the book is fascinating to behold. Its blinkered Marxism, while tiresome, produces insights. For instance, if you slog through to the end, then on page 441 you come to Beckert's revision of Hobsbawm, which is where the contribution of his work to world history comes into focus. Read critically, the book's ponderous deployment of "war capitalism" and similar one-size-fits-all, monocausal explanations soon runs out [...]


    24. This book is really hurting me: I want to read it, and I really want to stop reading it.The premise is interesting and convincing: "war capitalism" paves the way for "industrial capitalism," and the history of the cotton industry provides a great model. Not a pretty picture. But interesting. But the books screams, "I'm an academic and can't get completely out of academic writing mode completelyough sometimes, for you, dear reader, I do try . since you're paying to read this in your free time." I [...]


    25. A history of the world through the lens of the history of cotton. Global trade and the evolution of capitalism cannot be fully understood without taking a good, hard look at cotton. Very well researched although with a marginal though glaring mistake: it keeps confusing Teotihuacan with Tenochtitlan. Different cities, different epochs. In its pages, my corner of the world, La Laguna, makes several appearances. We were once *the* cotton producing region of Mexico and it determined our culture. Th [...]


    26. Make no mistake: this isn't one of those cutesy pop-history books that focus in on a single subject, but an extraordinary work of history making extraordinary claims. Beckert's book is a history of power. Power deployed by the state in concert with merchants and creditors. Power used to subjugate land and people towards the goal of growing and manufacturing cotton goods. Power that upended entire cultures just to get what it wanted.For being just 450 pages (if we aren't counting the footnotes), [...]


    27. I guess I've been spoiled by cultural histories by Mary Roach, Bill Bryson, and Mark Kurlansky, who all write in a crisp, engaging, borderline informal style that is informative, engaging, and accessible. While I was very excited to pick up a copy of Empire of Cotton, and knew that the subject matter would require a huge scope and dense narrative, I was disappointed by the dry presentation. I wasn't expecting a little light reading, but this felt like a college textbook. I got bored and didn't f [...]


    28. Sven Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton” tells the compelling story of the world’s first truly global commodity and how its commercialization evolved to first unmake the old world and then erect in its place the world we live in today. Cotton’s history is a big, big deal, and Beckert ensures that those who read his book understand its history's profound significance thoroughly. Five millennia ago subsistence farmers living in regions of the globe whose soil and climate were conducive to its c [...]


    29. in short, this to me was an important work with regards to all things related to cotton, it's rise, it's contribution to modern society, to globalization, and to the rise of capitalism, paving way for the industrial age, and a tale of not just the empires made by countries or entities, but also a tale of its many workers, many of who were slave laborers and still today are slave laborers, but in other countries. the coverage of cotton in the world is, in a word, astounding. for me, the worst of [...]


    30. Con la excusa de desglosar la historia de la industria global más antigua del mundo, Beckert se marca una excelente historia de la evolución del capitalismo desde finales del s.XVII hasta nuestros días. El libro rebosa multitud de ideas muy interesantes, aunque me quedo con esa imagen, paradójica, del capitalismo como el sistema revolucionario más importante y exitoso de la historia, siempre en continua revisión, transformación y evolución y en constante simbiosis con unos Estados nació [...]


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