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Empire of Cotton : A Global History
by Sven Beckert


Overview -

ONE OF THE "NEW YORK TIMES" 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZE
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
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.  Read more...


 
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More About Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
 
 
 
Overview

ONE OF THE "NEW YORK TIMES" 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZE
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
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 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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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780375414145
  • ISBN-10: 0375414142
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: December 2014
  • Page Count: 640


Related Categories

Books > History > World - General
Books > Business & Economics > Industries - Agribusiness
Books > Business & Economics > Industries - Fashion & Textile Industry

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-10-13
  • Reviewer: Staff

In his latest venture into capitalism’s past, Harvard University historian Beckert (The Monied Metropolis) has produced a hefty, informative, and engaging study of cotton. Beckert persuasively shows that nothing less than a global sweep can provide a complete understanding of how the plant’s cultivation and its thread-to-cloth production affected the growth and development of economic, political, and social systems. He examines the changes wrought by thousands of years of cotton production in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, with Europe—and England in particular—a relative latecomer to the plant’s marvels. These developments prompted the rise of “war capitalism” in the 1500s, a stage of economic development rooted in the violence associated with forcible land and labor acquisitions. This was what the Europeans excelled at: violently intruding on global cotton networks, then using their newly acquired power to further dominate and exploit the system. Moving across several millennia and touching upon every corner of the globe, Beckert’s narrative skills keep the story of capitalism fresh and interesting for all readers, especially when he introduces individuals like the British merchant Samuel Greg and Georgia plantation owner James Monroe Smith, putting human faces on sweeping historical events. Illus. (Dec.)

 
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