Category Archives: cotton

The Calico Acts: Was British cotton made possible by infant industry protection from Indian competition?

Many “global historians” argue that the British cotton industry was the product of (unintentional) infant industry protection from Indian competition in the 18th century. The various Calico Acts created an import-substitution industry by banning Indian cloths and reserving the home market for British producers. This … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, import substitution industrialization, industrial policy, Industrial Revolution, Infant industry argument, protectionism, trade & development | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Napoleonic blockade & the infant industry argument: caveats, limitations, reservations

Some caveats and reservations about the Napoleonic blockade paper on the infant industry argument that’s making waves. My caveat: protection persisted for decades after the blockade and may have helped keep the French cotton industry backward relative to Britain.

Posted in cotton, France, import substitution industrialization, industrial policy, Industrial Revolution, Infant industry argument, protectionism, trade & development | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Tariff Protection of British cotton 1774-1820s

British Tariff Protection after 1774: Competition, Innovation, & Misallocation, plus a note on Weaving This is an addendum to a post about the Calico Acts, which had prohibited within Britain the consumption of cotton cloths both foreign and domestic. But even after … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, industrial policy, Industrial Revolution, Infant industry argument, international trade, protectionism, trade & development | 1 Comment

Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Reductionist Summary

Historian Sven Beckert’s widely acclaimed book, Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism, is a good agrarian, business, and labour history of a single commodity. But as economic history it’s not so good.

Posted in cotton, Empire of Cotton, global history, historians of capitalism, Sven Beckert | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

The Baptist Question Redux: Emancipation & Cotton Productivity

Edward Baptist, the author of The Half Has Never Been Told, has been claiming since the publication of his book that a putative post-Emancipation drop in overall agricultural productivity in the American South is proof that it was torture, not new cotton cultivars and … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, Edward Baptist, historians of capitalism, Slavery, The Half has never been told | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

McCloskey: Cotton wasn’t crucial to the Industrial Revolution

I (mostly) copy-and-paste Deirdre McCloskey’s argument that cotton was not crucial to the Industrial Revolution in Britain. I also have a very brief rant about historians’ erasure of Robert Fogel from historiographic memory.

Posted in cotton, great divergence, historians of capitalism, Industrial Revolution, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Was slavery necessary for the Industrial Revolution ?

Did western industrialisation require American slave cotton ? What coal and sugar might tell us. (Short answer: It’s reasonable and plausible to argue slavery accelerated the industrial revolution, but not enabled it. It’s profoundly unreasonable to say the IR could not have happened … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, global history, historians of capitalism, Industrial Revolution, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Baptism by Blood Cotton

The underlying claim in Edward Baptist’s “oral economic history” of slavery, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, is that slave owners, through the scientific “calibration” of torture, intensified the work of slaves in order to increase labour productivity by … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, Edward Baptist, historians of capitalism, Slavery, The Half has never been told | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Plant breeding, not working slaves harder, drove cotton productivity gains in the US South

Summary : New cultivars of cotton led to an unprecedented rise in the productivity of US southern cotton in the 60 years before the American Civil War. The Economist magazine may have said some stupid things about the subject in its review of Edward Baptist’s book … Continue reading

Posted in cotton, Edward Baptist, historians of capitalism, Slavery, The Half has never been told | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments