Empire of Cotton
WINNER OF THE 2015 BANCROFT PRIZE
WINNER OF THE 2015 PHILIP TAFT PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE 2015 PULITZER PRIZE FOR HISTORY
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 CUNDHILL PRIZE IN HISTORICAL LITERATURE
Economist BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015
‘Knowledgeable and stunning’ Orhan Pamuk
‘A masterpiece of the historian’s craft’ The Nation
For about 900 years, from 1000 to 1900, cotton was the world’s most important manufacturing industry. It remains a vast business – if all the cotton bales produced in 2013 had been stacked on top of each other they would have made a somewhat unstable tower 40,000 miles high.
Sven Beckert’s superb new book is a history of the overwhelming role played by cotton in dictating the shape of our world. It is both a gripping narrative and a brilliant case history of how the world works.
A masterpiece of the historian's craft: combining a global scope with concern for the nuances of individual experience, Beckert tracks the fortunes of a single commodity, cotton, across six continents and thousands of years. That sweeping project is driven by the attempt to unravel the causes and consequences of one overarching puzzle: "why, after many millennia of slow economic growth, a few strands of humanity in the late eighteenth century suddenly got much richer." On the way to his answer, Beckert uncovers a history he claims "provides the key to understanding the modern world." . . . The belief that discovering the origins of economic growth might unlock modernity's secrets raises questions that are even more tantalizing -- Timothy Shenk * The Nation * A fascinating and profound examination of the history of a crop that played a transformative role in the making of the modern world. Beckert manages to keep in view a remarkable cast of characters, from planters and slaves in the United States to British industrialists and factory workers, and farmers in India, Egypt, and China. The Empire of Cotton is global history as it should be written -- Eric Foner Masterly . . . Deeply researched and eminently readable, "Empire of Cotton" gives new insight into the relentless expansion of global capitalism. With graceful prose and a clear and compelling argument, Beckert not only charts the expansion of cotton capitalism. . . he addresses the conditions of enslaved workers in the fields and wage workers in the factories. An astonishing achievement -- Thomas Bender * NY Times * Persuasive . . . brilliant . . . Beckert's detailed narrative never scants the rich complexity of the cotton trade's impact on many different societies -- Wendy Smith * Boston Globe * Empire of Cotton' proves Sven Beckert one of the new elite of genuinely global historians. Too little present-day academic history is written for the general public. 'Empire of Cotton' transcends this barrier and should be devoured eagerly, not only by scholars and students but also by the intelligent reading public. The book is rich and diverse in the treatment of its subject. The writing is elegant, and the use of both primary and secondary sources is impressive and varied. Overviews on international trends alternate with illuminating, memorable anecdotes . . . Beckert's book made me wish for a sequel -- Daniel Walker Howe * The Washington Post * Important . . .a major work of scholarship that will not be soon surpassed as the definitive account of the product that was, as Beckert puts it, the Industrial Revolution's 'launching pad -- Adam Hochschild * New York Times Book Review * Hefty, informative, and engaging . . . Beckert's narrative skills keep the story of capitalism fresh and interesting for all readers * Publishers Weekly * An engrossing narrative -- Giorgio Riello * History Today * Beckert is a big-order thinker. His book offers a masterly picture of the empire of cotton as an economic system that held together myriad different parts...Beckert's ability to write a history on this scale is impressive indeed -- Stephanie McCurry * Times Literary Supplement * Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton: A Global History is certainly a must-read for specialists as well as the lay reader. The lucid style and the wide canvas, both in time and space, make the book riveting -- Dr. V. Krishna Ananth * The Hindu *
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