tv Book Discussion on Empire of Cotton CSPAN March 7, 2015 1:15pm-2:56pm EST
of 1800, man dealted the direction election of senators and of course expanded the franchise. nevertheless, for all of the growth in federal authority, the basic institutions remain largely as they were when the constitution went into effect in 1787. and from the madison union perspective this is a problem itch if institutions require a particular design in order to break and control the violence of faction, and serve the common good then it is imprudent to give greatly expanded powers to institutions that were originally intended to do much less. but that is exactly what we have done. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org.
[inaudible conversations] >> i think we'll get started. i want to thank julia before i introduce her for allowing me to say a few words. welcome to the new school. welcome to one of the featured events of the center for capitalism studies. for a couple years if taught a course another eugene lang college on understanding global capitalism, and the first day we would come in and everyone had to look at the tag of the shirt to the person -- to their left and tell us what country that shirt was made in. so that what's first thing we did in understanding global capitalism and we would write the names of the countries on
the board, and i it was invariably 25 countries. actually remarkable in the post multifiber arrangement era that the production is still quite diversified but what we learned by looking at cotton shirts in that case was about globalization of production. we learned about the modern structure of the modern corporation, about branding in fashion design, the relation between trade and capital movement, but what we didn't have when i taught the course was seven beckert's book empire of cot top which raises those issues and then raise those of colonization slavery war agricultural industrialization much broader. i look forward to teaching my course again that i will have these as a rev reference. these are enormous big issue's about capitalism, and as an
economist, i feel comfortable saying that they could really only be told in a single thome by a historian and that was the basic rationale behind the formation for the center of capitalism, there are these major dynamics major questions of capitalism that can't be addressed by economics alone. that there are these crucial political, cultural, sociological aspects to all of these big questions. and historians can provide that lens. they can bring these perspectives together, in this case in one brilliant book but it is not surprising that it's two historians who came up with the idea of this hall bruner center for capitalism studies. the ones who imagined the idea of a capitalism studies center at the new school and so it's a pleasure that we have a historian before us tonight.
the idea of the hall bruner center for capitalism studies was to take on these questions about economic dynamics, about inequality and income distribution, the role of the state, the role of social movement in relation to economic change. and it was only going to be accomplished with input, it was clear from the jut set, from all the disciplines at the new school for social research and some even outside of it. so it's not surprising that the center fits very comfortably at the new school for social research where all of those disciplines concern themselves with those types of questions. now, bob after whom the center is named who is had the great furnish of working with and teaching with for over a decade bake well known not for the presis answered he gave to these questions but because he raised these questions in the first place. he argued along broadly marxist and keynesian lines that
capitalism had a nature and had a largic but the sounds highly precise, but he also understood that economics and especially modern so-called rigorous economics could not adequately address these big questions. bob, there's many great bob stories. one was a quip that he used where he said if economics had a journal called the journal of big economic issues its payments would be empty, which was to say economists were not taking up the big important issues around questions of the dynamics of capitallity. the profession could not take them on and so the profession reef treated into corners of tech knowism and overspecialization the question of these big issues and how to theorize them is not just of academic interest. when the financial crisis hit in 2008 the queen of england -- yes, the queen of england -- wrote a letter to the president
of the british academy, asking why did no one seive it come -- see it coming and the reply i will quote: everybody steamed be doing their open job properly on its own merit and according to standard measures of success they were often doing it well. referring to the economists. the failure was to see how collectively that's added up to a series of interinterconnected imbalances over which no authority had jurisdiction so in summary, your magistery, they wrote, the failure to see the timing and extents and severity of the cries and held it off was a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people to understand the risks to the system as a whole. so the pragmatic -- not just the theoretical questions at stake raise the need for a center for cappism studies and
i'm pleased to ask julie to introduce speaker, julia is associate professor of history. she has a phn history from yale, is the author of the widely acclaimed book "when wall street met main street: the quest for an investors democracy" publish bid harvard university press and is current live working on a book project that explores quote, the ideas, the individuals and the institutions that brought u.s. inequality, she is the codirector of the center for capitalism studies and a great colleague. julia. [applause] >> thank you dean for that lovely introduction and marvelous comments and i hope you'll e-mail to me. so it's a true honor for the hall brenner center for capitalism studies to welcome professor svef beckert here today. he is professor of american
history at harvard university. tonight, professor beckert will present his new book, "empire of cot cotton. eye "i thought you might want to know about his history with the center. our steamed colleague, charles tilley and eric shaped professor becked's thinking in the early stages of the project that became the money metropolis. professor beckert's first book, "the money met troll miss and the consolidation of the american bourgeois see. it examine thursday surprisingly -- and it's surprising it's surprising -- sizingly unlikely social consolidation of wealthy new yorker in the 19th century who became the most powerful social group in the united states. working with professor tilley and hobson professor beckert told me it emboldened him to
take up calal -- capitalism as a subject and to think about large social formations large historical questions to engage in a comparative perspective to broaden his analytic frame and to encompass the entire globe. all of these moves hat fallen out of favor in the discipline of history that time. so in the last 15 years, since he published that book, professor beckert has led the emergence of the new history of capitalism as a subfield within the discipline of history and he has done that not just on account of the acclaim and influence of this first book. he also codirects the program on the study of capitalism at harvard where he provided a generation out not just harvard graduate students and not just historians, but sort of a whole generation of scholars coming back to question the capitalism provided them with intellectual
nourishment. next year the prestigious charles warren center at harvard will take up the history of capitalism under the direction of professor beckert and also co-chairs the weatherhead anywheretive for global history at harvard and i don't have time to list all of his awards but they include the american council of society, the coleman center for scholars and writers at the number public lie and the guggenheim foundation. so now then, to cotton. tonight prefer beckert will tell us the story of the commodity that brought us capitalism and in the process, he will challenge us to rethink the meaning and the history of that social formation and indeed the meaning and the history of the modern world itself. thank you everyone for coming. [applause]
>> thank you so much julia, thank you so much for being here tonight. i'm delighted to be here and i'm very much looking forward to our discussion. if you know in "empire of cotton" the book i'm going to be talking about for the next 45 minutes was published approximately two months ago, and i'm honored to be able to present it here at the new school for the first anytime new york city. the new school has indeed played a very important role in its genesis because it was here that i worked -- for those of you who had a chance to begin reading the book or for those who will eventually read it you will up doubtedly be able to discern their influence. as you probably already know, or
at least guess before you walked in here, "empire of cotton" deals with more than 5,000 years of history and it deals with a vast a array of places from india, united states egypt central asia, west africa to the united kingdom. the scope of the book is so vast that i cannot possibly give you a complete picture in the short time we have here today. i can only hope that i would will be able to provide you with a test of the importance but also the exciting nature of that story, the story of cotton and the story of the empire of cotton which will then hopefully lead you to a more lease-underly and careful study of the book itself. so, what kind of book is "empire of cotton"? first and foremost. it is a book that is much different from most history books that you will have read.
most historical studies, as you know deal with particular events that say world war i or a particular person such as the biography of napoleon, or they deal with a particular subject such as the history of industrialization. and they almost always deal with relatively narrow short, time frames and they limit themselves to studying developments in one town in one region or in one country. of course there are exceptions. one only has to think of the great works of people -- but by and large much historical -- most historical research is framed the these particular ways. and i don't disagree with such framing as such. i think they are important to understand the human part. "empire of cotton" breaks with these traditions and tries a radical, different way too think about history, namely to
look at history from a global perspective and at the same time to try to analyze one of the greatest issues of our contemporary moment, capitalism, and doing so by putting a physical commodity, a physical thing, cotton, at the center of the story that it is telling. so what kind of book is "empire of cotton? it is of course -- as its title suggests, first and foremost the history of cotton. instead of putting event, people or themes at the center of its narrative. it circles around a commodity a fluffy white fiber with extraordinary properties that allow humans to manufacture textiles of great utility for approximately 5,000 years. the book follows that cotton from the peasants the slaves the sharecroppers who grew it to the merchants who traited in cotton to the sunshiners and
weavers who manufacture evidence cloth, and then on to the consumers who use it to dress themselves. it traces the history of the fiber over a period of 5,000 years, from the moment when it emerged as a household base industry of hand operated spindles and looms string between trees in what is today pakistan to the industrial revolution in england, and then all the way into the modern era and the rising dominance of china. this is of course a fascinating story as such but more importantly, a focus on a mott a focus on cotton, allows me to disentangle connections between agriculture and industry but also connections between wage workers and slaves, between industryization and dee industrialization in some ways the commodity history helps us see what i call the unity of the diverse. so, for example, the industrialization of one part
the world and dization in other parts of the world. this is one thorp the core arguments of the book, that was very significant to global history, and especially the globe history of capitalism, as jewel gentleman mentioned earlier. only very few of us know and can imagine that for about 900 years, from the year 1,000 to the year 1900, approximately, the growing, spinning and weaving of cotton was the most important manufacturing activity that humans engaged in. in very large areas of the world, from central asia to east africa china a very large number of people kept themselves busy growing, spinning and weaving cotton. it was indeed the central importance of cotton previous to the industrial revolution that eventually motivated drastic improvement in its production techniques. very large markets existed before the industrial revolution
of the 178's. and the possibilities for profit seemed virtually unending for anybody engaging in the manufacturing of cotton textiles in newly productive ways. as the result the tot ton was at the center of the industrial revolution and wherever mechanized factory production emerged it was always in cotton. during the 19th century there was no industry that employed as many people as these cotton industry and as you know, huge swath of the united states from the slave plantations of the american south to the industrial cities of new england were dominated by cotton. the advent of maybe niced cotton production in many ways was the very symbol of countries entering the modern world, world more recognizable to us today. as a result, no other manufactured goods stood at the cradle of so many wreck of revolutionary tech neck -- social channelings and many conflicts.
by invent thing factory as the most efficient way of producing textiles, cotton manufacturers recast the way humans workedded. by searching for ever more hands to staff their factories, english, american, brad sillan, indian, and japanese cotton manufacturers encouraged unprecedented move of people from the countryside into cities. by demanding ever more cotton to feed their hungry factories manufacturers encouraged planters to vastly expand their cotton explained the need for cheap labor to work on that land led to the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of slaves as well as the colonization of new territories in places such as africa and asia. the factory production of cotton in fact pioneered a new relationship between industry and the countryside, by producing ever more cotton textiles, ever more efficiently and selling them to markets throughout the world, cotton
traders destroyed less efficient wives producing textiles and moved the center of the industry from asia, where it had been for four million years, to western europe and then to the united states. and in their search for labor capital and lan the wove together regions of be globe, creating the earliest wave of globalization, cotton was important to many different places. in britain, it became most important manufacturing industry early in the 19th century, while cotton was the most important import and cloth and britain's most important export product in indian shifts in the cotton industry away from spinning towards the growing of cotton for export, raw cotton combined to create upheaval in the indian economy. in continental europe, cotton manufacturing every became the first manufacturing industry. in the united states, raw cotton
exports established the young nation's place in the goble economy, indeed the first time the united states mattered to the global economy was exactly because it provided raw cotton grown by slaves to the factories of england in mexico egypt, india, brazil first tentative steps were taken towards industrialization and all of them in cotton. egyptian al culture was turn upside-down facility said cotton 'export, and peasants throughout africa and northern argentina and australia and elsewhere turned to fears under pressure phenomenon metropolitan government into cotton plantations. huge profits were accumulated. the barons, the rothschilds, the browns the -- many other merchant and manufacturing families all profited from cotton. throughout the world ever more people began to use ever more cotton textile, notable in areas
that came late to cotton such as the continent of europe, revolutionizing how people dressed and also how they kept clean. from the perspective of the century as a whole, from the perspective of the 19th 19th century as a whole, cotton's importance can only be compared to the importance of oil in the 20th century. and even today and perhaps that somewhat more surprising to you, cotton is still important. last year in 2013 -- 2014 about 124 million cotton barrels were produced throughout the world, every one of. the weighing 400 pounds, enough cotton to produce 20 t-shirts for each human living on this planet. if one would put these bales on tom of one another they would make a tower 40,000 miles high. globally, up to 350 million people work in today reside
cotton industry in one way or another. a number that has never before been reached in human history and which represents about three to four percent of the entire human population. huge cotton plantations can still be found around the world, from china to india to the united states, to west africa to central asia. indeed 75 million acres of land are used today for the growing of cotton. those tightly pressed law fibers are still shipped to factories around the world where hundreds of thousands of workers pin and weave them and eventually turn them into clothing. the finished products are sold wherever, from remote country stores to stores such as walmart, and indeed cotton goods are month the very few products that can virtually be acquired anywhere, and thus cotton's history demonstrates the impressive and unprecedented increase in human productivity and human consumption that
industrialization in particular and capitalism more generally has enabled. as an advertising campaign touted recently in the united states, quite accurately, cotton, the fabric of our life. empire of cotton the book tells the history of cotton during the past 5,000 years but it focuses in particular on the 150 years between 1780 and 1930 the years when cotton was central to the unfolding of industrial capitalism. and focuses on these years because empire of cotton does not tell the story of cotton as an end in itself. indeed a truly comprehensive history of cotton would take many thousands of pages and it would tax the patience of readers to an up bearable degree. empire of cotton tries to do something slightly different
with focusing on cotton to engauge one of the most urgent issues of the modern world, namely the issue of capitalism. the book is not just a history of cotton but and especially it is the history of capitalism. if you might have observed, and as you also mentioned earlier, during the past few years, there have been few topics that have animated the chattering as much as the issue of capitalism. in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008, questions about the nature the past and the viability of capitalism appeared only evening talk shows and the newspapers throughout the world. and it was not just the british queen who was interested in the future of capitalism. the discussions indeed crossed most political boundaries with conservative newspapers in the unite kingdom and in germany running stories on what they called the future of capital as
-- is there was some doubt there was such a thing and others hammeredway at an analysis of capital jim's self-destructive tendencies. this discussion continues with unabated intensity today, causing odd political, ideological, and professional divide with even pope frances -- pope francis making it central to his papacy and -- published a 700 page book chock-full of tables and statistics with an unsexy title "capital. "this vibrant debate is to be welcomed. it has become clear that to understand our contemporary world woe -- we need to come to terms with catch-allism. but our thinking about capital jim urgently needs the voice of historians in this debate as was also an tase pitted
earlier -- anticipated earlier. capitalism has a very long history. the social and geographic expansion of capital jim is now a millennium in the making and the tendencies of capitalism to revenuesize societies technologies states and all aspects of our lives, pose a great number of questions which can only be answered from a long historical perspective. in that analysis i think historians have advantages over economists who often deal with these questions, not least because all too many economists not here but elsewhere -- assault too many economists have at times an unfortunate tendency to naturalize certain economic arrangements and then search for the laws that explain them after allegedly mathematical presession, a mode of thinking not associated with the modern thinking of historians.
"empire of cotton" tells the story of capitalism through the history of one of its most important commodities, cot ton, and emphasizes the historical specificity of capitalism and how it changed over time. we will never be able to know if capitalism could have developed differently than it actually did. but we do know that cotton stood at the center of capitalism's history for an awfully long time. empire of cotton does not dissect the abstract so-called nature of capitalism but tries through detailed empirical analysis to understand the actual functioning of capitalism or what i call capitalism in action. and as you will hear later, that capitalism in action worked differently from the capitalism you might encounter in many economic textbooks.
empire of cotton is not an abstract medication on the alleged laws of capitalism but a hoyt of really existing capitalism. just as much as reading karl marx is not the way to understands the history of the soviet union reading adam smith or many of today's economists does not allow to us understand the history of capitalism as is unfolded. capitalism is by now looking back on 500 years of history, and it is that history that is at the center of this book. empire of cotton has the subtitle is of course a global history. as you know and as i mentioned earlier, most history that has been written in the past 150 years, has focused on national history, and the entire discipline of history is organized along national lines. we publish books on particular
national history. we teach courses on particular national history such as french history, chinese history, american history and we join professional associations that are dedicated to the study of particular national history. this is as such not surprising as history as an academic discipline itself grew up hand in hand with the nation and history played an important role in the constitution of nation stayeds. empire of cotton breaks with these extra and is in a fundamental argument of the book is that we can neither understand the history of capitalism, nor for that matter the history of cotton if we tell it from the perspective of just one place, one region, or even one country. we have hundreds of books on the history of cotton plantations in the americas, on the history of spinning mills on the history of weavers and the beaks of the
so-called american managerial capitalism or the sprout of capitalism in china. the book draws been these studies and couldn't have been written without them but also leaves them behind by instead focus on connections between developments in distant parts of the world. in the book we get to know central asia peasants peasants and indian weavers. workers in liverpool and worker in the south, demanding consumers in west friday and chinese cotton industrialist, groups of people you usually do not find mentioned in the same book or not even in the same section of the library. empire of cotton does it very global in scope but combines discussions of very local developments with a very global perspective. a great danger of writing a very global history is that it describes the word as a network
of globally connected actors the word in which local or even national distributions of power or local interest in some ways are inconsequential because the focus is just on the global. i'm arguing very much against such a perspective. instead i argue that the global cannot be understood without the local, and the local not without the global. for that reason the book describes the global work of cotton from constantly shifting perspective. sometimes from the perspective of an ant, sometimes from the perspective of somebody trying in a helicopter, and sometimes from the perspective of a satellite. in one chapter we might, for example, encounter the biography of an eight-year-old girl who are forced to work in a cotton factory in the early set century to then look at the globe emergence of wage labor to then chart the institutional framework in which wage labor unfolded in the united kingdom.
in another chapter we might encounter an indian industrialist building the first mechanized cotton mill to then chart the spread of cotton industrializeddation throughout the world during the 20th 20th century, and to then discuss the interactions between japanese bureaucrats and cotton mill owners. so there are vary men different levels of analysis in place at most times. while it is certainly true that the local conditions, the global -- the global constrains the options available to local actors. in many ways indeed one of the arguments of the book is the local and the global cannot be kept strictly separate from one another as social processes unfold on a range of different but always connected spatial escapes and last but not least it's a book that analyze history
over very long time periods, namely 5,000 years. it crone killed developments over many decade order centuries and tries to overcome the ever short are time horizons of our thinking, including of our historical thinking as to other historians have also recently argued. it shows that the history of the modern world cannot be understood from the history of? past few decades or the past century alone. with try do so, if we look at history and short time chunks we might seriously misunderstand some important developments. for example, if we look at the past 50 years alone, it would hypothetically be speaking -- to tell the history of capitalism as the history of the expansion of human freedom. yet a longer perspective shows that slavery, colonialism and violence were just as important to the long history of capitalism as human rights, the
emergence of legal systems or democratic institutions. a history focused on only the past 50 years and on the continent of europe maybe north america could be written as a history of deindustrialization, and that is a reasonable assessment, but it would miss an effect what has been the most significant wave of industrialization that ever happened in human history, just in other parts of the world. empire of cotton is a book that argues for the importance of thinking not just on large spatial scales but also in terms of long time frames. by describing empire of cotton as i just did, i hope i provided you with at least a first impression of what kind of book is expecting you when you open it later this week. and at least in passing, i've
given you already some idea of what some of its major arguments are. before endings-under over, i want to explain some of these arguments emerge fromming this whirlwind tour through many centuries and different parts of the world that "empire of cotton" is. first and foremost "empire of cotton" argues that's the geographic spread and social deepening of capitalism is one of the most important historical processes of the past 5 handyears and argues we cannot begin to understand the history without paying great attention to the history of capital jim. -- capitallity. the expansion of capammism integrated more people and more territory and ever more part of our life. that capitalism did not emerge in a quasinational way but created through the determinedded actions of merchants, statesmen peasantses workers industrialists, and many others.
second empire of cotton argues when we think about capitalism we should not only look at industry and at cities but we should and especially we should look at the countryside and at agriculture them countryside was an enormously important source are source of raw materials and labor and marks and continues to be so, and a very large part of the history of capitalism deals with exactly that. how capital owners in powerful states tried to revolutionize the countryside and to integrate it into the global capitalist economy. so much of the book is actually on agriculture and what is happening in the countryside. third, empire of cotton suggests a different explanation for the so-called great divergence. the great divergence, as many of you might know was a moment in global history at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the
19th century wren a very small part of humanity suddenly came to enjoy much faster economic growth in the up 1,000 years before 1800, to the best of our knowledge, economic growth in all regions of the world was negligible nonexistent, around 1o .1% which meant that economic output doubled every 650 years. and that was outside the living experience of anybody. that however would change dramatically after the year 1800. after 1800 in some regions of the world, especially in the north atlantic region, economic growth accelerated and also became continuous. growth became the new norm and not the exception. why that is so is one of the core questions of history, and i think one of the most important questions that historian can
possibly -- some authors argued that great divergence was the result of an allegedly favorable climate of the continent of europe embrace of partisannism bit europeans or of europe's peculiar institutions. my argument is very different. i show how europeans after 1500 created ever more global connections and then came to dominate these global connections. they succeeded in integrating distant regions of the world into the european economy and they did so by engaging in violent trade in asia, by exporting enslaved workers from frick to the americas and by capturing huge expanses of land in both north and south america. accomplish it is this moment in the history of capitalism which is previous to industrial revolution before 1780, that i call war capitalism. this war capitalism was characterized by the violent ex-problem operation of
territories in the americas of labor and n africa and markets all over the worlds. capitalism was a world in and entrepreneurs to blow cot people temperatures out of the -- blow competitors out of the water. based on the unrestrained actions of private individuals, the domination of -- this system was enabled by expanding states whose scale and scope consistently widened and deepened. but at the same time it gave considerable space to private capitalists to dominate labor without the day-to-day supervision of the state. it was this war capitalism argue, that generated the possibility of industrial revolution in europe and thus the great divergence. indeed, industrial revolution, i argue, is one of the wages of war capitalism. war cal capitalism was of important important to the world's cotton industry because
it allowed europeans to dominate the global networks of cotton production and trade. that was in many ways surprising since europe in contrast to very large parts of asia africa and lattin america had very little experience with the growing and manufacturing of cotton. cotton was alien to the continent of europe ask there were europeans who believed in the milled ages that the cotton plant was like a plant that on which little sheep were attached to and they would bend down at night and drink and that's how they imagined this fleece to grow. showing how little they knew about cotton. and how remote it was. but with the global expansion of european power in the 16th 16th century european merchants could import the products of indian weavers and also dominate cotton manufacturing in parts of industry. they could rule cotton growing territories as well, first in the caribbean and then in
brazil and later in the american south. and crucially they could mobilize workers from the transatlantic slave trade. at the same time they opened markets for cotton goods markets emerged through the emport addition of indian textiles. it was that violent dominants of global cotton networks that suggested to europeans the profitability of dominating production of cotton textiles as well. so europeans became important to the network before they engaged in the manufacturing of of cotton. but they saw this was way to profit and it was exactly that point that the decisive new machines emerged in in the newly industrializing factors -- factories of europe. europe constructed the industrial capitalism that catapulted the continent to unprecedented economic growth on the profit of the earlier war capitalism and it was exactly at this point that they great
divergence emerged. directly related, the book argues for the great importance of slave slavery to the history of capitalism. for all too long many historians have seen slavery and capammism as mutually exclusive systems of organizing economic activity. the history of capitalism was described as a history without slavery, and slavery as essentially noncapitalist. instead of skype describing slavery on the cotton plantation as the modern institution it really was they described as premodern, violent? but unimportant to capitalist modernity and a system that put a brake on economic development, the surviving artifact of an earlier world that was done away with by the capitalist revolution itself. and this is not completely wrong but i'm also arguing against a particular moment in time. empire of cotton argues
differently. it sees slavery as modern, profitable, expansive, and in some ways at the very core of the expansion of industrial capitalism in england, the you'd and other parts of the world because it was slaves who produced the most important raw material for industrial production cotton. indeed slavery stood at the center of what by then the most dynamic and far reaching production come mess that had ever been created in human history. herman melville a bureaucrat noted in 1839 when he on served quote, the greater part of our cotton is raised by slaves and manchester and liver pol's on lens is as owing to the toil and suffering of the anything agree as if they had ask -- fabricated their steam engines. nearly all cotton arriving in european cotton ports until the
year 1861 was grown by slaves and without the unpaid labor of enslaved africans the vast expansion of european cotton production, as well that's domination of the global cotton trade, and thus the very emergence of the industrial capitalism, would have been very difficult to envision. empire off cotton embraces a global perspective and also argues the history of cotton capitalism can only be flood from this particular perspective. and i just want to give you one example to illustrate the analytical possibilities of such a global perspective and how it shifts our thinking about core issues in history. for most -- the question is how the united states came to become the world's most important cotton growing power. the question that most historians of the united states usually don't ask because this is just taken for granted, the united states grows cotton and
provides it to world markets. and they would argue the united states was perkily suited to cotton agriculture for largely natural reasons and while its certainly crew that cotton grows extremely well in large areas of the united states, if you look it's from a global perspective you see that this is just as true for many other parts of the world that, extremely well suited for the growing of cotton. ...
as central because the expansion did not disturb entrenched interests in the european countries. and held it rose from the ottoman empire. the inability of european merchants for the social structure encourage lenders to look elsewhere. and it eighteenth century, planters in the caribbean increasingly, european markets. they were able to allocate land and labor and a violin dominate both. effectively removing, it is so different from what is happening in west india.
in the agricultural, and complex, it eventually migrated to the united states. in the west indies and brazil in the year 1790 one when slaves rebelled in the caribbean, caribbean's most important island was today haiti. at the very moment when the european cotton industry demanded vastly increased quantities of cotton at the same moment. and when the united states for the first time comes to global cotton production. before 1793 very bill cotton was produced for trade and very little was exported to britain. so little in 1785, american grown cotton arrived in small quantities in the port of liverpool. british customs authorities confiscated that cotton. it could not be the product of
the united states. after the invention of whitney's cotton gin, dominating them for the next century and beyond. 25% of -- in the united states. than that increased 59%. for 72% of cotton consumed in britain and other european cotton industries were produced in the united states. so what was the competitive advantage of the united states? in the 1790s demand for cotton exploded when did the same time production diminished because of the revolution in haiti. the united states -- the united states was the one territory in the world in which plentiful labor existed. in the area's work cotton is
grown. it is forcefully removed and workers were forcefully moved in. they need one million of the more forceful in moved in. they descended on the north american countries. planters could then, of nature and the organization of work as they wish. such a rapid increase in land, infected anywhere else in the world. when the british try to increase cotton production for export in india which also began to control in the 1820s they largely failed and the project. production in other parts of the world such as the west indies and brazil and the ottoman empire. not european factory and is and statesmen had a preference or that cotton could not be secured from this part of the world but
they lack that this point administrative, legal and military infrastructure capacity. to the degree that they required in the face of the powerful social and political structure such as the ottoman empire. and when the british economist john danson considered in 1857 the connection between american slavery and the british manufacturer he concluded, quote, is not and has never been any considerable source of supply for cotton which was not exclusively maintained by slave labor. another important argument of the books is states played an exceedingly important vote in the development of cotton and capital. it has become fashionable in the past few years to see state
intervention and capital. and more states, the less capitalism so the argument runs. from a long historical perspective, this is plainly wrong and just the opposite is the case. states have played an enormously important role in the development of capitalism and especially in the government of industrial capitalism, something i will not be able to talk about so much but i would be happy to talk about it more in the q&a. states protected industries, unwanted imports, the textile industry in the united states, state and a great legal system, states have had mobilized workers, they have conquered markets and infrastructure and supported industries in many different ways. a map of stronger states and states that experienced early industrialization is nearly
identical. only think of great britain itself the first industrialized nation. the mechanize cotton production which was a powerful state in the eighteenth century, in a continuous state of warfare necessitating high levels of taxation and got deeply involved in the affairs of its subjects and was there and win not democratic. the state governor a huge empire. created barriers to the imports of textiles, forbade the export of its new cotton manufacturing machines and disallowed the emigration of its skilled and workers. it is not so much the owners of capital but the powers of state. they created the system with support of states that had become stronger as a result of the evermore productive economy
as it was created. a relationship that eventually allowed workers who played a more important role in these states to improve their wages. and in the 21st century for different set of reasons. many arguments and many more embedded within the narrative that empire of cotton tells. a huge range of places around the globe or nearly everywhere and takes you through many centuries to explore how the present world came about. along the way you will be meeting workers and cotton mills and new york merchants, families hiring slave overseers for plantations in the american south, japanese bureaucrats with the colonial cotton growing complex in korea, west african
farmers struggling to retain control over their crops, struggling between brazilian slave owners and brazilian industrialists with tariff regime sand egyptian industrialists trying to build a national cotton industry under the conditions of colonialism. i want to come to an end. in many ways the history of cotton is a sobering history. at tale of millions of people being shipped across the atlantic to total on slave plantations. detail of peasants in india, and central asia seeing the economy destroyed by the activities of colonial officials and western capital and owners. is a tale of unbelievable violence descending on the cotton workers of mexico or georgia and the united states. it is a tale of tens of thousands of indian, brazilian and egyptian peasants starving to death because the cotton they
grew could not pay for the food they always needed. it is the tale of women working under often horrible conditions and against their own wills, and from lancashire and so on. and private and government repression working on workers who chose the struggle for improved working conditions and wages. millions of lives were spent serving the interests of those who gained profit, power and reputation from the empire of cotton. i want to end on a more hopeful note. if you want to draw lessons from the history of the empire of caen in the global history of capitalism we can and we should. we can learn for example that the shape of global networks in the past just like today was not only dependent on the interests and winds of capital loners and state bureaucrats.
instead the individual actions of peasants, workers, but decisive difference in the shape of the empire of cotton. of the refusal of cultivators to engage in wage contagion had a significant impact on the shape of five areas for global, and economy. as we have seen the shape of the global, depending very much on the activities of states, states that today, in much of the world have become subject of democratic politics. if you want to draw a lesson, there is that the shape of global networks like everything else is not a fact of nature. and human negotiation. many narratives, and the effect of dividing the words people by searching for essentials differences. difference is that almost
present as a fact of nature. and a tendency to essentially -- particular groups of people within global capitalism, to the center of the periphery. if history is more complicated, only 150 years ago, it would have been unimaginable to british colonial administrators in the city of calcutta or texas cotton farmers, manufacturers, and one day china would dominate the growing spinning, weaving and manufacturing of cotton. and even less that india would be an major presence on markets. and the possibilities that that little island off the continent of europe that eventually turned its remaining, in factories and to museums that might or might not entertain workers on one of these dreadful rainy weekends
would have been a only imaginable as a nightmare. thank you. [applause] >> okay, everybody. i am assistant for the health center. we're going to have a q&a right now but we don't have a mobile microphone. we have microphones over there and the reason i'm talking about microphones is it is being recorded and we want to capture your lovely voices and lovely questions so if you do have one if you could make your way to the front and we will take one of these microphones out of a stand or you and ask from here as well and feel free to ask questions.
>> thank you. justin jackson act and why you. one of the things i am looking forward to reading, one of the things i really like about the book is the concept of war capitalism that you are trying to advance and yet the -- discussing the relationship between war and colonialism and empire which i wonder is a synonym for the work that war does. in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries looking at that phenomena in. i wonder if the book sets us up for thinking about war and capitalism in the 20th century. and political scientists talked about the relationship between work and capitalism in a very different world historical period than you are looking for.
the book helps as conceptually to think in new ways about war and capital in the 20th century. >> very complicated questions. the short answer is the book does not address specifically the issue of capitalism in the 20th century. doesn't talk about the relationship between war and capitalism in the eighteenth or nineteenth century because the idea of capitalism does not rest on the idea of war between states. the idea of war capitalism is basically the wording emerged because it was clear that there was a very important moment in the history of capitalism that is previous to the industrial revolution and the emergence of industrial capitalism and in some way the foundation of that later history and historians
call that moment in the history of capitalism merchant capitalism and other such things. it is fine with me except it struck me after writing the history, it struck me that this doesn't capture the essence of what was really happening in this particular moment and what was happening at the moment was an enormous degree of violence that descended upon many people which seemed so unlike the workings of capitalism describe in economics textbooks as i mentioned earlier. war capitalism is meant to describe the moment in which slavery appropriation of the lands, at the center of the
expansion of european capitalism and wars coming to that as well but they are not the central element, i see it much more as emphasis on capitalism in this particular moment and all so an emphasis that this is of moment in the history of capitalism, not worried about that easily into the modern era but obviously this is not something we have a moment of war capitalism and industrial capitalism, from one moment to the next, that is not my argument. i do it in much greater detail
in the book. the transition on the previous -- intensifying because it put so much pressure especially on slave labor in the united states but at the same time something new emerges and new ways of mobilizing labor on the countryside without enslaving the worker begins to emerge at this particular moment and for example slavery becomes -- has no significance to the empire of cotton after the 1860s. what this allows me to do is not just to argue for the importance of the issue of capitalism but allows me to explain why slavery is not important anymore in the
history of capitalism even though i am perfectly aware there are lots of enslaved workers in the world today but not at the center of the global economy and that is a huge difference from 1840 to 1850. >> thank you. terrific. i share the overall project of the history of capitalism but i have a question about the place of cotton with in that history and it seems you referred to in in two different ways in your talk. you use it as a general symbol of capitalism and you did that for a lot of the talk. i don't find that convincing. wind i think about markets and so forth, local markets, the
main exchanges, is food. when i think of the early capitalist world's systems, montalban so forth, cotton is not so important. i think of the rise of england even in the hy point of cotton when you think about a country like a united states is not clear that cohen is the leading, is the most important commodity. usually people say it land and slaves of the most important commodity. they are not there right but they are not the same as cotton sold -- the part of your talk that i really found very interesting and very convincing was the specificity of cotton and when you related it to the relationship between local
elites that presuppose markets, long market developments and so on and europe, the ability to at organize at a distance which is what happens, the great essay on the crisis of the 17th century, a crisis going on for several centuries, that is resolved by the rise of america, the colonization of america. that i found convincing. that is not the same as using cotton as a symbol for capitalism throughout 5,000 years. >> good question very big one. the book encourages these questions but let me just say i don't think capitalism has a 5,000 year history. capitalism's history is somewhat shorter, let's say approximately
500 years and i totally agree with you. this is not the only thing there is in the history of capitalism. there are many other things and in particular if you look at, if you look at, the later period the 20th century, significantly -- i don't think it is at the core of modern capitalism in the 21st century. >> i agree with you but still it is striking how central cohen is in a long moment in that history of capitalism and in some ways the most important if i was forced to identify one really crucial moment in the history of
capitalism, the turning point is the industrial revolution. when you suddenly invent new ways of manufacturing fingers. and wearing much better textiles because of it but at this moment, cotton is clearly central and not just in the united kingdom but in france, italy and mexico, or elsewhere. that is of particular importance. when it comes to the united states, a lot of money was made in atlanta at an the slave trade. the value of the land and slaves
was directly immediately related to the expansion of cotton agriculture, the value of slaves for example would have been much much lower. if you look, i don't think anybody really knows if you look at the american economy in the nineteenth century, really calculated the precise percentage of the cotton growing industry in the american south in the national economy but i have seen estimates of 20% of total economic activity in the united states as related to the growing of cotton but if you look at the trade of the united states to the 1860s the majority of exports from the united states was caught in. united states mattered to the global economy. that is how the united states came to play an important role.
this was literally entirely on the backs. >> i had the pleasure of reading the book. i don't want to give too much away in my questions and i have lots of them and i have tremendous respect and admiration for the work but one of the central issues you are trying to deal with. it is a great divergence. you preview the argument and introduced a little bit in the talk but there are certain kinds of state, that europeans had and other political structures did not have in other regions of the global. it made me wonder a little bit. i you playing fair that kind of other political formations are incapable of the same violence european states are capable or
perpetuate to create cotton capitalism but also because you have so much emphasis on the active and violent state in creating this world i am left wondering what you think about liberalism? does it matter at all? is it an ideological cover for a few people that really has very little historical significance if you want to look at existing capitalism as it develops. i was reviewing a book recently that was discussing postcolonial movements in some of the region's you talk about namely egypt and india. this book was talking about how in the beginning of the 20th century as anti colonial radicals are debating what a postcolonial world would like they are thinking about
liberalism, capitalism and imperialism, together. so the book i was reviewing was focusing more on rejecting colonized status and rejecting liberalism and would it mean rejecting capitalism or could you keep these elements in a post colonial world? would you want to? if the question was to sharpen that a little bit and say after the colonization as the economies continue to exhibit, in as part of the future of their economy to you find actors questioning cotton as a commodity in general or the way in which it is organization and distribution are structured in any kind of meaningful way? very important component of the postcolonial moment we haven't paid enough attention to.
>> good questions. let's start with the anti colonial movement and the postcolonial movement. superbly important topic that we often have, not really focusing on the history of capitalism because we are so obsessed with the ideas of the corps, periphery and the underdeveloped, we often have the history of capitalist entrepreneurs and the history of capitalism within the global south and this comes to haunt us now because if you look today at the most dynamic capitalist places are what was called the third world so is it is an interesting history of capitalism and industrialists out there, and egypt and nigeria and elsewhere that we need to take a greater account of.
the book tries to do some of the that. what strikes me as important is clearly the conversations on, 9 very important. in india and egypt and other parts of the world's. and the veneer of gandhi like leaving the industrial world behind and spinning in the home and leaving under the tree but the people who were quite instrumental in the struggle for independence in india where the boners which inclose context with gandhi himself and what
actually happens with independence is indian cotton production skyrockets, industrialization especially in the cotton industry expands significantly. interestingly enough by and large i think the colonial mechanisms developed in the 19th century that transformed the country to make it more conducive to producing cotton in large quantities to be shipped to factories in a way they become radicalized. this is very visible in the soviet union. the soviet union is anti capitalist project but in some ways if you look at the cotton industry which might be a narrow perspective but in some ways the imperial project in central asia
becomes radicalized and quite violent. perhaps even more violent. there was a beautiful story in a german archive, germany had a few economy is in africa but in 1914 they lost them but they used these economies to produce and for german industry but these experts new how to do these kinds of things. there was no colonial empire anymore but the soviet union in the 1920s they realize these people in berlin know how to do this. they actually consult with them. the great soviet russian cotton soviet context, colonial officials in berlin and ask for advice about agriculture in central asia. there is a clear ruling and sometimes obviously the national
liberation project went along with an anti capitalist project, but i see enormous continuity between the two and sometimes radicalization of this project. this goes against the grain as we have seen it. maybe that is slightly over doing it but still there is continuity and the question of moving earlier into the 18th or 19th century about liberalism and look, this is again a very important project, very important to think about this question. the creation of a capitalist society was that utopian project and very much was driven and there were important thinkers
who very much emphasized the embrace of markets, contracts, the embrace of the rule of law, wage labor these were ways to increase human freedom. in many ways it did increase human freedom. the fuel dependencies that characterized european countries were done away with, the arbitrary rule of the board over his hasn'ts came to an end and so it's human freedom clearly expanded. this is an important part of that history of capitalism but at the same time, if you look at capitalism inaction you see this ideological project goes along
with what i described as an enormous degree of violence descending upon tens of millions, hundreds of millions of over the world, the increase in human freedom and one interesting question, to write a real history of capitalism out of our conceptual thinking. to make zach possible, as a historian going to the archives, it strikes me as a disjunction, and the actual real history of capitalism. >> your book is recently reviewed in the wall street journal, was complimentary of the book and being the wall
street journal, at the end had to take issue, with capitalism as a capital c from your book and his argument i am not making a straw man out of it slavery, procreation, violence these are all regrettable things, none of them took place in isolation for political context, personal graft. and we can't lay any of these and the reviewer finished with the quip, capitalism hasn't been tried and failed. i see echoes of this basic form of argument all the time from chicago school of economics, reason magazine and that type of thing and may have anticipated in your last answer. wondered if you could clarify for me the logic of that argument, how your book aims to
go beyond it or transcend it through historical research. >> you summarized. >> negative affects don't follow from capitalism alone but only capitalism in conjunction with government interference and we have no way of isolating the effects of capitalism from the effect of government interference. >> that is an interesting argument. you encounter that frequently. that doesn't make it right, but it is still very much an argument that is out there. end again, it relates to my previous comments, the kind of capitalism you find describe in economics textbooks or the kind
of capitalism envisioned by some enlightenment thinkers is a utopian project and it is beautiful, very attractive. we all going to get richer and freer. of beautiful idea and i don't think anybody in the room would object to that. however it is not an accurate description of the unfolding of the history of capitalism in the past 500 years. and so i think i said at the beginning we don't know, what has been some other history of capitalism that would have been would have not had a history of
slavery or colonialism or warfare and all of that. may be it is possible, but as the historian i can only give the historical record is very different. the historical record is so persistently different, that makes me think that maybe there's something wrong. but the ideas are beautiful. >> how if at all were you influenced by erik williams's book capitalism and slavery? >> erik williams is very important to my argument, most
of you probably know, capitalism and slavery, in which he argued the expansion of slave labor in the caribbean was important to the history of british industrialization. and that is a story that is very much the story that i am telling as well. the particulars of how we tell the story is a little different. williams focuses very much on the slave trade being reinvested into the manufacturing and economic historians have looked at that very closely and the capital investment in manufacturing borrows directly from the slave trade was quite minor so cannot really explain the industrial revolution.
i agree with that. that is not the persuasive part of erik williams. slavery matters for other reasons that i described earlier in great detail. he is very very important. that tells a lot about the distribution of interpreting the words, in the 1940s, african caribbean it was not position from which many people would listen to you and his work has largely become prominent. students reach it again but for a long time that has not been the case and again, this links to your question about liberalism and a utopian
character of capitalism. to tell the history of capitalism a very select group very small slice of humanity and found an audience in doing so. many african-american intellectuals, many intellectuals in the global south in gondi among them the arguments they are making in it. they are not the ones who interpret capitalism for it. >> a rich discussion. i am eager to read the book. questions that have been asked are intriguing.
i want to follow up on scenes that others have already mentioned so your contact as capitalism and the military agricultural cotton complex. all of this sounds to my ear is, evokes a language of primitive accumulation and accumulation by dispossession as the sort of essential, not only accumulation of capital making possible a more developed system of capitalism in the early phases but possibly us still on going development. i am just curious about your title that you used the word empire in your title. am i wrong, not the word capitalism or is that in the subtitle? could you say a little bit more about what the force of that
term empire is here? i don't know, a great sound and is evocative but i wonder if it has also some determinate conceptual place in your argument. that would be one point. if i could raise another related point i was really struck by two other things you said that i am still trying to to digest. one is this idea of the tabula rasa you are describing something like 90, don't do this in our backyard we will get people upset. do it sort of far away where you don't have social organizations basically. i don't know anything about anatoly but you gave me the
impression of something happening for social organization among the peasantry there. that would have made things very messy and the tabula rasa idea is extremely interesting to me. i am eager to hear more about it but i am putting it together with your other point about cotton being of a sort of entry into and the world markets or manufacturing. at each point countries or regions or places that are trying to get in by that route so partly i am also trying to understand if there is small scale cotton cultivation that
doesn't involve this resistance problem or whether -- is the plantation system and that did evoke collectivism in the soviet union formulating something where you just completely tear up whatever forms of social organization people already have end engineer it. that is incoherent. >> there's a lot to be said about this and this is the second half of the book so i cannot possibly summarize it but i try to explain. in the moment the european textile industry in the a lot of raw material and ideally falling prices to sell these goods in expanding markets. the problem was that stuff
doesn't grow in europe. french revolutionaries tried to grow it in france to reinvent the operating colluding agriculture and a fundamental way so it didn't grow in europe. it had to come from somewhere else. it had the advantage from coming from somewhere else, the european countryside has definite social relations and the president would rebel. it came from the outside. where it came from my don't think any manufacturing cared very much and the early, and manufacturers were opposed to slavery. they would have preferred to have cotton grown by free labor than slave labor but if a problem is there were millions of farmers who drew -- they grew it for their own domestic production and cotton had
definite place in the total distribution of crops food crops, that if they needed to have food, but they grew caught in for producing and exchanging them but they were very reluctant to give that up just to produce external markets and be at the mercy of the market. they had a preference of producing enough that they and their families could survive. you would have had disrupted and eventually it will be disrupted in the later part of the nineteenth century but in the 18th-century and your beeper of the nineteenth century european colonial states did not have the capacity yet or european merchants because they encountered a political structure is that -- they have a
problem bringing european capitalism to the countryside, no infrastructure, the europeans were on the outside in africa and asia the only way was to talk to a merchant. and production in the countryside itself. i could tell in great detail how the british tried to make that happen and fails. i described in the book that they failed because they cannot get the labor to do this. the importance of the americas, and slave labor because he did they can reinvent because they have the power to do so with the social structure of north america and the caribbean and so on. so that is a short answer to a complicated question.
i didn't speak much about the transition. in the later half of the nineteenth century the power of european states in the global countryside increases tremendously and partly because of the resources accumulated and contract law the railroads that come into the global countryside. not any longer and slaved but labor can be new in different ways and the expansion of agriculture, passing the abolition of slavery continues even though in 1850 and 1860 before the american civil war many factory owners in europe were convinced if slavery is done away with the industry would also be done away with but that has not happened. a lot of it, the changing character of european capitalism. the title of the book, and
higher, i don't think there is much conceptual currency in using the term except to suggest that it leads to many different parts of the world's. the subtitle, global history of the united states, the title, the origins of global capital. a different market. talking about capitalism. >> if we had one last question we would have time for a brief final question. would you like to come up? >> this might be a good last question because it is slightly cheeky. suppose i'd probe of a little bit at the capitalism/con un nexus' along 2 dimensions, smaller and parter. one of the most important
organizational forms of capitalism in the use of wage labor. when i was a kid, i went to see the mill which is part of the cotton industry which is the thesis but high was trotted off to see the foundry where they started mounting coke in the early eighteenth century. the factory didn't depend on the cotton industry. we would have gone that in any case. coming at the same issue, suppose there is production centered to capitalism transforming inputing to outputs, one part of the theory of production is the question of whether there is the basic commodities that enters into the production of any thing and need to produce everything you actually produced. and a candidate for basic commodity in the 20th century normal the oil gets nominated engines and nineteenth century
normally cold gets nominated. to push the bite out of it, if you took iron and steel out of the input output matrix in the nineteenth century would have a helluva time keeping the economy afloat. if i put my tongue in my cheek we would have gotten capitalism in any case. >> that relates to the debates that we have. there are other industries, the issue of capitalism and if you just mentioned the british economy by the 1830s increasing investments in the iron ministry and steel industry, mining and all of that becomes very important but at the moment of the industrial revolution i want to maintain that cotton is at the center of this move.
there were large production units, large workshops, but the fact as we know it has a way of organizing human production, clearly a regard of the expansion of the cotton industry, not just in the u.k. but the united states, egypt, india and other parts of the world's. is it possible to imagine the history of capitalism without cotton? maybe, maybe but the real history of capitalism very central to that history and i think that is not just a coincidence. not just the something happens that is cotton, but there is a
systemic reason for that some of which i tried to explain in my previous answer that is connected to america and south asia and this is not a flourish, that we have to read about and talked about that is exciting all that global connectedness. this is at the core of its, the essence of it. i think, in does a great deal. >> very hard to be part. [applause]
>> thank you for attending. >> thank you. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> is there a nonfiction author or boat you would like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. tweet us at booktv or paste on our wall facebook.com/booktv. >> here's a look at some books being published this week. in dead weight, erik larsen recounts the sinking of the lusitania by a german u-boat's in 1915 and how the tragedy affected american public opinion on entering world