Sven Beckert F'08
ACLS Fellowship Program 2008
The Empire of Cotton: A Global History
“The Empire of Cotton: A Global History” is the first comprehensive history of the nineteenth century’s most important commodity. Following cotton from the fields to the ships, from the merchant houses to the factories, from the looms to consumers, this project provides a fresh analysis of the factors that led to the spread of cotton production, and its impact on the lives of people in regions ranging from Mississippi to Bombay. It explores the unprecedented economic, social, and political links forged by cotton and investigates why the commodity’s history—and with it the history of capitalism—can only be understood by putting these global networks, identities, institutions, and processes at the center of the story.
Through one powerful example, this study tells the story of nineteenth-century globalization.