Cotton textile industry History
Publisher: European University Institute
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2007/30
This paper arises from the project on "Cotton textiles as a global industry, 1200-1800", carried out at the LSE and as part of the Global Economic History Network. The paper revisits and situates the historiography of Ottoman cotton textiles within current debates concerning the emergence of a world economy through the lens of the first global industry, cotton textiles. The period before mechanization saw the expansion of cotton textiles as a commodity partly as a response to European demand and partly as a result of rising world population and its demand for cheaper, more comfortable clothing. The Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman cotton textiles industry is conceptualized as an intermediate space, between Asia and Europe, and the paper, after mapping the cultivation, production and marketing of cotton, focuses in its third part on the transmission of technical knowledge. The finishing of cotton cloth for a long time was one of the weakest points in the history of European technical knowledge (which should be differentiated from science). The cases of knowledge transfer and its dissemination from Asia westwards discussed in the paper force us to rethink teleological narratives of European superiority and economic growth, as well as recognize the capabilities but also limitations of industries such as the Ottoman one in comparison and in connection with other cotton textile industries. The paper contributes to a global economic history of cotton textiles and to polycentric narratives of development within the rising field of Global History.