Nov 14, 2020 in History

Cotton Production

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Week 4

Speaking about the most important natural resource, the majority of people names oil or coal. These resources are the symbols of rapid progress and scientific discoveries. However, before the industrial revolution started, the situation was absolutely different. Such plant as cotton defined the appearance of the whole world and influenced all spheres of human life. Therefore, the history of cotton perfectly reflects the history of entire human civilization.

The earliest centers of cotton production consisted of East Africa, Central America (modern Mexico and Peru), and South Asia. Such variety of the cotton spread can be explained by the geographical position of these places and climate that was suitable for growing this plant. People were always forced to protect their bodies from extreme weather conditions. The earliest materials for cloth included woven wool or linen. However, the quality of cotton thread was higher than any alternative, and it resulted in the appearance of cotton production culture.

The process of making cloth from cotton was not easy and included complex and tedious processes of gathering seeds, forming strands, and weaving threads with the help of a special device. Considering the pre-industrial level of technological development, one should understand that all these processes took a lot of time and efforts. Thus, the cotton production was considered not the main occupation for a living but the side work that could bring some additional money. The limited number and quality of cloth resulted in a special status of cotton that was reflected in social and religious views of its producers. In some parts of the world, it even served as money.

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However, the beginning of the modern epoch brought dramatic changes to the cotton production. Firstly, the habitat for this plant significantly expanded. People in West Africa, Asia, and North America successfully adopted the new extraordinary plant and changed the balance of power on the cotton cloth market. Secondly, the principles of production changed from local to global. In the pre-modern era, producers were highly dependent on the closeness of sources of raw materials. However, the development of trade routes erased the geographic borders and opened new opportunities for producers. Finally, the scientific progress and appearance of new machines resulted in the mass cotton production making the process easier and much more effective.

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Despite the popularity of cotton throughout the world, Europe experienced difficulties with the adoption of new technology because it came from the Muslim world. In addition, the European Region did not have any sources of raw cotton. However, Italian producers managed to use the equipment for wool production and their access to the Mediterranean Sea to overcome these obstacles and successfully introduce cotton to Europe. For the short period of time, Italy became a center of cotton trade, but the USA with its use of slavery overtook Italians in terms of rates of production and product quality.

One can hardly overestimate the influence of cotton on the development of human civilization. It was one of the first materials that required a complex production technology and invention of special devices. In addition, cotton became a symbol of global trading and market. However, the history of this plant is not over, and cotton will surely continue to influence human lives.


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