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WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZE
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
Winner of the Alfred and Fay Chandler Book Award
The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Sven Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today.
In a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful politicians recast the world’s most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to make and remake global capitalism. The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2014: How important is cotton? For starters, there’s a good chance that you’re wearing it right now. That’s true no matter where you live in the world. Cotton is everywhere, has been for a long time, and was the dominant commodity during the early years of our country. It fostered “war capitalism” among European nations. It helped launch the industrial revolution in England. It drove slavery. The story of cotton is the story of modern capitalism, and in Empire of Cotton, author Sven Beckert shows how a worldwide crop that came in multiple forms and was cultivated and produced in many different ways came to be dominated by the late coming Europeans, and later Americans, often through violent means, reshaping both the world economy and the world itself—for better or worse—along the way. – Chris Schluep
Sven Beckert is the Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University. Holding a PhD from Columbia University, he has written widely on the economic, social, and political history of capitalism. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including from Harvard Business School, the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. He was also a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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