#colonial history
dresshistorynerd · 6 months
How did cotton win over linen anyway?
In short, colonialism, slavery and the industrial revolution. In length:
Cotton doesn't grow in Europe so before the Modern Era, cotton was rare and used in small quantities for specific purposes (lining doublets for example). The thing with cotton is, that's it can be printed with dye very easily. The colors are bright and they don't fade easily. With wool and silk fabrics, which were the more traditional fabrics for outer wear in Europe (silk for upper classes of course), patterns usually needed to be embroidered or woven to the cloth to last, which was very expensive. Wool is extremely hard to print to anything detailed that would stay even with modern technology. Silk can be printed easily today with screen printing, but before late 18th century the technique wasn't known in western world (it was invented in China a millenium ago) and the available methods didn't yeld good results.
So when in the late 17th century European trading companies were establishing trading posts in India, a huge producer of cotton fabrics, suddenly cotton was much more available in Europe. Indian calico cotton, which was sturdy and cheap and was painted or printed with colorful and intricate floral patters, chintz, especially caught on and became very fashionable. The popular Orientalism of the time also contributed to it becoming fasionable, chintz was seen as "exotic" and therefore appealing.
Tumblr media
Here's a typical calico jacket from late 18th century. The ones in European markets often had white background, but red background was also fairly common.
The problem with this was that this was not great for the business of the European fabric producers, especially silk producers in France and wool producers in England, who before were dominating the European textile market and didn't like that they now had competition. So European countries imposed trade restrictions for Indian cotton, England banning cotton almost fully in 1721. Since the introduction of Indian cottons, there had been attempts to recreate it in Europe with little success. They didn't have nearly advanced enough fabric printing and cotton weaving techniques to match the level of Indian calico. Cotton trade with India didn't end though. The European trading companies would export Indian cottons to West African market to fund the trans-Atlantic slave trade that was growing quickly. European cottons were also imported to Africa. At first they didn't have great demand as they were so lacking compared to Indian cotton, but by the mid 1700s quality of English cotton had improved enough to be competitive.
Inventions in industrial textile machinery, specifically spinning jenny in 1780s and water frame in 1770s, would finally give England the advantages they needed to conquer the cotton market. These inventions allowed producing very cheap but good quality cotton and fabric printing, which would finally produce decent imitations of Indian calico in large quantities. Around the same time in mid 1700s, The East Indian Company had taken over Bengal and soon following most of the Indian sub-continent, effectively putting it under British colonial rule (but with a corporate rule dystopian twist). So when industrialized English cotton took over the market, The East India Company would suppress Indian textile industry to utilize Indian raw cotton production for English textile industry and then import cotton textiles back to India. In 1750s India's exports were mainly fine cotton and silk, but during the next century Indian export would become mostly raw materials. They effectively de-industrialized India to industrialize England further.
India, most notably Bengal area, had been an international textile hub for millennia, producing the finest cottons and silks with extremely advance techniques. Loosing cotton textile industry devastated Indian local economies and eradicated many traditional textile craft skills. Perhaps the most glaring example is that of Dhaka muslin. Named after the city in Bengal it was produced in, it was extremely fine and thin cotton requiring very complicated and time consuming spinning process, painstakingly meticulous hand-weaving process and a very specific breed of cotton. It was basically transparent as seen depicted in this Mughal painting from early 17th century.
Tumblr media
It was used by e.g. the ancient Greeks, Mughal emperors and, while the methods and it's production was systematically being destroyed by the British to squash competition, it became super fashionable in Europe. It was extremely expensive, even more so than silk, which is probably why it became so popular among the rich. In 1780s Marie Antoinette famously and scandalously wore chemise a la reine made from multiple layers of Dhaka muslin. In 1790s, when the empire silhouette took over, it became even more popular, continuing to the very early 1800s, till Dhaka muslin production fully collapsed and the knowledge and skill to produce it were lost. But earlier this year, after years lasting research to revive the Dhaka muslin funded by Bangladeshi government, they actually recreated it after finding the right right cotton plant and gathering spinners and weavers skilled in traditional craft to train with it. (It's super cool and I'm making a whole post about it (it has been in the making for months now) so I won't extend this post more.)
Tumblr media Tumblr media
Marie Antoinette in the famous painting with wearing Dhaka muslin in 1783, and empress Joséphine Bonaparte in 1801 also wearing Dhaka muslin.
While the trans-Atlantic slave trade was partly funded by the cotton trade and industrial English cotton, the slave trade would also be used to bolster the emerging English cotton industry by forcing African slaves to work in the cotton plantations of Southern US. This produced even more (and cheaper (again slave labor)) raw material, which allowed the quick upward scaling of the cotton factories in Britain. Cotton was what really kicked off the industrial revolution, and it started in England, because they colonized their biggest competitor India and therefore were able to take hold of the whole cotton market and fund rapid industrialization.
Eventually the availability of cotton, increase in ready-made clothing and the luxurious reputation of cotton lead to cotton underwear replacing linen underwear (and eventually sheets) (the far superior option for the reasons I talked about here) in early Victorian Era. Before Victorian era underwear was very practical, just simple rectangles and triangles sewn together. It was just meant to protect the outer clothing and the skin, and it wasn't seen anyway, so why put the relatively scarce resources into making it pretty? Well, by the mid 1800s England was basically fully industrialized and resource were not scarce anymore. Middle class was increasing during the Victorian Era and, after the hard won battles of the workers movement, the conditions of workers was improving a bit. That combined with decrease in prices of clothing, most people were able to partake in fashion. This of course led to the upper classes finding new ways to separate themselves from lower classes. One of these things was getting fancy underwear. Fine cotton kept the fancy reputation it had gained first as an exotic new commodity in late 17th century and then in Regency Era as the extremely expensive fabric of queens and empresses. Cotton also is softer than linen, and therefore was seen as more luxurious against skin. So cotton shifts became the fancier shifts. At the same time cotton drawers were becoming common additional underwear for women.
It wouldn't stay as an upper class thing, because as said cotton was cheap and available. Ready-made clothing also helped spread the fancier cotton underwear, as then you could buy fairly cheaply pretty underwear and you didn't even have to put extra effort into it's decoration. At the same time cotton industry was massive and powerful and very much eager to promote cotton underwear as it would make a very steady and long lasting demand for cotton.
In conclusion, cotton has a dark and bloody history and it didn't become the standard underwear fabric for very good reasons.
Here's couple of excellent sources regarding the history of cotton industry:
The European Response to Indian Cottons, Prasannan Parthasarathi
2K notes · View notes
newhistorybooks · 9 months
Tumblr media
"There is nothing else quite like this book at present. Based on six early photographers' work in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, it combines environmental history, settler colonial studies, and imperial history to explain how the image of a vast, empty wilderness, occluding Indigenous occupation and usage, was generated to create a sense of settler achievement and ownership. Essential reading for those interested in any of these fields of study."
547 notes · View notes
enbycrip · 3 months
Scottish people were absolutely *both* victims of Empire *and* willing participants in the oppression of it.
One of the things I keep trying to do as a white Scot is encourage other white Scots to internalise both sides of this and stop blaming *all* the oppressions perpetrated by the Empire on the English.
It’s absolutely morally and politically necessary to be willing to acknowledge and make moral and economic reparations for the ways we as modern Scots benefit from past colonialist oppression. I’m very much for Scottish independence and I consider that an absolutely essential prerequisite for an independent Scottish state.
118 notes · View notes
ineffectualdemon · 3 months
My module notes:
- causes of famine:
Weather event
Authorities under prepared
78 notes · View notes
mysharona1987 · 6 months
Tumblr media
107 notes · View notes
nandomando · 1 month
Tumblr media
36 notes · View notes
karlton-margus · 7 months
You know a person's brain has malfunctioned when they say they hate white people or are racist to white people, but hold on to the white colonial mindset of the "binary man and woman only" and are transphobic to nonbinary people.
Like...you hate white people but you believe the same bullshit they believe in that destroyed your culture through colonization? You hate white people but you internalize white people's backwards "culture"? Lmao
135 notes · View notes
ebert1f · 2 months
Tumblr media
S.M.S Deutschland
27 notes · View notes
lotusinjadewell · 6 months
Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media
French colonial architecture in Hải Phòng, Vietnam.
42 notes · View notes
Tumblr media
Vicente Albán (Ecuadorian-born Spanish, 1725 - unknown) Inscribed is “Señora principal con su negra esclava,” “Lady with her female black slave,” 1783 Vicente Albán is noted for his idealized paintings of indigenous (Yumbo people) and Hispanic Criollos (people of Spanish descent born in the colonies). Exploring Colonial Hispanic-American culture, he was commissioned by José Celestino Mutis, who wanted to highlight the local society, flora and fruit.
- In August 1518, King Charles I authorized Spain to ship enslaved people directly from Africa to the Americas. The Spanish colonies in the Caribbean were among the last to abolish slavery. While the British abolished slavery by 1833, Spain abolished slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873. On the mainland of colonies, Spain ended African slavery in the eighteenth century. - There are no words to describe the horrors inflicted on the indigenous populations. In Cuba, the native population was completely annihilated. They either died enslaved in the mines, were hunted and killed by the Spanish in the mountains, or the natives themselves jumped off the cliff, knowing that it would be a preferable fate than being caught by a Spanish soldier. In 1634, the Spanish killed 50,000 Arawaks and captured their chief Hatuey. Before burning him alive, a Christian priest urged him to accept Jesus so his soul might go to heaven rather than hell. Hatuey replied, if heaven was where Christians went, he would rather go to hell. - Today, Pope Francis apologized for the church’s role in running boarding schools where Indigenous students faced abuses, ‘I humbly beg forgiveness,’ Francis tells Canada’s Indigenous people. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples.” -Pope Francis
62 notes · View notes
vavuska · 3 months
Fake news here:
Barbados recently (30th november 2021) became a republic within the commonwealth instead of just an independent state. Since then Barbados has looked into ways of doing right to the people that were enslaved back in the colonial ages. Part of this is building museums about the atrocities, another part is attempting to get people to pay back reparations for their ancestors roles in slavery.
They've not pushed to get reparations previously, as the British monarch was still their head of state. With that no longer being the case, the Barbados PM Mia Mottley is calling for 1 specific family to pay reparations. Drax Hall was the largest slave plantation in Barbados and the only one still in the hands of the family of the original slavers. Its current owner is Richard Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset. This is who they're asking to pay these reparations. They want him to give the land back so they can build on it, and otherwise there's talk of them sueing for money instead.
The chairman of Barbados's national commission on reparations (David Comissiong) has talked about how other families might be asked to pay reparations too. In particular he mentioned the British royal family/ other relative of Queen Elizabeth, none of which is happening now
The only reason Cumberbatch is involved is the Telegraph used his name to ask whether he was involved so they could get clicks. Cumberbatch or his family, aren't involved in the slightest. Other newspapers than ran with this clickbait and made it much larger. Here is the only thing that's said about Cumberbatch
When asked if descendants of the Cumberbatch estate would be pursued, Mr Comissiong said: “This is at the earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light.”
They are not actually targetting him, Barbados in general is just making an effort to reclaim land that was used as slave plantations and use it (or the funds if they come to an agreement) to fund infrastructure.
The article linked here is just fully clickbait without doing much themselves, and intentionally using charged words like "reparations" to get clicks.
Tumblr media
26 notes · View notes
cjbolan · 3 months
Tumblr media Tumblr media
Snippets of my Colonial Williamsburg trip! This dress gave major Beauty and the Beast vibes. Check out more from the trip on my Instagram.
22 notes · View notes
newhistorybooks · 1 month
Tumblr media
“This outstanding account of how colonization, demonology, martyrology, and hagiography became intertwined in New France is both fascinating and instructive, providing a textured view of the beliefs and life conditions of Europeans and Indigenous people. In skilfully presenting arresting or amusing material without fanfare, Mairi Cowan takes readers on an emotional as well as an intellectual journey. Most historians cannot achieve this. The Possession of Barbe Hallay is a refreshing and engaging read.”
11 notes · View notes
Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media Tumblr media
161 notes · View notes
ineffectualdemon · 5 months
So I'm reading about the Spanish colonisation of South America for my module and it has been appropriately unflinching in its portrayal of the death and destruction it inflicted on the native populations
Like it does not pull punches and spells out the horror in enough detail that you can't hide from it
Which is good!
Anyway, we just had a brief recap of the timeline and structure of the Aztec state and of the Mexica People specifically
And it mentions briefly human sacrifice of captives "to appease their god"
And that got me thinking of not only the many many deaths that the Spanish caused in South and Central America but also the Spanish inquisition
And it got me thinking that you could word those events as "the Spanish ritually torturing and sacrificing captives to appease their god"
I'm just saying. It could and arguably should be worded like that
ETA: someone corrected me that the Aztecs were located in North America
I'm not really good at geography to begin with but also I was taught growing up that Mexico was in in Central America so idek about that
Blame my American public school education
Also the distinction between the Mexica people and the Aztecs were vague in the text I just read as it was just a quick recap
21 notes · View notes
timmurleyart · 5 months
Tumblr media
The old church on beacon hill. 🍁🍂🦃(mixed media on canvas)⛪️
14 notes · View notes