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Big cotton by Stephen Yafa
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Big cotton (2005)

by Stephen Yafa

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My wife, who usually doesn’t read non-fiction, read this book and enjoyed and recommended it. I wear cotton every day. Almost every piece of clothing I own is cotton, because cotton is comfortable. Learning the history of this versatile fiber was interesting. This book is primarily about the affects of cotton on society, from the industrial revolution to organic farming to the growth of Levi Strauss and Gap to the origin of the Blues. The book is well written, and while it never drags, it does seem to go on for a long time. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it as much as reading a novel, but it is enlightening and much more digestible than many of the non-fiction books I have read. I would recommend this to anyone that thinks it looks interesting, because if you have that bent toward learning about things, this will be a satisfying read. ( )
  ASBiskey | Nov 23, 2011 |
Excellent review of the impact of mechanized cotton manufacturing to the development of England & the United States. Chapter on Denim is the best. Recommended for family historians researching the American South. ( )
  madlibn | Aug 12, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Yafaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Resnick, NancyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
A sorry farmer on a sorry farm is a sorry spectacle. A good farmer on poor land and a poor farmer on good land are purty well balanced, and can scratch along if the seasons hit; but I reckon a smart and diligent man with food hands to back him is about as secure against the shiftin' perils of this life as anybody can be.

-- Bill Arp, The Uncivil War to Date, 1903
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To Bonnie
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The town of Lowell, Massachusetts was a worn and shabby as an old sweater by the 1950s, when I was growing up in it. (Preface)
For a scrawny, gangling plant that produces hairs about as insubstantial as milkweed, cotton has exerted a mighty hold on human events since it was first domesticated about 5,500 years ago in Asia, Africa, and South America. (Introduction)
'They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670033677, Hardcover)

Cotton has touched off wars and revolutions, inspired astonishing inventions, laid waste to entire ecosystems, and enslaved untold millions of people. Alexander the Great carried cotton cloth on his back from India to Europe. Starting from the late eighteenth century, the fiber transformed creaky rural England into the greatest industrial power on earth. Today, cotton is, if anything, more preeminent than ever and at the center of raging global controversies. Now Stephen Yafa delves deep into the past to tell the amazing story of this humble, infinitely adaptable fiber that has—again and again—reinvented our world.

Domesticated simultaneously in Peru and Pakistan some 5,500 years ago, later a prime motive for the colonization of the New World, as Yafa shows, cotton’s most profound impact came after the Industrial Revolution. By the mid-nineteenth century, the vast plantations of the antebellum South, the grim mill towns of New England, and the soot-spewing factories of the English Midlands were knit together in a global system of exploitation and enslavement—all of it based on cotton. When Marx and Engels composed The Communist Manifesto, they chose cotton manufacturing as the prime symbol of capitalism run amok. Beautifully researched and written, Big Cotton traces the cultural, economic, and social history of the "world’s friendliest" fiber from the kingdoms of Mesopotamia to the Gap.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:44 -0400)

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A history of cotton's impact on the world describes how the fiber has been at the center of conflict and controversy, rendering nations into industrial powers.

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