Posted by Douglas Gray on June 22, 2014
The history of making cotton fabric for cotton clothing has been mentioned in the annals of history for over 7,000 years. This includes a description by the Greek Historian Herodotus in 4500 BC about cotton fabric from India.
The first place where cotton was actually recorded to be spun into thread and used in the creation of a fabric is in Pakistan back in 3,000 BC. This occurred in the Indus River Valley. Reemits of cotton fabric dating back to this time were also discovered in caves in Central America. The famous Egyptian cotton fabric is also linked back to this time in history.
The expansion of the cotton fabric trade did not begin until Alexander the Great invaded India and found it there in the 325 BC. He noticed the cotton fabric was more comfortable than the wool cloths he had been wearing. Soon after that the Arabs and Indians began to trade including cotton fabric.
In the trade routes from the Middle East to Italy and Spain, cotton found it way there in the 1st century AD. With the Moor invasion of southern Europe, the Arabs brought with them the trade in cotton fabric in about 800 AD. This introduced cotton and the fabric that could be made from it to Europe on a large scale. The first real expansion of the textile industry came in about 1350 with the invention of the spinning wheel. This dramatically increased the amount cotton threads that were made available to create cotton fabric.
By the 1600’s cotton fabric had made it way to England. By the end of the century there was an established cotton industry in England that rivaled the one in India. In an attempt to protect the English businesses, the Calico Act was enacted in 1721. This was needed because the India cotton fabric was far less expensive. In the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1730’s, England began to use machinery to spin cotton thread and the modern textile industry began.
The next biggest advance in the cotton industry was the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793. This machine increased the speed of which the seeds of the cotton plant could be removed from the boll by a magnitude of 10. By making the American grown cotton that was free of seeds cheaper, the American cotton industry flourished until the American Civil war in the mid 1800’s. This is when India cotton again began to flourish in England.
After the Civil War in America, the ability for the southern states to produce cotton was limited by the lack of available manpower. In 1892 came the invasion of the boll weevil from Mexico that devastated the American cotton industry for more than 100 years.
The fall of the textile industry in England began with WWI and never recovered. Today China is the largest producer and importer of cotton and has the largest textile industry in the world. India now ranks second in production of raw cotton and second in the exports of textile products. America is the third largest producer of raw cotton but Turkey is the third largest exporter of textile goods.
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