How India Clothed the World

The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850


Cloth has always been the most global of all traded commodities. It is an illuminating example of the circulation of goods, skills, knowledge and capital across wide geographic spaces. South Asia has been central to the making of these global exchanges over time. This volume presents innovative research that explores the dynamic ways in which diverse textile production and trade regions generated the ’first globalization’. A series of experts connect this global commodity with the dramatic political and economic transformations that characterised the Indian Ocean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Collectively, the essays transform our understanding of the contribution of South Asian cloth to the making of the modern world economy.
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Biographical Note

Giorgio Riello, Ph.D. (2002) in History, University College London, is Associate Professor in Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick. He has published on early modern textiles, dress and fashion in Europe and Asia. Tirthankar Roy, Ph.D. (1989) in Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, is a Lecturer of Economic History at London School of Economics. He has published extensively on the economic and social history of modern and early modern South Asia, and has contributed to the textile history of the region in particular.

Review Quote

"There are few books that can equal [this book] in providing readers with an appreciation of the variety of interconnections between different regions of the world before the nineteenth century. Cloth, it clearly demonstrates, is an invaluable entry point into global economic history." – Douglas Haynes, Dartmouth College, in: H-Net " How India Clothed the World is an ambitious book which takes a comprehensive look at South Asian textiles from the minutiae of technology and procurement to the global movement of products and 'invisible cargoes'." – Anand V. Swamy, William College, in: Journal of Economic History "Until recently, the production and exchange of textiles were understood as purely economic activities in which production technology, weavers, merchants, companies, and markets played a prominent role. This volume, instead, invokes consumer choice, fashion, gender, social hierarchy, aesthetics, and the dissemination of knowledge as playing important roles in determining the consumption and production of textiles in both Asia and Europe." – Ghulam Nadri, Georgia State University, in: Economic History Review

Table of contents

List of Illustrations List of Maps List of Figures List of Tables Preface Introduction: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850, Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy I. REGIONS OF EXCHANGE: TEXTILES IN THE INDIAN OCEAN AND BEYOND 1. Southeast Asian Consumption of Indian and British Cotton Cloth, 1600-1850, Anthony Reid 2. Cloths of a New Fashion: Indian Ocean Networks of Exchange and Cloth Zones of Contact in Africa and India in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Pedro Machado 3. English versus Indian Cotton Textiles: The Impact of Imports on Cotton Textile Production in West Africa, Joseph Inikori 4. British Exports of Raw Cotton from India to China during the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, H. V. Bowen 5. The Resurgence of Intra-Asian Trade, 1800-1850 Kaoru Sugihara II. REGIONS OF PRODUCTION: TEXTILES IN SOUTH ASIA 6. The Textile Industry and the Economy of South India, 1500-1800, David Washbrook 7. Four Centuries of Decline? Understanding the Changing Structure of the South Indian Textile Industry, Ian Wendt 8. From Market-determined to Coercion-based: Textile Manufacturing in Eighteenth-Century Bengal, Om Prakash 9. The Political Economy of Textiles in Western India: Weavers, Merchants and the Transition to a Colonial Economy, Lakshmi Subrahmanian 10. Competition and Control in the Market for Textiles: The Weavers and the English East India Company in the Eighteenth Century, Bishnupriya Gupta III. REGIONS OF CHANGE: INDIAN TEXTILES AND EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT 11. The Indian Apprenticeship: The Trade of Indian Textiles and the Making of European Cottons, Giorgio Riello 12. The French Connection: Indian Cottons and their Early Modern Technology, George Bryan Souza 13. Fashioning Global Trade: Indian Textiles, Gender Meanings and European Consumers, 1500-1800, Beverly Lemire 14. Quality, Cotton and the Global Luxury Trade, Maxine Berg 15. Historical Issues of Deindustrialisation in Nineteenth-Century South India, Prasannan Parthasarathi Glossary Bibliography Notes on Contributors Index


Those interested in global history, textile history, and the economic history of Asia.