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Oppressing textile workers an old practice, claims book
30
Dec '14
The awareness about sweatshops and poor-wage workers in developing countries is common knowledge in recent times. However, many of us are not aware that this practice of oppressing labourers in the textile and garment industry has been going on since more than 350 years.

A book tracing the history of oppressed cotton workers in the 18th and 19th centuries has been recently written by an American historian and Harvard University professor named Sven Beckert. Entitled ‘Empire of Cotton: A Global History’, the book narrates how the rise of cotton industry in England has contributed to the slavery trade and also played a vital role in uprooting American Indians from their ancestral lands.

The book describes how slaves were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to work in the cotton fields of the 18th century US which led to the forceful migration of the American Indians followed by wars against them in the South. Later, due to the impact of American Civil War cotton production was moved to countries like India and Egypt where British and other European capitalists wheedled the farmers to grow the crop which ultimately resulted in famines faced by British colonial India.

The Columbia University’s history grad further explains how the escalating rates of food grains made food supply scarce for cotton field workers- “Between 1864 and 1873 the amount of cotton that a tenant or farmer had to produce to buy a given quality of Berar’s most important food grain, jowar, doubled, and then it doubled again by 1878.”

He later talks about the industrialisation of cotton that gave birth to the poorly managed and maintained factories that we see today- “The factory itself was an invention of the cotton industry. So was the connection between slave agriculture in the Americas and manufacturing across Europe.”

Cotton, though is considered as the most popular thread of choice in the world, too has a sad and tainted history and this book re-enforces that tragic fact. (PB)

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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