I’ve obviously missed a bit of my historical education:
In the days of the British Raj, when Britain’s economy depended on commodities such as cotton, Indian cotton growers were forced on pain of imprisonment to sell their cotton yields to Britain at prices determined by the buyer. The raw cotton was sent back here, to our “satanic mills”, and Indians – who had been weaving cotton for centuries – were then prohibited from weaving their own and forced to buy woven cotton back at prices determined by Britain. That wouldn’t happen today – would it?
Doesn’t sound all that likely to me but here it is again:
The Lancashire textile boom could never have taken hold without the protection of high tariff walls against the world’s great textile workshop in India. Indian hand weavers, whose quality was high and wages low, had been the centre of world production for centuries. But British protectionism, in combination with the extension of imperial power through the East India Company (an early example of a ‘public-private’ partnership), changed the rules of the game. British policy transformed India from an exporter of textiles to a supplier of raw cotton for Lancashire factories. The tactics were brutal. They included smashing the hands and cutting off the thumbs of Indian weavers, while implementing a system of usurious taxes favouring cotton production – sometimes provoking famine in the process. When Gandhi led the movement against imported British textiles and in favour of Indian handlooms, Winston Churchill caught the temper of British attitudes, famously denouncing Gandhi as ‘half naked… a seditious Middle Temple lawyer.’
17th century saw the East India Company importing masses of Indian made cotton fabrics into Europe. Then the mills started up. And a century later British cotton fabrics were exported to India and the hand weavers didn’t do so well. Then the Indian industry mechanised around 1850. Gandhi’s bit wasn’t about no British imports, it was about no mechanisation, no?
That’s what I recall. But what I don’t recall is either the raw cotton exports to UK from India, nor the forced growing of raw cotton and certainly not the suppression of local hand weavers.
So, is it me just not being taught right? Or is this leftist interpretation of history missing a bit?
This is more how I remember it:
Finally, in 1721, Indian cotton imports were banned by parliament. Ironically, soon after, cotton cultivation exploded in the American colonies and the “threat” of Indian cotton was muted by a major shift in cotton production. Where Indian cottons had long been grown and manufactured in India by farmers working with merchant houses, then exported to East Asia, Africa, and Europe, the cotton industry in the southern colonies of British North America came quickly to rely on slave labor. In turn, the climate of the southern colonies proved ideal for cotton production and, by the middle of the eighteenth century, British-controlled cotton production and manufacturing had emerged as a serious rival to the Indian industry.
There was no flood of unprocessed Indian cotton to the UK mills – it came from the slave states of the US.