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A Brief History of Cotton

Cotton is regarded as the best fabric worldwide and it is also considered to be the one of the oldest crops in the world. It was also one of the major crops India used to barter with, when it was most widely used for clothing. The discovery of cotton dates back to 5000BC to 4000BC when it was cultivated by the people of the Indus Valley. Its cultivation, however, was not just restricted to the sub continent but soon spread towards the Mediterranean as well.

However, the credit to introduce cotton, in modern Europe goes to the Arabs, during the eighth and ninth century. In England, cotton was used after the East India Company started trading in it during the 17th century. It had already garnered popularity in Venice and Milan during the 14th century because of its appearance and importance.

The cultivation of cotton in America took place about 5000 years ago where it was first cultivated in Mexico. In the Middle East, cotton was grown on the banks of Nile and Euphrates. Iran stands as one of the oldest cultivation grounds of cotton in the Middle East.

With the passage of time and the approach of the medieval ages, cotton was popularly known as imported fiber and in northern Europe and the only things people knew about it were its similarities with wool and that it was a plant. It was by the end of the 16th century that cotton was cultivated in Asia and America.

During the time when India was under British rule, it faced a lot of foreign competition and subsequently, India was just a supplier of raw cotton to Britain and itself has to rely on them for the finished goods. By 1840, India was unable to even supply raw cotton and faced fierce competition from the superior quality cotton produced in America. The high rising demand of raw cotton was a result of the industrial revolution in Britain, which led to mass production of textile, which gradually evolved as Britain's leading export. This benefited the British traders but also provided a boom in the American economy as it became the cheapest supplier of raw cotton. King Cotton became the major contributing factor to the southern America economy by the mid 19th century.

The sudden outbreak of the American civil war led the British to switch to Egypt as their supplier, on the basis of which Egypt was able to acquire many loans from Britain. However, once the American civil war ended in 1865, the British turned to America yet again, for a cheaper supply of raw cotton. This was also one of the major reasons behind Egypt's annexation by the British in 1882 after they were declared bankrupt in 1876. During this time of turmoil and uncertainty, cotton production had improved in India, but the production of cotton cloth was refrained there through the introduction of tariffs and other barriers.

Cotton was picked by cheap labour available in India but for further processing it was sent to Lancashire in Britain. After the finished good was ready it was shipped back to India, only to be sold at higher prices. While the British earned at the expense of Indians, the southern cotton produced in US provided for the developments in Northern America as well. The enslaved blacks were made to work on plantations owned by the whites in return for a share in profits, rather than a regular remuneration. Cotton thereon became one of the major sources of earnings in many places.

The invention of proper harvesting machines by 1950 made it even better for the US; but subsequently led to a reduction in jobs as machines replaced laborers during the early twentieth century. Today cotton is one of the major exports of the US and majority of the world cotton is of the American staple variety. Its importance as an export and a raw material for clothing has increased overtime.

Segun Olowookere recently started his own clothing company called Lowooke who speciallise in designing, producing and distributing a range of clothing aimed at the urban and youth market. The apparel that Lowooke sell is produced using organic materials that have been ethically sourced. You can view their range of Urban Clothing London at http://www.lowooke.com/shop/

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