WINNER OF THE 2015 BANCROFT PRIZE WINNER OF THE 2015 PHILIP TAFT PRIZE FINALIST FOR THE 2015 PULITZER PRIZE FOR HISTORY SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 CUNDHILL PRIZE IN HISTORICAL LITERATURE Economist BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015 'Knowledgeable and stunning' Orhan Pamuk 'A masterpiece of the historian's craft' The Nation For about 900 years, from 1000 to 1900, cotton was the world's most important manufacturing industry. It remains a vast business - if all the cotton bales produced in 2013 had been stacked on top of each other they would have made a somewhat unstable tower 40,000 miles high. Sven Beckert's superb new book is a history of the overwhelming role played by cotton in dictating the shape of our world. It is both a gripping narrative and a brilliant case history of how the world works.
A masterpiece of the historian's craft: combining a global scope with concern for the nuances of individual experience, Beckert tracks the fortunes of a single commodity, cotton, across six continents and thousands of years. That sweeping project is driven by the attempt to unravel the causes and consequences of one overarching puzzle: "why, after many millennia of slow economic growth, a few strands of humanity in the late eighteenth century suddenly got much richer." On the way to his answer, Beckert uncovers a history he claims "provides the key to understanding the modern world." . . . The belief that discovering the origins of economic growth might unlock modernity's secrets raises questions that are even more tantalizing Timothy Shenk The Nation