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Quality, Cotton And The Global Luxury Trade

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Chapter Summary

The cotton industry occupies the key place in explanations of the industrial revolution. This chapter argues that during the period of the industry's crucial technological and organizational changes inventors, manufacturers and merchants prioritized the quality of their products. It surveys recent research on the part played by product innovation and quality improvement as sources of British industrialization in the eighteenth century; and it sets this research within a wider framework of economic theory on quality improvement. The chapter also argues that global trade, intensifying from the later seventeenth century, pressured merchants and consumers to bypass former limits on the world trade in luxury goods, to invent for quality, and even to refashion the meaning of quality. It discusses that cotton textiles became part of a global story of the making of an export-ware sector and the analysis of the cotton industry in debates on the emergence of the 'great divergence'.

Keywords: British industrialization; cotton industry; economic theory; global trade; industrial revolution



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