Capitalism: Silk And Cotton

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From the silk roads to the tremendous development of cotton during the industrial revolution, both commodities silk and cotton reveal the evolution of capitalism over time as they were both utilised as form to facilitate and trade between nations and promoted mass production by transferring them into commercial commodities. The evolution of silk and changes in its production overtime significantly influenced fashion trends in China, and was a symbol in differentiating between individuals of various political and religious hierarchies. The empire of cotton also has dominated vast surfaces of the globe, due to its geographic scope. The cotton textile industry provides a source of employment in various countries, however also led to the expansion of slavery, particularly in America. Both commodities were traded & produced to be significant products of today’s society.

Silk was initially developed in the Neolithic era in China (Yang Shao culture, 4th millennium BC). Silk remained limited to China until somewhere in the latter half of the 1st millennium BC the Silk Road appeared. China had retained its global monopoly on silk production, where silk was a scarce and limited resource, which reflected a symbol of prestige and wealth. Silk was used not just for clothes, but also for a variety of other uses, including writing, and the colour of silks used throughout the Tang Dynasty was an important social class reference (Prazniak, 2010)

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About the age of 300 AD, the seed crop was exported to China, and the Byzantines managed to grow silkworm eggs by the year 552 AD. Silk has been developed concurrently by the Arabs. Western Europe, especially many Italian states that saw the economic boom exporting silk to the rest of Europe were transported by the crusades to silk production. In the middle Ages, their were also improvements to the production processes, including first examples of tools like the spinning wheel in the sixteenth century (Rezakhani, 2010).

Most of Europe’s silk industry improved after the Industrial Revolution. Due to the advances in cotton weaving, cotton was rendered much cheaper and hence the expense of manufacturing silk was rendered less popular. Nevertheless, modern weaving techniques have increasing output quality. The loom developed for silk sticking was one of these. The production of several silkworm diseases, in particular in France, was decreasing as an epidemic. Japan and China reclaimed an earlier position in silk manufacturing in the 20th century and now again China is the biggest producer of silk in the world. The emergence of modern textiles such as nylon has that the worldwide prevalence of silk and silk is once again an significant unique quality commodity, but less so than in its heyday.

In middle ages politics, particularly the Byzantine Empire, Silk played an important role. It suddenly became paramount all it and all it influenced. Draped or arranged over altars, the silk is divided into a cathedral or a palace. In Western Europe, the relics of saints were buried in soil at the beginning of the sixth and seventh centuries, preserved and displayed in intricate metalwork and relics of jewellery. In church treasuries and museums in Europe an abundance of silk covering remains, as it has been stored in dark receivers for decades. Occasionally, silk was incorporated into manuscript bindings and in rare cases; pieces were inserted by sewing the painted pages into the codex.

The impact of Silk was extraordinary, particularly as Ornamental paintings were seen as imitations and influenced by silk in three separate monasteries between Ottoman and Salina times (ca. 950-ca. 1050). It begins with the Theophany Marriage Charter and Otto II of 14 April 972. Nineteen liturgical codices created in Cora, Hildesheim and Echternach monasteries from 950 to 1050 include this form of decoratio.

Silk’s attributes of elegance, flexibility and quality have been preserved as a valuable commodity for hundreds of years in Asia. The lightness and softness of the cloth also amazed the spectators. By the 10th century, developments in weaving technology enabled artisans to use both monochromatic and contrasting colour schemes to designs complex patterns. Thus, the surfaces that were lightly textured became even more vibrant. Silk was often deemed more important as an asset than gold, so the Western European aristocracy still desired it. It is also not shocking that this useful commodity has played a significant role in international ties between suppliers and customers.

Middle age skilled craftsmen mostly used silk for the development of clothes. For formal events, officials and ecclesiastic leaders from the Byzantine, Ottonian and Salian sects dressed in silk garb. While there are minimal documented records of clothes throughout the early middle Ages, they act as visual symbols of authority (Bhoothalingam, 2016).

A leading Byzantine silk scientist Anna Muthesius previously described the way in which the Byzantines treated silk, which was often referred to as ‘silk diplomacy.’ A gift of silk was conferred on any foreign envoy to Constantinople. The meaning was half that from the Byzantine point of view. They saw the recipients as deserving and believed the recipients should respect Byzantine power over them (Liu, 2011).

In the tenth century, the Byzantine Empire achieved its spiritual height and a large number of silks at that period. The Byzantines then used silk diplomacy more than ever, both at home and abroad. The imperial and ecclesial dress codes were made clear by two documents that were published during this period to give a clear picture of the rigid court dress hierarchy. The philotheology, was compiled at the end of the ninth century during the reign of Leo VI. This text shows eighteen rank orders of flags with three of the highest ranks in specific colours, including the garb. The second text, Book of Ceremonials, collected between 957 and 949 by Leo’s son Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, describes the ritual of conduct, clothes and feast days in great detail (Tian, Wang, Li, Zhang, Yao, Van Straten, Richards, and Kong, 2015).

‘If you want to make a cortege to a church, a procession, or a reception with the Palazzo, you should know that the sovereigns wear a white divitision; however, you will wear the tzitzakion if you want to make a cortège. Sunday after Passover, that is to say those things occur in the same way from closed doors. Sometimes this fair, if the stuff fit the sovereigns, has a crimson scaramange brown with gold instead of a woven white gold scaramange (Williams, 2015).

During the Industrial Revolution, the UK saw a tremendous development in the cotton industry. Sir Richard Arkwright of Cromford founded the world’s first true cotton plant. The processing facilities needed for cotton were a symbol of the period and a massive demand was developed for cotton and cloth factories with an ever-increasing populace and an ever-expanding British Empire (Harley, 2012). Cotton became increasingly popular as it met cultural needs, and was seen as an indicator of wealth and status, just as silk.

In Northern England there were multiple places across the Pennines, suitable for the building of cotton mills. The original factories demanded a constant supply of electricity, and this was supplied by the fast-flowing Pennines. Coal produced this strength in later years and was found also in large numbers in northern England. Britain also possessed cheap coal, that was able to supply power to large factories, which was crucial for the product of labour intensive commodities, including Cotton. Facilities required both a workforce and the citizens of northern cities, particularly as before industrialisation, many families were engaged in the domestic system in the north. And a ready supply of skilful weavers and spinners was open.

The city also had the ability to import cotton raw from the South of America and export finished cotton from abroad in Liverpool, a rapidly developing port. In particular when trams extended from London to the north, the internal market was well served with decent means of transportation. The abrogation in 1774 of a high tax on cotton thread and fabric produced in Britain was of considerable significance for the cotton industry (Meisenzahl, and Mokyr, 2011). Combined with all of the above influences, the UK was turned into a ‘workshop of the nation’ with various innovations.

The traveling shuttle was invented in 1733 by John Kay. The innovation enabled the weaving of wider fabric at a faster pace. To create this tool, Kay used his experience as a weaver. The ‘Spinning Jenny’ was invented by James Hargreaves in 1765. The number of threads that can transform a computer increased from six to eighty within 20 years. The Water Frame was invented by Richard Arkwright in 1769. It uses water as a source of strength, as the title implies, but also creates a stronger thread than the spinning jenny. The ‘Mule’ was invented by Crompton in 1779. It merged the positive aspects of the water mechanism with the spinning jenny which lead to a cotton thread revolving faster than every other gadget (Malm, 2013).

In 1781, in a cotton factory Boulton and Watt invented a steam engine that was easy to use. During the 1790s, the steam engine during cotton factories was used increasingly. Therefore, water dependence and water supply was crucial. As a result, plants continued to be built adjacent to coalmines.

The industry experienced a proliferation in the 1800s of chemical bleaches and dyes, implying that bleaching, thinning and printing could be carried out at the same factory.  Robert’s Power Loom, the first effective weaver, was created in 1812. This implied that in one factory all phases of cotton processing could now be achieved. The cotton industry in Britain – and the riches that signify – played a major part in all these innovations. In 1770, there was around £600,000 of cotton. It had hit £10.5 million by 1805 and £38.8 million by 1870. In comparison, wool has grown to £7 million over the same hundred years, and silk has gone from £ 1 million to £8 million over the same period. Alone in Manchester there has been drastic changes in the number of cotton mills, from two in 1790 to 66 in 1821 (Crafts, and Wolf, 2014).

Although some of the workers who served in cotton factories had little workplace security against unfair labour, unsafe workplaces and poor wages, this was to come years later. Although the architecture was characterized by a visitor to the Cromford Arkwright Factory as ‘perfect’ in 1790, the conditions for a worker were less than glorious. Nevertheless, Arkwright was known as a respectable businessman to take control of his employees (Griffith, Cotton, Powell, Sheldon, and Still, 2017).

Arkwright also designed cottages for his staff, but they have been constructed so close to the Cromford factory that he or she couldn’t move away from the area where they had been employed because a worker took time off. The children who served in the Cromford factory had to chance to attend Sunday school, and their top performing employers got milk incentives. Arkwright also lent out low-cost portfolios (Allen, 2011).

Throughout 1833, after an Act of Parliament was enacted, the hours under which children were employed throughout cloth factories started to alter. Both textile factories (with the exception of lace and milk) were forbidden from hiring children under the age of 9 by the Factory Act 1833. Kids below 13 years of age is prevented from operating more than nine hours a day for 48 hours in one week. Until eighteen, operating for more than 12 hours a day was not permitted and not more than 69 hours a week was permitted. They couldn’t function in the night as well. Every day even, two hours of education is mandatory for children working in factories between the ages of nine and eleven.

The act was established in 1844 by a new manufacturing rule restricting children between 8 and 13 years of age to half-day labour (after or before noon) that was required to fulfil-operating hours did not go up before midday. The legislation was; however, quite difficult to execute because few plant inspectors were working and badly paying for this jobs. Many parents even wanted their children to operate and encouraged the managers of factories to circumvent this regulation. In 1847 a second Factory Act ruled that those under 18 and all women should only operate for a limit of 10 hours a day (Olmstead, and Rhode, 2018).

Both commodities silk and cotton evolved over time to be significant commodities of society, even in present society. Both silk and cotton appealed to communities wanting to convey certain status symbols, and were often used to display an individual’s wealth and success. Both valuable commodities developed to be valuable resources utilised my society in many ways, and at times used as forms of currency in trade.


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