Textile and Worldwide Trade

Why did Europeans want Indian textile? Apart from all the spice, tea, coffee, gold and ivory they have imported, they were interested in cotton and cashmere. Cotton can’t be grown in Europe. Moreover, there is something special about indian textile. ‘Muslin’, originated in Bangladesh, is a loosely-woven cotton. European found it a very fine cotton. (But the funny thing is American found it entirely opposite.)

Marie Antoinette in her famous “muslin” portrait.
File:Marie Antoinette in Muslin dress.jpg 

‘Chintz’ is another fabric that European was fond of. Chintz is a printed cotton fabric. Colours is brightened after washing unlike the European linen. European couldn’t dye this well till 1800. In 1620, chintz was so popular in England and 50000 pieces was imported. So they became cheap enough for the middleclass.

In 1800, neoclassicism style of dress and interior based on ancient Greek and Rome became fashionable in Europe. These neoclassical draped clothing were comfortable and flattering. At that time, European mainly produced linen and wool fabrics so they were very keen on Indian muslins and soft Kashmir shauls— all these soft, sheer and transparent textile. 

The trades between East and West changed after 1770 when industrialisation began. Britain has got more advantages —especially when ‘Spinning Jenny’ the machine for spinning cotton is invented. So by 1800 Britain overtook India as major world exporterof printed cotton cloth. The relation of Britain and India changed subtly. People bagan to make textile in Britain for India. The European studied Asian tastes. By 1860, British textile firms sold their printed cotton to India, China, Burma, Wast Africa…


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