It also dispatched British artisans to India to teach the local people how to make designs according to European tastes.
Thirdly, Indian cotton itself had certain characteristics that strongly appealed to the British. Compared with other textiles, it was easy to dye and print, and its color did not fade with washing. For the British in the late seventeenth century, these were unbelievable qualities. Indian fabric dyeing techniques were the most advanced in the world, producing a level of color fixing that the British had never experienced before. Furthermore, at about a third of the price of woolen cloth, Indian cotton was considerably cheaper than European fabrics.
The Clothing Revolution Caused by Indian Cotton
Indian cotton imports had a profound influence on clothing materials in Britain and Europe, which had hitherto mainly been leather, woolen fabrics, and fustian (thick twilled cotton cloth). The impact on European fashion of thin and colorful Indian cotton goods went beyond the craze from the end of the seventeenth to the beginning of the eighteenth century: it created a sensation that lasted for a whole century. The enthusiasm of consumers overwhelmed the opposition of the government and the traditional textile industry. Existing clothing customs were shaken at their roots, and the new fashion also gained rapid popularity in the New World colonized by the Europeans. This was nothing short of a clothing revolution.
Around the same time, according to the historian Nagahara Keiji, Japan was also experiencing _the textile revolution the transition from hemp to cotton as a result of cotton imports from Korea and China (Nagahara Keiji, _The Upheaval of the Sengoku Period,_published by Shogakukan).
The Crisis in the Traditional Textile Industry
The Indian cotton craze spread from Britain to France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the rest of Europe. As a result, traditional silk, wool and other textile businesses in almost every country went bankrupt one after another and all woolen merchants and manufacturers felt a strong sense of crisis. Large numbers of pamphlets criticizing the British East India Company were printed, one of which denounced Indian cotton thus: _Made by devil-worshipping heretics who work for a halfpenny a day, it is gaudy, patchily died, shabby, threadbare, and cheap._ The situation was clearly critical.
This crisis was strikingly similar to the situation the Indian cotton industry found itself in over one century later when the tables were turned on it by British machine-finished cotton. According to a contemporary report, _This poverty is almost without parallel in the history of commerce; the Indian countryside has turned chalk-white with the scattered bones of cotton artisans._ But from the end of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was Britain that experienced the crisis.
If a developing nation is viewed as a country whose economy is based on the export of primary goods and import of manufactured goods, then Britain, which exported bullion and imported cotton products, may be said to have possessed these characteristics. The normal practice of a developing nation is to import manufactured goods and to take protectionist measures to defend its domestic industry, and this is just what Britain did. I therefore cannot accept the fashionable historical interpretation of today which views the past interaction between Britain and India as a typical relationship between an advanced nation and a developing nation at different stages of civilization. The British assumption that their country has always been more economically advanced than India is nothing more than a contemporary prejudice.