Although they operated on a smaller scale, the French East India Company and, a little later, the Danish East India Company also played significant roles in importing Indian cotton. Here we will focus on the largest importer _Great Britain. The British East India Company re-exported Indian cotton to all the regions surrounding the Atlantic Ocean: Europe, Africa, and America. One of its most important markets in Europe was Germany. In place of the former main export, British woolen fabrics, Indian cotton was exported to Germany in return for the import of linen. Another major center of demand was Spain, where Indian cotton was used domestically or taken to the Spanish colonies. Africa was also an important market, to which both Indian cotton and British-made imitation goods were exported. Compared to Indian cotton, however, the amount of British imitation cloth that could be exported to Africa was very limited owing to its inferior quality. In 1706, the Viceroy of Cape Coast Castle (Ghana) reported that _only cloth made in East India can be sold: they will not buy imitation cloth here, _and made several similar reports thereafter. The Viceroy_s report in 1724 stated that _the local people still show very little interest in imitation fabrics; they are too heavy._ Cotton cloth apparently had to be light to find a market in Africa. As we will see, the British finally succeeded in manufacturing this kind of light cloth at the end of the eighteenth century. But in 1751, exports of British-made imitation fabrics accounted for less than one-tenth of all cotton exports to Africa, and even though these exports more than tripled during the next quarter century, the proportion of imitation goods was never more than about 10%. Exports of British-made cotton were essentially conducted to make up for the insufficient supply of Indian cotton.
The Ascendancy of Indian Cotton
Let us take a bird_s eye view of Britain_s cotton export business from the beginning of the eighteenth century. During the 75 years from 1699 to 1774, the market for both Indian cotton and British-made cotton exported from Britain was the pan-Atlantic region. Indian cotton accounted for 94% of Britain_s cotton exports in the years 1699_1701, 92% in 1722_24, 86% in 1752_54, and 76% in 1772_74. During this period, the official value of Indian cotton re-exports more than doubled from 340,000 pounds in 1699-1701 to 700,000 pounds in 1772_74. In the second half of the eighteenth century, apart from the superiority of British goods in the American market, British imitation cotton goods could not compete with Indian cotton in overseas markets. Taking into consideration the problem of smuggling and the re-exports of Indian cotton by other countries, particularly the Netherlands, it was very difficult for Britain to undermine the ascendancy of Indian cotton in the pan-Atlantic region. In short, for more than one century after the Restoration of the monarchy in Britain (1660), Indian cotton completely dominated the pan-Atlantic cotton market.
(2) The Rise of the British Textile Industry
The mission of the British textile industry that emerged in the final quarter of the eighteenth century was clear: to manufacture cotton cloth that was equal in quality and price to Indian cotton. If it achieved this aim, nothing could stop it from gaining complete control of the pan-Atlantic cotton market. In other words, the British textile industry would rise on the basis of the existing pan-Atlantic global market that depended on the supply of Indian cotton. It is important to stress here that this industry_the central pillar of the British industrial revolution generally viewed as a model example of a spontaneous industrial revolution_actually arose as an import substitute industry in response to the external impact of the influx of Indian cotton.
The Development of Spinning Techniques
In 1774, parliament passed a law permitting British citizens to wear clothes made using only cotton. This law, promulgated in conjunction with the invention of various spinning techniques, reflects the first appearance of the prospect of developing a substitute for imported Indian cotton. James Hargreaves_spinning jenny was patented in 1770, Richard Arkwright_s water frame was patented in 1769, and Samuel Crompton_s mule was completed in 1779.