Making Money: Cotton, Slavery and Finance Across the Atlantic 1815–1837

Boodry, Cathryn (2013):  Making Money: Cotton, Slavery and Finance Across the Atlantic 1815–1837, presentation at the Conference “Capitalizing on Finance: New Directions in the History of Capitalism,” April 2013

Full paper available here. 


In the nineteenth century cotton was the primary export item produced by,the United States for a global market. As early as 1815 the United States was,,the largest producer and Great Britain the largest consumer of cotton.1 The,,commodity proved deeply important to economic development and industrialisation, in both countries. Given the importance of cotton to both Britain, and the United States the vital role of slave labour in the production and sale,,of this crop is noteworthy for its contribution to self-sustaining economic,,growth across the Atlantic world. The role played by slavery in sustained,,economic development seems worthy of our consideration. Additionally,,,and especially in terms of this conference, the role played by British credit,,in allowing this system to function is equally important. An exploration,,of cotton bridges the worlds of finance, and slavery and makes clear how,,one facilitated the expansion of the other across the nineteenth-century,,Atlantic. The Atlantic market in cotton is testament to the vital role played,,by an Atlantic hinterland in European, and specifically British self-sustaining,,economic growth. This system of production required land, labour and, just as critically, capital.



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