Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hiroko Iwatate's beautiful book on Indian textiles is titled 'Textiles, the soul of India'.. this seems to me to be an adequate response to the question I'm constantly asked: "How did you come to be involved in handlooms?" [I was asked again a few days ago]. People seem to have forgotten, or perhaps the younger generation never knew, that cotton textile making was by far the largest industry in India from about 3000 BCE, and continues today in the 21st century to be the largest in terms of employment after agriculture. I've said it in earlier posts but it bears repeating that while cotton textiles were a luxury in other regions of the world, in India they were worn by both rich and poor. They were affordable because cotton cloth production was so closely meshed with society. Cotton cloth making embodied the particular genius of the Indian civilization: the professional co-operation between very different social groups who did not otherwise socialize. Much of the silver that came into India during its millennia of export surplus was payment for the cotton cloth that India supplied the world -silver that seems to have left India during the colonial period at the rate of almost a shipfull a day for perhaps over 100 years... can an economic historian please enlighten us on this point?

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