The US Civil War, Globalization and the City of Bombay

by on March 20, 2017 at 8:07 am in Economics, History, Travel | Permalink

The structure of Bombay is intimately tied to the history of the United States in ways that illustrate the long arc of globalization. At the heart of Bombay, around the Oval Maidan, on which cricket games are often played, one can see many of Bombay’s iconic Victorian buildings including the University of mumbai-high-court-and-rajabai-clock-tower-mumbai-indiaBombay, the Bombay High Court and the Rajabai clock tower. These buildings and many others were begun in the late 1850s and 1860s during the Bombay boom; a boom brought about by America’s Civil War.

The U.S. South began the civil war by embargoing cotton exports and burning 2.5 million bales of cotton in order to create a shortage and bend the world to its will. The embargo didn’t lead to Britain’s support, however, and by the time the South realized it had shot itself in the foot the North imposed its own blockade. Cotton prices skyrocketed–between 1860 and 1863-1864 prices rose by a factor of four on average and at times by a factor of 10. As cotton exports from the United States fell, exports from Persia, Egypt and especially India boomed. As Sven Beckert put it:

The bombardment of Fort Sumter…announced that India’s hour had come.

In India farm land was switched over to cotton, railroads and telegraphs were built uniting cotton producing areas in Bihar with cotton’s chief trading center and port, Bombay. Production and exports boomed. Vast fortunes were made from the cotton trade and the speculation it engendered; fortunes that were plowed into universities, libraries and many of the great buildings that mark Mumbai today. In fact, the Back Bay Reclamation project began at this time so some of the very ground that Mumbai sits upon has its roots in the American Civil War.

Influences flowing in the reverse direction were at least as strong. The decline in cotton exports from the South created mass unemployment in Great Britain and it was not out of the question that Britain would side with the South. Beckert quotes the investment bank Baring Brothers:

In the spring of 1862, Baring Brothers Liverpool expressed their view that war between the United States and Great Britain was less likely “provided we get a large import from India.”

Fortunately, increased Indian cotton production alleviated the “Cotton famine” and reduced the South’s bargaining power. Thus, “Indian cultivators and merchants played a small role in contributing to Northern victory in the Civil War.”

General Robert Lee’s surrender at Appomattox ended the Bombay boom. As news of Lee’s surrender spread, market prices crashed and speculative fortunes were lost. The railways and the telegraphs, however, now linked India to the world. And at the heart of Bombay, the universities, the libraries and the civic institutions endured making Bombay, Urbs Prima in Indis.

1 The Other Jim March 20, 2017 at 8:22 am

Very interesting and informative. Thank you very much.

These were the kinds of posts that drew me to MR. You know, in the Before Time. The Long Long Ago.

2 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 8:37 am

+1, I agree, a fascinating post.

3 tjamesjones March 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

+2

4 Vaye March 21, 2017 at 2:22 am

Did Anon24s ancestors born with toilets attached to their butts ?

5 Barkley Rosser March 20, 2017 at 8:29 am

Alex,

The point is largely correct and interesting. I would add that the price boom was also accelerated by bad weather in some other cotton producing areas, notably Egypt. Indeed, this bad weather outbreak and its impact on British industrial production through the high prices of cotton were the immiediate empirical fact that inspired Jevons to come up with his sunspot theory of business cycles.

My main caveat is that while much of this building in Mumbai in particular may have been initiated as a result of this cotton boom, it kept on going even after the crash. One does not build whole universities and fill in bays and so on in a handful of years, which is what we are talking about. This story is a bit exaggerated, although it certainly has elements of truth.

6 John Hutnyk March 21, 2017 at 3:21 am

Barkley, do you have any references for this. I have read the Ramchandra Gandhi book, and Claire Anderson. I also think Arabindan-Kesson’s thesis is about to become a book and its good, but not yet publicly available. Of course there is also mention of it in Marx’s letters somewhere, but Am keen to see more.

The other factor here in Bombay’s growth is the reinvestment of opium trade profits. This would be interesting to track since by this time the high point of that trade was past and I presume significant capital needed to be redeployed.

Thanks

7 John Hutnyk March 21, 2017 at 3:34 am

OK, found further down in the comments some links, but still this request is open in case there are things you think are crucial, or which anyone thinks are crucial. What most interest me here is the linkages between events on different sides of the world. Here US-UK–Egypt-Mumbai-Bihar. My interest is not cotton but it is part of a story around Opium that also links many sites, then and now – UK-Calcutta-Canton (am collecting stuff – there is not yet anything I’ve published, though gave a few talks at Princeton, Dakar, Zagreb and Kolkata – https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/category/east-india-company/ My longer term project. Thanks heaps, John

8 charlie March 21, 2017 at 10:27 am

Wasn’t Calcutta the Second City of Empire?

And Delhi more important?

Bombay did have a lot of industrialists, not sure it was post-independence that really became the face of urban india. Malabar Hill was still pretty cheap in 1948.

9 Thiago Ribeiro March 20, 2017 at 8:41 am

“The bombardment of Fort Sumter…announced that India’s hour had come.”
India is a country whose hour has come and passed.

10 Kris March 20, 2017 at 10:44 am

There are more than 6 of us for every one of you. Whenever our hour passes, I suspect it won’t be before yours does.

11 Thiago Ribeiro March 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

Quantity matters little, quality is everything. One hundred cats a man don’t make. We are invincible and fated to greatness.

As for the Indians:

“‘Do we want their resources? Why, they have none for themselves. Can we use their industry or science? They are almost dead for lack of ours. Can we use their man power? Ten of them are not worth a single robot. Do we even want the dubious glory of ruling them? There is no such glory. As our helpless and incompetent inferiors, they would be only a drag upon us. They would divert from our own use food, labor and administrative ability.
‘So they have nothing to give us but the space they occupy in our thought. They have nothing to free us from but themselves. They cannot benefit us in any way other than in their absence. (…) Let them go the way of the dinosaur, and make room.”

12 Kris March 20, 2017 at 11:38 am

Are you quoting someone?

Well, we did just successfully launch a bunch of satellites for multiple countries. Regale me about the Brazilian space program.

Dinosaurs may have disappeared, but cats are still around. Lots of ’em. Just saying!

13 Walter Clark March 20, 2017 at 11:53 am

Kris,
He’s referring to an Isaac Azimov quote… about half way into the yellow text of this link:
https://openborders.info/blog/tag/isaac-asimov/

14 Anon24 March 20, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Now if you can just figure out how to defecate in the toilet, the world shall be yours!

15 Thiago Ribeiro March 20, 2017 at 12:26 pm

After conquering the space, you may even focus in getting a higher HDI than El Salvador’s. Not today or in a hundred years, but one day. Maybe. The superstitious Indian savage may have a high and loft opinion of himself, as they make clear every chance they get, but facts are facts.

16 athEIst March 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

There are more than 6 of us for every one of you.
This is not a strength.

17 polyglot March 20, 2017 at 8:46 am

The Parsi (Zoroastrians who had settled in India to escape persecution in Iran) and other indigenous entrepreneurs of Bombay who were involved in Shipping had done well out of the Opium trade with China. The first Parsi baronet is a case in point. He built the Mahim causeway and endowed many charities.
The American Civil war also contributed to speculative fortunes more especially for up-country entrepreneurs e.g. from the Marwari community from arid Rajasthan. First the Parsis and then the Marwaris and others moved from speculation into technological industry- so the Chinese Opium War and later the American Civil War contributed to Indian economic development.

18 improbable March 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Yes to this, it’s a very interesting part of the story of Bombay. (And one that is easily overlooked by many in the west, who are conditioned to see Colonialism and the British/Indian divide.)

I was trying to find some links about the governance of the city, which in the late 19thC was fairly democratic, and largely in the hands of people from these groups. BMC 1888 and BIT 1896 are things to look for… a few quick hits but not exactly what I want:

http://www.ebhsoc.org/journal/index.php/journal/article/download/53/199

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/025764300101700103

It is also eye-opening to read up about the transition of power from this Parsi/Marwari/Gugerati elite to the Marathi masses. Start with Hutatma Chowk (=Martyr’s Square?) which everyone still calls Flora Fountain. It commemorates a protest which ended up with the police shooting 100 people, in 1960, over whether Bombay should be part of Maharashtra. This was arguably a bigger transition (for Bombay) than 1947.

19 polyglot March 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

There is an irony in the Shiv Sena’s ‘sons of the soil’ policy in Mumbai. The fact is the old ‘Burgher’ landowning class had an equation with the original inhabitants. The Gujerati speaking entrepreneurial class came and rented land from the ‘Burghers’ and employed the local fisherfolk in maritime activities. Once again, a modus vivendi was arrived at. The Marathas centred on Pune, however, looked down on both the indigenous fisher-folk and Koli agriculturalists. Interestingly, one Brahman sect- the Chitpavans which had taken power- made enemies of older Brahman sects so the picture gets even more complicated.
The British had found the Parsis very useful and were willing to recognise their philanthropy. However, British courts interpreted Parsi inheritance law in a restrictive and reactionary way which created an incentive for some Parsis to convert to Christianity. At a later point, poorer Parsis came to see English Law as more enlightened and became strong supporters of British rule. By then, however, the Chitpavan and other high caste Marathas were asserting themselves in Mumbai through Hindu festivals, involving Ganesha and also through propaganda re. the supposed evil intent to destroy Hinduism through the anti-Plague measures.
One great irony is that the Khoja Muslims, who should have been allied with the Parsis and the Indian National Congress, went in the direction first of Khilafat and then the Pakistan demand. Thus, Jinnah’s daughter and grandchildren are in India not the country he founded because he married a Parsi.

20 Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Yes, the parsi community was quite reputed for their charitable and institution-building efforts.
The Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, is still called Tata Institute by the Auto rickshaw drivers.

21 Roy LC March 20, 2017 at 8:58 am

Egypt was far more affected than India though, since the civil war disruption led to its collapse and fall to European powers. The Khedive Said eliminated the export duty just as the war began and when Ismail I came to power in 1863 the country was flush with money. The Suez canal which was boycotted by the British was financed by the cotton money as was the Egyptian conquest of the Sudan. It was this massive kitty that began the huge infrastructure and military spree that ended up bankrupting his state.

Without the windfall of the 1860s it is had to see how the defaults of 1878-80 and the British occupation from 1882 would have occurred.

India had just come under direct rule by London after the debacle of the Mutiny had destroyed the East India Company, and most of the development that you see in Bombay and Calcutta was more do to this than any short term prosperity.

22 Chris March 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm

It was not the windfall that hurt Egypt, it was the Egyptian government spending too much money – as you noted. The idea that Egypt HAD to spend so much money that bankruptcy would happen is not true. It was simply the result of the Khedive’s decisions. Isma’il Pasha could have spent otherwise. It was probably not so much the infrastructure spending that overextended Egyptian finances as the military spree and foreign adventures. During this era Egypt attempted the conquest of western and southern Sudan (1865-1874 which succeeded) and Ethiopia (1874-1876 which failed). Since all of this happened after the American Civil War ended, it generally happened after cotton prices had already crashed. The Khedive simply fell into the trap many governments fall into – borrowing as much as they can to spend as much as they can and then realizing they don’t have the economic growth needed to keep making payments. The American civil war had nothing to do with it.

Egypt was already a rising power prior to the cotton boom. In 1840, Egypt likely would have taken much of the Ottoman Empire’s territory in Asia if the European powers not intervened to save the Ottomans.

23 Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 9:20 am

Hire a tech, Alex. Not having photos that scale to column is kind of a rookie mistake. Endearing, but a mistake.

24 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 9:42 am

1998 called, they want their low-resolution CRT monitor back.

25 Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 9:51 am

Recent tablet. Debug info: LG G X8.3 4G LTE. Portrait more.

26 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 11:25 am

Sorry, couldn’t resist…but really, demands that a free, excellent site improve its web design?

27 Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

It has always struck me that a globalist economic blog should use more cheap outsourcing .. and now Alex is in India, can form personal relationships.

.. ah, I didn’t consider who really wrote this post!

28 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 11:39 am

p.s. Admittedly the MR design is quite outdated. But I think this makes it much more responsive and usable than the typical modern website. Since it isn’t overloaded with all the latest junk.

29 Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

Running Light Without Overbyte

30 Kris March 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

This was a temporary boon for India but a longer-term curse. After the Civil War ended, and regular cotton exports from the South resumed, demand for Indian cotton fell. All that land in India that had been converted from growing grain to growing cotton now proved a bane for Indian peasants, as a confluence of grain shortages, poor monsoons (leading to droughts), and food price increases led to the worst famines in Indian history in the 1870s. The British government, running on laissez faire economic principles, didn’t believe in providing relief to peasants even when the lack of food wasn’t their fault; consequently, millions starved to death.

The railway boom combined with large scale famines in the hinterland produced a phenomenon we still see today. Poor and starving peasants moving in droves to urban areas in trains, with slums and cheap labor and all of that following.

31 Pravin varma March 20, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Laissez faire? The British introduced the income tax in India in 1861. The rate ? 1 percent. There were riots on the streets.

32 David R. Henderson March 20, 2017 at 11:02 am

Fascinating! Thanks, Alex.

33 Pensans March 20, 2017 at 11:27 am

So, the South should blame globalization for losing the civil war.

34 Turkey Vulture March 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

I’ll echo the chorus. Good stuff.

The South should have sold that cotton instead and used the proceeds to fund nationalist insurgencies in those cotton-producing regions. Super secretly, of course.

35 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 11:42 am

It’s interesting to consider what might have happened if they had sold the cotton. Perhaps Britain would have been more likely to intervene (at least by more forcefully opposing the North’s blockade) if the South hadn’t tried to manipulate them into supporting their cause.

36 Turkey Vulture March 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Did the British know that the South burned those bales? If so, that seems like a pretty major miscalculation. They could have let the Northern blockade be the entire “bad guy” instead of taking some of it on themselves. Is that the thinking of an honor-based culture at work? Burn the cotton as a show of strength rather than letting the North stop you from exporting it, showing your weakness?

37 dan1111 March 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm

The South’s whole plan was to intentionally withhold cotton as a way of convincing Britain and others in Europe to support their war effort.

The fact that the North decided to help them execute that plan says something about how smart of an idea it was.

38 PD Shaw March 20, 2017 at 3:17 pm

The South burned a lot of bales of cotton, but not all of it. As Union troops moved into cotton country, stacked bales would be seized and sent to Northern factories, but in many cases Confederates would then try to burn the cotton, leading to false claims that the North was burning various places as part of a scorched earth tactics.

Planters thought that their cotton was the source of British industrial might, and in the fashion of thinking how to win the War by refighting the American Revolution, the Civil War required Lee (like Washington) to keep an army in the field until Britain and France (like France previously) intervened.

39 Joël March 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

It was a long shot for the South anyway. Besides the economics of cotton, and its importance for textile industrialists and workers, there was a heated political debate in UK regarding the US civil war, and there was a strong current in UK who were very hostile to the idea of supporting the south because of the slavery issue.

40 AR March 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

Thanks for this! Sven Beckert’s article is fascinating to read. Explains why the British spent money to build railways in India and the subsequent famines in India during that time

41 athEIst March 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

How to exploit a vast country without railroads. I believe a certain K. Marx wrote about this at the time.

42 rayward March 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm

The history of the cotton industry in India, and the relationship between India and Britain with regard to cotton, is more complex than what would be discerned by looking solely at 1862. In the 18th century, India wasn’t Britain’s supplier of raw cotton, India competed against Britain in the sale of finished cotton goods. In the late 18th century, Parliament even adopted a law barring cotton imports from India. The American south did not have manufacturing facilities and merely sold raw cotton to Britain’s cotton manufacturers. Britain’s textile industry at the time was a very large industry in Britain. Britain may have wanted India’s raw cotton, but didn’t want India’s competing finished cotton goods. In due course Britain got its wish, although it was decidedly one-sided: India, as a British colony, supplied raw materials, including cotton, and Britain manufactured the finished goods. Today, India’s textile is inefficient, disbursed among many small companies with antiquated equipment, a legacy of colonialism.

43 improbable March 20, 2017 at 12:29 pm

It’s super-complicated all right. Here’s one place to start reading about the Calico acts, British protectionism and industrial development and all that:

https://pseudoerasmus.com/2017/01/05/ca/

And on India’s later industrial textile industry being inefficient, the classic paper which surely every loyal MR reader has read is Gregory Clark’s:

http://faculty.georgetown.edu/mh5/class/econ489/Clark-Why-Isn%27t-the%20-Whole-World-Developed.pdf

Around 1900, India had exactly the same modern machinery as everywhere else, made in the same factories & paid for by money raised on the same stock markets.

Around 1970 they were indeed antiquated, and for this you honestly can blame the British… since the whole economic plan of post-independence India was some Fabian society dream.

44 rayward March 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I assume readers noticed that Southern planters were perfectly content to have the South in the role of a British colony (i.e., a supplier of raw materials); a legacy that left the South, as it left India, with very little economic development and a long period to catch up.

45 improbable March 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm

For this era PC1 is the axis from England & New England at one end and Louisiana & Bihar at the other.

Whether the Southern planters could have willed it otherwise seems like another question. Maybe it was just their area’s niche? I agree that if they’d won independence I sure as hell can’t picture them erecting tariff barriers & nurturing an infant industry into being…

The interesting thing about Bombay is that it straddles these worlds, Bihar was nothing but fields and a railway out, but Bombay was not just a port. In say 1900 I don’t think there was anything like the collection of cotton mills operating there to be found anywhere in the South.

46 M March 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Barring the interruption of the American Civil War, India just didn’t supply much cotton to British mills, before or after the Industrial Revolution.

India never really became a producer of raw materials, nor a destination for finished British industrially produced goods. (Britain bought cotton from the Southern US and sold textiles back to Britain, Europe and the US; Indians largely surplus to requirements).

Rather India was country conquered under the EIC in the late 18th-early 19th, when Indian finished goods and spices and ports for the China trade actually mattered (with American cotton production in its infancy, and Western porcelain production not perfected), then was largely held onto out of force of habit, and for prestige, after the mid-19th, when industrialism rendered the raison d’etre for British colonialism in India mostly outmoded.

47 Anon24 March 20, 2017 at 12:22 pm

King Corn was more powerful that King Cotton. Britain imported much of their food supply from the North.

48 Ray Lopez March 20, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Good article; don’t have time to fact-check it to see how much is true and how much is tour guide fiction (they always embellish stories for tourists). A quick read of this article: http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/291/cotton-and-the-civil-war indicates the blockade that AlexT mentions was ineffective by and large (as is typical of most blockades over large areas; the food blockade of Nazi controlled Athens by the allies in WWII causing starvation in Athens is an exception). Note also Brazil helped supply cotton when the US south could not.

Bonus trivia: US made “Pima” long-fiber cotton is the best in the world (used for ultra-smooth cotton sheets) and is grown, at subsidized expense by irrigated water, in the deserts of the American southwest.

49 athEIst March 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Also an exception: the British blockade of Germany in WWI

50 David S March 20, 2017 at 1:44 pm

The post neglects to mention the point of Beckert’s article, which is that the transformation of India (and other parts of the world) into mass cotton producers depended on huge, unprecedented, and violent intervention by the imperial *state.*

Alex’s passive voice here hides who made all this happen:

“In India farm land was switched over to cotton, railroads and telegraphs were built uniting cotton producing areas in Bihar with cotton’s chief trading center and port, Bombay. Production and exports boomed. Vast fortunes were made from the cotton trade and the speculation it engendered…”

Intervention took many forms, such as state-financed infrastructure projects, restrictive labor laws, taxes that required payments in cash, an increasing and increasingly militarized police power, and legal changes that undermined collective claims to grazing or hunting.

In fact, Beckert finds a money quote from the Economist magazine endorsing state intervention on the grounds that Indians can’t be trusted to be economic actors:

“Even the Economist, the world’s leading exponent of free trade and laissez-faire capitalism, came to favor state involvement in securing cotton, especially from India. It was hard to justify these steps in terms of the laws of supply and demand, but eventually The Economist found a way. India was a place where economic laws simply did not function. ‘These appears to exist in many important parts of Indian society,’ the Economist noted, ‘very peculiar difficulties, which to some extent impede and counteract the action of the primary motives upon which political economy depends for its efficacy.’ In India, they continued, ‘the primitive prerequisites of common political economy…are not satisfied. You have a good-demanding Englishman, but, in plain English, not a good-supplying Indian.’ For that reason, ‘[t]here is no relaxation of the rules of political economy in the interference of the Government in a state of facts like this. Government does not interfere to prevent the effect and operation of ‘supply and demand,’ but to create that operation to ensure that effect…There is no greater anomaly in recommending an unusual policy for a State destitute of the ordinary economical capacities, than in recommending an unusual method of education for a child both blind and deaf.’ India, the Economist was saying, was ‘blind and deaf’ to ‘economic laws’ and therefore in need of state initiative and coercion. As the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Henry Ashworth put it in 1863, ‘we cannot afford to wait until price has done it’.” (p. 1432)

51 Mark Thorson March 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Any history of the economics of cotton would be incomplete without mentioning the contribution of David Wesson. Sure, the cotton gin was important, but Wesson invented the process for making edible oil from cottonseed. Before his invention, southern cities were passing laws against stockpiling cottonseed, which was accumulating in large heaps around cotton gins and presenting a fire hazard. You couldn’t feed it to animals because it was toxic. There was some limited use of cottonseed oil for industrial purposes, but you couldn’t fry food in it because it was toxic. Wesson invented the process of using fuller’s earth to extract enough of the gossypol from cottonseed oil to make it fit for human consumption. But you won’t catch me eating anything with cottonseed oil in it. Gossypol has been in clinical trials as a male oral contraceptive, and just the thought of that makes me reluctant to eat anything with cottonseed oil in it.

52 Ray Lopez March 20, 2017 at 3:27 pm

This is why I read MR comments. MT delivering the goods. No lame “+1” comment but hard facts. Hey MT, how’s your backyard nuclear fusion invention and dementia mom going? I got an uncle with dementia but the good news is he left all his money to me just before he got worse (half his considerable under-the-mattress cash was stolen by somebody else). Don’t know where he is in the stages outlined in Dementia for Dummies, but he can barely recognize me when I go visit him in the old folks home. Like the Carly Rae Jepsen song: “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I have Alzheimer’s, so call me crazy” (repeat forever).

https://projects.ncsu.edu/cals/an_sci/extension/animal/nutr/mhp95-1.htm (cottonseed used for bovine feed in moderation, as it is cheap and cows actually prefer the taste, but it lowers bull semen production)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottonseed_oil (Cottonseed oil has traditionally been used in foods such as potato chips and was for many years a primary ingredient in Crisco, the shortening product. The current formulation of Crisco includes no cottonseed oil.[24] Significantly less expensive than olive oil or canola oil, cottonseed oil is a popular frying oil for the restaurant and snack-food manufacturing industries.) Don’t eat potato chips or fried fast food if you’re trying to have kids!

53 Mark Thorson March 20, 2017 at 5:14 pm

The fusion experiment has been stalled by my lack of time. Mom is still doing okay, but her recent weight loss has required me to prepare and serve more food than previously, further reducing my time. (I now make four meals a day, but her weight loss has been stopped and reversed.)

A major piece of equipment I bought for $850 on eBay for the fusion experiment may have been damaged by a water leak where I’ve been storing it. I don’t have enough time available to check it out, so that experiment is probably on hold while my mom is alive. That’s right — the future of global climate catastrophe may hinge on the ultimate lifespan of a woman born in 1927.

On the bright side, I had an extraordinary idea about three weeks ago for a sensor. The killer app is detecting your pulse, like an Apple Watch or a FitBit fitness band, but it will be completely insensitive to tattoos, motion artifact, electromagnetic fields, acoustic noise, etc. I estimate it would cost about 1/10 what Apple uses now, and it would draw about 1/100 as much power. I’ve already got all the parts I need to build the prototype, and it would not take much time to build it. I was going to build the prototype last Friday when I had a few hours of free time, but I drank vodka instead. Maybe sometime this week I’ll do it.

54 Ray Lopez March 20, 2017 at 11:45 pm

+1 …oops, I violated my own rule

55 Bob March 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

The dumbest line in Gone With The Wind is when Scarlett says, “Cotton will go sky high” after the war.

56 Troll me March 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm

I sometimes encounter people who speak of the evils that the British did in India.

Without wanting to portray it as friendly, it may be worth observing that under the moghuls, the situation led to 200 million Muslims in India. (Nothing against Islam, but very possibly this was under degrees of duress and not due to some superior philosophical qualities of Islam.) Under the British? The Catholic converts under the Portuguese (in Goa) remained Catholic, and some handful of Chrisitan missions set up alongside the hundreds and thousands of variant Hindu practices in the country.

India is the example of what happens when a European colonist was trying to build a civilized society. It was patently racist in numerous ways, but, even while bribed by self interest (as they surely would have been aware of), good intent was often involved. The goal was not to “rule India” (except for the fact that it also patently was), but also to “civilize” India. As offensive as that might sound, recall again the historical facts of 200 million Muslim converts under the moghuls and no furthe rsignificant level of conversions between British rule and Indian independence.

That the proceeds of the cotton went into Bombay courthouses, universities and libraries, and not JUST to England countryside estates (where many similar things might also have been taking place in a more isolated manner), very much corroborates the argument that the UK does not deserve to be villainized for its colonial enterprises in India. (However, I wouldn’t suggest that it would be “right” to try for a repeat on that. It would be wrong to do that.)

57 Kris March 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Books written recently (though the arguments they make are not completely new) argue that the British at no point conceived of their rule serving a civilizational/development purpose for the Indians (e.g., authors Jon Wilson, Shashi Tharoor.) Initially, their purpose was purely to extract revenue from the populace in order to make up for the loss of trading opportunities and drive up the share price of the East India Company. Later on, their rule was simply justified on the basis of conqueror’s rights and that loss of India would be a blow to the prestige of Britain. Arguments about civilizing the natives were often post hoc justifications by poets and people distant from the subcontinent.

These books made the argument that British broke the Indian social contract so badly that it’s never recovered since. Their much vaunted “rule of law” was just a facade that masked anarchy at the grassroots (something we see even today as the Indian bureaucracy imposes rules top-down with little consultation and accountability, and the rural poor still live quite miserable lives.) The Mughals may have originated in a foreign land and many were Islamic partisans, but under their rule, wealth was not drained away from the country, and there was accountability in the matters of justice, trade, taxation, etc. at the grassroots levels. Unlike what Westerners think, different societies come to somewhat fair social contracts in different ways, and imposing Western ways of doing things plus a dogmatic inflexibility in making revenue collection and cheap government the be all and end all of their administration produced disaster in India. So British rule, contrary to everything the British liked to say, was despotic from start to finish.

58 Troll me March 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm

No, I don’t think it was “for the Indians”. The notion of “white man’s burden” was not much at all to do it for the recipients of the “civilizing” influences, but in a sense a sort of moral obligation to “civilize” the places.

Think of how some busy bodies might like to nag people, knowing the recipient does not like it, but thinking that it will make the other person a better person. (Different from, say, power games out of harassing people, which might also be a relevant angle to a degree.)

But, then, in a sort of cultural sense at the level of nations or “civilizations” (not thinking of it in the way of Huntington, but in relation to a very British thing, and not at all about “western civilization” or some such construct).

So … while they are there making some money that can justify the expensive of the imperial enterprise involved … why not “make them better”? I doubt it even half crossed their minds how completely racist it was – observing relative poverty or darker skin and then to assume that naturally the cultural lessons would only in one direction from Brit to Indian, and only rarely suppose it could be in the other direction).

Interesting point about the wealth though.

59 byomtov March 20, 2017 at 10:06 pm

The effect of the Civil War on Egypt, as a result of the boom in cotton prices is also fascinating.

The sad story is told in the book Bankers and Pashas, by David Landes.

60 JWatts March 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

“The U.S. South began the civil war by embargoing cotton exports and burning 2.5 million bales of cotton in order to create a shortage and bend the world to its will. ”

I had never read of a large scale burning of cotton in order to create a shortage before. And after checking, I’m doubting this version.

This is the more standard version I’ve read:

” In order to starve the world of cotton, The Confederates placed an embargo on cotton exports in the summer of 1861. …In 1861, the Confederacy offered Produce Loan Acts, which bought cotton in exchange for eight percent bonds and stored the staple in warehouses. But bonds are not cash and planters begged the CSA to buy their produce directly; while the Confederate government claimed it had no such power, some individual states stepped in and did so. The next year, 1862, the CSA enlarged the program and half a million bales of cotton were purchased. … The cotton piled up in warehouses and at the gins.”

61 RJ Andrews March 21, 2017 at 10:49 pm

Charles Joseph Minard, French data visualization pioneer famous for his 1869 map of Napoleon’s March on Moscow, did a series of flow maps that detail the American Civil War’s impact on global trade. You can see a short film on these 1860s infographics and learn more about Minard here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/charles-minard-cartography-infographics-history/

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