Cotton workshop

Cotton, textiles and their legacies: histories and geographies of production, consumption and heritage

AHRC International Connected Communities workshop

Global Cotton Connections project

17-18th April 2015, University of Nottingham

A42 Sir Clive Granger Building    


This free workshop, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Global Cotton Connections project, was held on 17-18th April 2015. It brought together international, national and local participants, including those from local community groups, with interests in the global connections and heritage representations of cotton and other textiles. The programme is set out below:


Friday 17th April

10:00-10:30                 Tea/coffee and Registration

10:30-10.45                 Introduction and Welcome: Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham)

10.45-11.15:                Introduction to the AHRC Global Cotton Connections project: Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham), Esme Cleall (University of Sheffield)

Session 1: Histories of cotton production, trade and consumption

Cotton production and trade: I

11.15-11.30:                Slavery, Cotton and the African Elite: The case of the Panos de Terra’: Cliff Pereira (Heritage Consultant)

11.30-12.00:                Cotton on the Upper Guinea Coast in the late 18th century: Jody Benjamin (Harvard University)

12.00-12.30:                Discussion and tea/coffee

12:30-13.45                 Buffet Lunch

Cotton production and trade: II

13:45-14:00:                Complementarities between Imported and Local Textiles in eighteenth-century West Africa: Kazuo Kobayashi (London School of Economics)

14.00-14.15:                The “Cotton Triangle” revisited (1783-1837): Emily Buchnea (University of Newcastle)

14.15-14.45:                The Strutts’ cotton textile networks in later 18th and early 19th centuries: Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham)

14.45-15.15                 Discussion

15.15-15.45                 Tea/coffee

 Beyond cotton

15.45-16.15:                Atlantic slavery and the hidden history of Welsh woollens: Chris Evans (University of South Wales)

16.15-16.30:                Displaying the global in the country house: Kate Smith (University of Birmingham)

16.30-17.00                 Discussion

Saturday 18th April

9:00-9:30:                    Coffee/Tea and Registration

9.30-9.45:                    Welcome: Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham)

Session 2: Legacies of cotton and the wider textile industry

9.45-10.15:                  The production of ‘negro’ cloth: Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Temple University)

10.15-10.30:                Aboriginal savages, slaves or skilled labour?  Non- or mis- representation in museums: Cliff Pereira (Heritage Consultant)

10.30-10.45:                Discussion

10.45-11.15:                Tea and Coffee

11.15-11.45:                African Diaspora Cotton Legacies in the Derwent Valley: Helen Bates (University of Leicester), Susanne Seymour and Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group

11.45-12.15:                Indian Cotton and Textile Legacies in Derbyshire: Esme Cleall (University of Sheffield) and Sheffield Hindu Samaj group

12:15-12.45:                Discussion

12.45-14:00:                Buffet lunch

14.00-14.30:                The early 19th century raw cotton market in Liverpool: Sheryllynne Haggerty (University of Nottingham)

Session 3: Future research avenues – panel session

14:30 -16.00:               Discussion of future research directions

  • New historical research avenues: Brazilian cotton trade
  • Developing links with community groups in the Americas and India

16.00-16.30:                Tea/coffee

16.30-17.00:                Taking events forward and thanks: Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham)

17.00:                          Close

The workshop was followed by a day visit, arranged by the Global Cotton Connections team for the international participants, on Sunday 19th April to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The group was joined by a few other workshop participants from the UK and the local community.

Cotton, textiles and their legacies:
Geographies of production, consumption and heritage

University of Nottingham, 17-18 April 2015

A two-day international workshop on cotton, supported by the AHRC, is planned for 17-18th April 2015. If you are interested in participating in the seminar please contact Susanne Seymour and/or Lowri Jones.

Call for papers

cotton_closeup(1)Cotton, as raw material, yarn or in the form of clothing or other textile, has long been a global product. From the eighteenth century cotton was key to processes of industrialisation in Britain, extensively grown in India and on slave-worked plantations in the Americas and widely traded as cloth in domestic, colonial and overseas markets (Riello 2013; Inikori 1989). Yet the geographies of cotton and the people and places tied together through its production and processing have often been downplayed. While recent work in world economic history has emphasised the global significance of cotton (Riello 2013; Riello & Parthasarathi 2009), grounded studies of the particularity of connections remain rare.

This lack of attention to cotton’s global connections is especially apparent in parts of Britain’s museum and heritage sector. Historic mill sites in the Derwent Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for instance have tended to focus on cotton’s role in Britain’s ‘industrial revolution’, with little or no reference to the global and colonial sources of the raw material itself, and by extension to the massive and often enslaved labour force of plantations in the Americas and elsewhere. It is with such global histories and their contemporary legacies that this workshop is concerned.

Combining paper sessions with more informal panel discussions and poster presentations, as well as a showcase of legacy materials produced by volunteers on the GCC project, this two-day workshop aims to bring together global economic historians, material culture specialists, museum/heritage professionals and members of the ‘community’ sector to share expertise and innovation on tracing and telling these global connections of cotton – within the heritage sector, and in collaboration with diverse community volunteers. It also hopes to identify future research directions and help support the development of international research collaborations.

Possible topics for papers, panel discussions or posters include:

1. Histories of cotton production, trade and consumption
Topics might include:

  • cotton cultivation: slave-worked plantations and other production systems
  • cotton and mercantile culture
  • cotton and manufacturing in rural and urban venues
  • cotton’s links with slavery and abolition
  • cotton and the East India Company
  • cotton products and consumer culture
  • beyond cotton: the global connections of related textiles (e.g. silk, woollens etc.)

2. Addressing legacies of cotton and the wider textile industry
Topics might include:

  • the presentation of cotton histories in rural and urban heritage venues, including plantations, factories and cotton/textile museums
  • community reflections on cotton histories and legacies
  • cotton cultivation and textile manufacture today, including contemporary slavery
  • innovative heritage approaches to cotton and other textile collections
  • addressing slavery narratives in the heritage sector through cotton textile collections

The workshop is supported by:

Arts and Humanities Research Council logoConnected Communities logo


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