John Keay

Soft Power

Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 615pp £30 order from our bookshop

After books devoted to coal, cod, sugar, salt, tea, coffee, the potato and countless other household staples, along comes cotton. The futures market in commodity titles has never looked brighter. This may not be the first volume devoted to our favourite textile, but it is the most ambitious and probably the most important. Claiming cotton to have been more widely grown, intensively processed and universally traded than any of nature’s other products, Sven Beckert, a Harvard professor, disentangles the fibre’s history to mount a powerful critique of global capitalism as red in tooth and claw as Thomas Piketty’s recent Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,