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Indian Textiles in the World Market

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Indian Textiles in the World Market - Lesson Summary

Around 1750, prior to the British conquest over Bengal, India was the largest producer of textiles in the world. From the 16th century, European companies started purchasing Indian textiles for selling them in Europe.  These exquisitely crafted fabrics had been imported from India in the eighteenth century.

From the 1680s, Indian textiles were a craze in England and Europe due to its exquisite designs, superior textures and relative cheapness.

Muslin, chintz, bandanna and cossaes were exported in bulk to Europe. There were many other clothes that were known by the place of their origin like clothes from Patna, Orissa, Kasimbazar and Calcutta.

Handloom weaving and related occupations became a source of livelihood for millions of Indians. During the 18th century, the textile industry in England was beginning to grow, but faced competition from Indian textiles.

Inspired, England started setting up its own textile industries in the eighteenth century. However, the popularity of Indian textiles worried English producers and they protested against the import of cotton textiles from India. In 1720, a law known as the Calico Act was passed to ban the use of chintz in England.

Indian designs were copied and printed within England on plain Indian cloth. The competition with the relatively inexpensive Indian textile market also led to technological innovations in the English textile industry. The invention of the spinning jenny and the steam engine helped to weave very large quantities of cloth, at significantly cheaper rates.

The Indian textile industry ruled the world market till the end of the 18 th century, earning huge profits for European companies including the French, English and Dutch.


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